10 days cycling, 1 rest day, 1502km
See how the pros roll! Ten full stages from west to east (& on to Paris) make a challenge you’ll remember for a long, long time.
Those who are not afraid of the severity of the mountain stages, and who feel that one rest day, and one short time trial stage will be enough to get them through to the top of Val Thorens, stand up now!
Feel what it’s like to ride day after day just like your pro cycling heroes with everything that’s good about cycling in France packed into this Loop. You’ll experience ten days of perfect tarmac, sunny roads, plenty of climbs, and big, open countryside. Regional differences and contrasting scenery wait around every corner and you get Paris! Work will feel miles away!
Note: Paris friends and family places (cycling and non-cycling) will be available for anyone who’d like partners or friends to join them for the last night in Paris.
Weds 10th July: Meet in Toulouse at group hotel
Mon 22nd July: Depart from Paris
Wed 10th July. Arrival to Toulouse
Thur 11th July. Stage 12: Toulouse – Bagnères-de-Bigorre: 202km
A day of two halves: we’ll spend the morning gradually gaining height as we head south from Toulouse, with the Pyrenees in view in the ever-decreasing distance! The roads look like they’re flat, but they’re not flat and we’ll be wise to take them gently and save energy for what’s to come. The lovely town of Luchon is at 124km, and it’s here that the climbing begins in earnest. First up is the Col de Peyresourde, a classic Pyrenean climb with the pass visible from a long way off, stunning views of the surrounding peaks and a creperie just over the top! We’ll make our way down a fun descent of hairpins into the Louron valley and then it’s time for treat number two! We head up the shady eastern side of Hourquette d’Ancizan, which is similar in gradient and length to the Peyresourde but has a totally different atmosphere. The landscape opens out at the top of the pass and now, at 170km, you’re rewarded with a full 30km of cruisy descent to the finish.
Fri 12th July. Stage 13: Pau – Pau: 27km
This short time trial will be a delightful ride, taking us south of the Tour de France’s most popular city (after Paris). Pau has a lot going for it: it’s an ancient royal city, a modern day student stronghold and gateway to the Pyrenees. The highest point of this route is 380m and the lowest 179m so you’re looking at a couple of moderate climbs on small country roads, through forests and farmland. And all of this with the mighty Pyrenees as your backdrop. The photo moment comes at 21km as we pass through the Jurancon vinyards – then it’s back into town for lunch and an afternoon of sunshine!
Sat 13th July. Stage 14: Tarbes – Tourmalet: 117km
It’s Tourmalet day! The Pyrenean monster has long dominated the Tour, and this year it gets a stage more-or-less to itself – though don’t underestimate the Col du Soulor, which we climb first, from its scenic northern side. It’s a little over half the length of the Tourmalet, but slightly steeper with the summit marking this stage’s half way point. We then have 20km of descent (wheeee!), followed by 19km of steady ascent, up the more beautiful western aspect of the Tourmalet for a summit finish. The climb averages 7.4% with just a couple of extra-steep bursts in the closing kms. This will feel really tough, and it’ll be no different a week later for the pros, even if they do manage it in half the time! The Tourmalet is the ‘oldest’ of all the Tour climbs, now appearing for the 87th time (although the times it has provided a summit finish can be counted on one hand). We’ll celebrate this mighty achievement with a night in a mountain hotel under the Pyrenean stars.
Sun 14th July. Stage 15: Limoux – Foix: 185km
The most challenging and very original stage of this Tour’s Pyrenean visit takes in almost 5,000 metres of ascent, via four categorised climbs. One third of the way in, at 60km, we have our first summit where we’ll be treated to the spectacular Cathar castle atop the Col de Montségur. The next third of the stage takes us to the Port de Lers at the 120km mark, which is the highest point of this stage at 1517m and is followed by a stunning lake just over the summit. It’s a sweeping 17km descent from there into the quirky little town of Massat, and immediately, without hesitation or hint of flat, it’s straight up the eye-wateringly steep Mur de Péguère. Cue legs of fire but smiles of joy and enough inspiration to fuel you on to the spectacular finale atop le Prat d’Albis, from which, on a clear day, we’ll be able to see much of what we’ve covered today.
Mon 15th July – rest day: Nîmes
Tue 16th July. Stage 16: Nîmes – Nîmes: 177km
This will be a super-scenic, gentle stage, showing off the finest features of the Gard department before doubling back for a second night in Nîmes (big treat!). This city is so full of ancient architecture that it’s known as “the most Roman city outside Italy”. And what surrounds it is pure Provence: expect sun-baked countryside, pretty stone villages, fruit markets and a flat, speedy finish. The stage never goes above 250m so this is one for for the pro sprinters to anticipate as they crawl through the Pyrenees: for us it’s a smile-making, holiday-feeling, Tour treat.
Wed 17th July. Stage 17: Pont du Gard – Gap: 206km
We’ll start the day from a Roman wonder, setting off from the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard, an aqueduct built as part of a 50km channel bringing water from the river Eure to the growing Roman population of Nimes. A gentle start (passing Orange’s amphitheatre and triumphal arch) belies the true nature of this stage because once we’ve crossed the Rhône, and skirted Vaison-la-Romaine’s ancient hilltop stronghold, we enter the hills and there’s no more pretending! For much of the day we’ll climb steadily up and east, climbing 800m over 60km, so while this is no mountain giant, your legs will feel it and the kilometres won’t be fast. This is all topped off with the very pretty Col de la Sentinelle and a short descent to Gap, marking the end of a delightful stage which, by crossing from Provence and the Rhone into the low Alps, is a beautiful stage in the Tour’s 2019 journey.
Thur 18th July. Stage 18: Embrun – Valloire: 207km
We’ll be heading into thin air on today’s ride, which takes us up above 2,000 metres on three separate occasions. First comes the 2,109m Col de Vars which is technically ‘only’ 9.3km but in reality the road climbs (very) gently for a full 50km before that! It’s a lovely road though, and a lovlier climb, followed by a great smooth descent into Guillestre. And so to the toughest and most spectacular climb of the day: the Col d’Izoard. We climb via the otherworldly Casse Deserte where you cannot but imagine the pros passing a week later. Tour history in the making! From here the Galibier takes us higher still (2642m to be precise), but mercifully via slightly kinder gradients, for which most of us will be grateful by then! The last 18km of the stage are a pedal-free downhill to Valloire where glory and high fives await.
Fri 19th July. Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Tignes: 123km
This is a relatively short mountain stage, but it still packs in plenty of climbing and will take most of us all day. The Col d’Iseran (at 85km) will be the high point of the whole Tour – and indeed, it’s the highest paved pass in Europe, at 2,764 metres. This is only the second time in Tour history that the peloton has climbed from it’s hardest (and most impressive) side – there are few places as dramatic and beautiful as this to ride one’s bike.
Before that we’ll already have gained 1,000 vertical metres via the Montée d’Aussois and Col de la Madeleine which will afford us Alpine views left and right and up and down! These mountain roads will be a feast for the eyes as we climb deeper into the Alps, finishing the day with another 8km climb to the ski resort at Tignes, itself over 2000m and a fabulous place to spend the night!
Sat 20th July. Stage 20: Albertville – Val Thorens: 131km
After a steady climb up the Doron Valley, we’ll ramp up towards the picturesque Roselend lake from Beaufort, slowing down to admire the isolated stone chapel on its northern shore which is all that remains of the village that was submerged when they built the dam in 1960. After negotiating the hair-raising descent from Cormet de Roselend, we’ll roll along the Isère Valley, before ascending the Côte de Longefoy. And then, after a sweeping descent, we have more than 30km of steady climbing, gaining over 1800m to get us up to Val Thorens for a summit finish. This climb is the last of the Tour so it’s a good thing it’s a big’un. As the temperature drops and you notice the landscape changing around you, you’ll be sure you’re ending the Alpine trilogy on a high!
Sun 21st July. Stage 21: Rambouillet – Paris: 100km
And, as if it were all a dream, here we are on the outskirts of Paris. Today’s ride will be a triumphal procession – a few hours to savour the highs and lows of the last three weeks, and look forward to celebrating our achievements at the Arc de Triomphe. That said, we’ll encounter some rolling hills in the Chevreuse Valley, to make sure our legs are good and tired by the time we reach the sacred cobbles of the Champs-Élysées.
Mon 22nd July. Depart from Paris
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Emily, Lead Cyclist says, “Riding these stages is as close to becoming a Tour rider as you could hope for, without needing to fight for a contract! It’s not only for super-serious roadies – the atmosphere is very relaxed and inclusive so even if only a little bit of you thinks you can do it, you probably can!”
Sarah, Event Organiser says, “We’re at the mercy of the French weather gods on this one. If we get every 2000m climb under a cloudless sky, you’ll think you’re in heaven. If we don’t, at least you’ll have some epic stories to tell!”
Chris, Alumni Cyclist says “My advice? Don’t underestimate the toll that sleep deprivation can have on you once you’re a week in and the cycling’s (still) bloody tough. But that said, it’s without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done and I’d go back tomorrow. It’s not just the cycling – it’s the people that make it.”
Included in all Loops
- Accommodation (Mostly twin share. Single supplements are available to buy in January)
- Food (3 meals and the best feedstops you’ve ever seen)
- Fully signed route, the stuff of legend
- Mechanical, medical and moral support
- Luggage Transfers
- Coach transfers to the next stage start where applicable
Not included in all Loops
- Travel to and from France (but we’ll give you advice on the best travel routes)
- Bike Transport (£30 each way if you want us to drive your bike there and back)
- Evening massage (£10 per massage)
- Beer/wine/dinner drinks!