The very best bits:
- Views from every corner. This is the year of spectacular daily views!
- Grand Depart in Nice: party time and climbing on the Cote d’Azur
- The Pyrenean duo: a back-roads stage followed by a Tour classic stage
- A brand new, cyclist-only road from Meribel up to the col de la Loze
And we’re also really excited about:
- the Vosges and Massif Central stages for quiet roads and sheer cycling beauty.
- stage 15, the Grand Colombier and the reward of a rest day and two nights in the same luxury hotel (bliss).
- The Ile de Re and Ile d’Oleron for a couple of days away from the mountains – come and join us for that holiday feeling.
Full stage descriptions and profiles (where possible) below …
The first stage of this year’s adventure is an unconventional one, formed of three loops around Nice and jaw-dropping views for at least 80% of the 156 kilometres.
The first two identical loops take us up shallow gradients, past olive groves and fig trees, to the fortified village of Aspremont, a back-drop of Mediterranean sea all the while. From there we’ll descend to Carros and fly back into the city along flat roads, to wave at the Promenade des Anglais before heading off again.
On the third loop we’ll venture a little further, with an eight-kilometre climb up to Levens, before descending, back to the by-now-very-familiar finish line and on to our beach hotel.
Lite option: Due to the particularly challenging nature of the Grand Depart, we’ll arrange our logistics so that cyclists can omit one of the three Loops and shorten their day by 50km and 600m of ascent.
Start: Nice hotel
Finish: Nice hotel
Loop payments include a Friday arrival with the rider briefing at 5pm followed by dinner. You can buy an extra night of accommodation in Nice if you’d like to arrive on the Thursday rather than the Friday.
It’s unusual to find a mountain stage so early on, but the beautiful scenery surrounding Nice has enticed the Tour into the hills much sooner than usual. This challenging ride takes in almost 4,000m of climbing, including the Col de la Colmiane, via a picturesque road that winds through small mountain hamlets and feels a world away from the Cote d’Azur, and then the steeper Col de Turini, with its photogenic switchbacks and magnificent views. We’ll admire the Mediterranean as we descend to the Col d’Éze (ruined 17th century chateau perfectly positioned above a sparkling sea) and wearily ‘enjoy’ a cheeky extra Loop that the pros do (but the Etape du Tour doesn’t) before we roll back into Nice, full of the joy of cycling.
Lite option*: Due to the particularly challenging nature of the Grand Depart, we’ll arrange our logistics so that cyclists can sign up for a lift to the top of the Col de la Colmiane, shortening the day by 60km and 1500m of ascent.
Start: Nice hotel
Finish: Nice hotel
This is a relatively hilly stage with a flat finish, full of Provencale charm. We start our day at the seaside, and finish it among the low mountains, bidding a fond farewell to Nice and heading north-west via the historic town of Grasse, world-renowned for its perfume industry. Then we ride along the Route Napoleon (stunning, stunning scenery; a Tour highlight), over a series of moderately steep climbs and on towards the imposing citadel and vast serrated cliffs of Sisteron (and a hotel swimming pool!).
Le Loop Practicalities:
Start: Nice hotel
Finish: Sisteron hotel
This stage takes us from the spectacular rock formations overlooking Sisteron to the heights of Orciéres-Merlette, almost 2,000m above sea level. We’ll spend the morning in the Dévoluy mountains, with a long steady climb up the Col du Festre, before descending into the Souloise valley. Then we’re ready for the big one: Orcières-Merlette, a little-used and stunningly beautiful climb. There’s something very cool about cycling into a ski station having pedalled up from sea level, especially when the hotel has a pool and spa to greet your weary legs.
Start: Sisteron hotel
Finish: Orcieres Merlette hotel
This stage will show why Provence is one of France’s most sought-after cycling destinations. After leaving the mountain town of Gap, we’ll roll out towards Nyons, passing olive groves and lavender fields. We’ll cross the magnificent Rhône river at Montélimar (nougat at the feedstops today!), and finish the stage in the Ardèche, an area that shouts ‘sunny French holidays’ more than anywhere. Overall, it’s a downhill stage, as we finish the day much lower than we started – but the Tour never makes things easy and there’s a slight uphill finish into Privas as well as a few stiff climbs along the way.
Start: Transfer from Orcieres Merlette to Gap
Finish: Short transfer to Le Teil/Montelimar hotel
Showcasing some of France’s wildest and most remote scenery, this stage will take us from the vineyards of the Rhône Valley into the beautiful Cévennes National Park. If you haven’t heard of the Cevennes before, think quiet, rolling roads through, rocky landscapes and far reaching views baked in sunshine. Add in picture postcard villages, roadside fruit stalls and the odd small forrest and that’s where stage 6 takes us. It culminates with an ascent of Mont Aigoual (famous for monitoring wind speed – fingers crossed we have a calm day) via the Col des Mourèzes and the Col de la Lusette (the toughest bit of the whole stage). If we’re lucky, we’ll have a view all the way to the Pyrenees from the top where we’ll have dinner together before heading off to our hotel.
Start: Le Teil/Montelimar hotel
Finish: Dinner at the summit restaurant followed by a transfer to the Millau hotel
This is billed as a ‘flat’ stage, and there are no significant cols, but we’re still in for a fairly bumpy ride. We start close to the famous Millau viaduct (the world’s tallest bridge) and spend the day cycling on quiet roads made of perfect tarmac from gorge to plateau to gorge, alongside fast flowering rivers and through small, agricultural towns (should you wish to buy a tractor, today’s your day). Towards the end of the stage, the landscape opens out and we’ll find ourselves in a world of tree-lined avenues and rolling fields of sunflowers.
Start: Millau hotel
Finish: short transfer to Toulouse South hotel
One of those special here-come-the-mountains stages, today’s ride will take us from gently rolling lowlands into the high Pyrenees, with ascents of Col de Menté, Port de Balès, and our old favourite, the Col de Peyresourde. Each has its own character – Menté is leafy, with satin-smooth hairpins on the ascent; Balès is wild and windswept; Peyresourde offers picture-perfect mountain views and heroic photos at the top. With a downhill finish into Loudenvielle, this stage is a Pyrenean classic to remember. To make it even more memorable, we’ve booked dinner in the Loudenvielle thermal baths and spa complex and you’ll have time to spend an hour or two in the pools (small charge) or having a beer in the spectacular surroundings before dinner and the transfer back to Pau.
Lite option*: A lift will be available to the first feedstop at 40km, shortening this stage to 100km but losing none of the famous climbs or views.
Start: Transfer from Toulouse South hotel
Finish: Dinner in Loudenvielle and then a transfer to Pau
Pau is one of the Tour’s most frequently visited towns, but the rest of this stage will be a voyage of discovery, as our route takes us over a number of lesser known Pyrenean cols, including the magnificent Col de la Hourcere (making its Tour debut) and offers us eye-watering gradients to go with the breath-taking views. We’ll finish our day with a descent into the Ossau valley, but not before we’ve taken on the Côl de Marie Blanque from its (much steeper) western side. These are the back roads with their wild landscapes that the Pyrenees are loved for – and this is a very fine opportunity to ride them.
Lite option*: A lift will be available to the first feedstop at 45km, shortening this stage to 110km but losing none of the famous climbs or views.
Start: Pau hotel
Finish: Transfer back to Pau hotel (2 nights)
Transfer to Ile d’Oleron hotel
We ride from island to island today, on one of the Tour’s few genuinely flat stages, soaking up the mood of French holiday makers in paradise. That doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy ride though – this stage has been designed in the hope that brisk coastal winds will disrupt the peloton, so it’ll be a day for us to help each other out, ride in groups and maybe even be grateful for the cooling breeze. We leave the quiet dunes and pine forests of the Ile d’Oléron, and cross ancient salt marshes (now repurposed as oyster farms) en route to the old naval town of Rochefort. Then we rejoin the Atlantic coast, passing through relaxed La Rochelle before crossing the 3km Pont de Ré which is a suitably impressive bridge to end a very impressive stage.
Start: Ile d’Oleron hotel
Finish: La Rochelle (west) hotel
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the wind will be blowing us inland today, as we head across wide open landscapes. Salt marshes and mud flats are criss-crossed with canals and rivers, making for a fascinating and possibly unexpected landscape, home to geese, cattle and horses. There’s a rich history in this area and some beautiful villages and architecture which reflect the region’s 500 year old trade. The afternoon will take us into more forested terrain but still pretty much flat (this is, afterall, the flattest stage of the Tour). It’ll be a delightful ride, finishing in the lovely university town of Poitiers.
Start: La Rochelle (west) hotel
Finish: Poitiers hotel
This rolling-hilly stage will take us through some lesser known parts of central France; a proper Tour de France discovery stage with the dubious honour of being the shortest ‘longest stage’ the Tour has ever had. Chauvigny (twinned with Billericay!) is home to an absolutely stunning ruined castle – a view and a half to start a stage which sees us gain height via a series of ‘small’ climbs.
The most notable is the last: the Suc au May, whose gradient touches 22% at some points and has been picked out by Christian Prudhomme (Tour chief) as one of the highlights of 2020.
Coming in the final kilometres of the stage, when legs are tired and thoughts have turned to dinner, we’ll be grateful for the distraction of the quietly beautiful scenery of the Massif Central, possibly also inspired by ending the day in the hometown of former president, Jacques Chirac.
Le Loop Practicalities:
Start: Transfer from Poitiers hotel to Chauvigny
Finish: Transfer from Sarran to our hotel just south of Chatel Guyon (located in Gerzat, mid way from Chatel Guyon to Clermont Ferrand so that we can stay two nights in the same hotel and avoid an extra transfer)
There’s no doubt this stage will be a ‘high’light of the Tour, with its four categorised climbs and over 4,000m of climbing. We head south from our hotel, just south of the charming spa town of Châtel-Guyon, through Clermont-Ferrand, and up the Col de Ceyssat, a relatively undemanding hill, with a few steeper sections in its final kilometres. This is now deep into volcano country, full of domed hills, cattle, cheese and laid back, happy people. We’ll stay fairly high for the Col de Guéry and Côte de la Stèle, before dropping to the Dordogne river, and then climbing back up onto the plateau, whose remote and rugged scenery we’ll enjoy en route to our final climb – the spectacular volcano of Puy Mary. There’s a dramatic approach to the col du Pas de Peyrol summit finish which boasts panoramic views far and wide. And tonight there’s an all you can eat buffet and a second night in the same hotel as a reward!
Start: Clermont Ferrand hotel (located in Gerzat, midway between Chatel Guyon and Clermont Ferrand so that we can stay two nights in the same hotel and avoid an extra transfer)
Finish: Transfer from Puy Mary back to the same hotel
This long stage will take us from Clermont-Ferrand, in the hilly Massif Central, to majestic Lyon, on the banks of the Rhône. It manages to take in a great deal of climbing en route, thanks to the Forez mountains, with their rolling, rugged scenery and scattered herds of sheep. We’ll ascend the Col du Béal at almost 1400m and the Col des Brosses during the first half of the stage, continuing on quiet, remote-feeling roads until the last short climbs into urban Lyon with people, shops and busy life feel like a bit of a shock to the system. Don’t underestimate this stage; the length, the climbs and the need for a rest day will definitely test us.
Start: Clermont Ferrand hotel (located in Gerzat, see stage 13)
Finish: Lyon hotel
We leave sunny Lyon and head east towards the beautiful Jura mountains. The first part of the day will take us through the lush farmland and stone villages of the Rhône valley, with the green peaks of the Jura looming on the horizon and then with a quick fanfare it’s ready, steady, climb! We’ll get to know the Grand Colombier well today, since we’re climbing three different sides of it with a very clever route up and around the mountain. There will be gradients in excess of 20%, swooping descents and, if we’re very lucky, big views of Mont Blanc from the top.
Start: Lyon hotel
Finish: Short transfer to rest day spa hotel in Aix les Bains
Full day and second night in spa hotel in Aix les Bains
Today’s ride will take us into the distinctive cliffs and crags of the Chartreuse mountains, with paragliders enjoying the views with us. Our first ascent is Col de Porte, and we’ll pass the headquarters of Grand Chartreuse on its lower slopes – home of the silent monks who produce Chartreuse liqueur (but apparently drink cider themselves). We’ll then head into what Christian Prudhomme describes as the “rugged terrain of the Vercors Massif”, climbing up from Grenoble to finish the day in a new world of chalets and Alpine meadows. The final climb of the stage, the beautifully named Montee de Saint Nizier du Moucherotte, takes you through the village of the same name, home to a French resistance fighters cemetery as well as a ski jump from the 1968 winter Olympics. Then it’s descent to the stage finish at the end of a pretty mighty 100 miles.
Lite option*: A lift will be available to the first feedstop at 45km, shortening this stage to 120km but losing none of the famous climbs or views.
Start: Short transfer to La Tour du Pin
Finish: Villard sur Lans hotel
In terms of length, ascent and altitude, this stage includes the two toughest climbs of the 2020 tour. We’ll go up the steeper south-west side of the Col de la Madeleine on an exciting, narrow back road which joins the classic climb a few kms from the top and hands us a climb which measures 17.1km at an average of 8.4%. Then, after a sweeping descent into the Isère valley, we test our legs on the Col de la Loze. This 2,304m beast is not only a new addition to the Tour – it’s a brand new road, the 13th highest in France, paved in 2019, and purpose-built for cyclists (cars are not allowed). The final kilometres offer very uneven gradient, with some extremely steep sections, which will add considerably to the challenge. Meribel is proud to have the Tour pass through and the town will be decorated in style, ready to welcome us and the pros. We’ll actually pass our hotel as we pass through town with a few kms still to climb – so once you reach the summit, there’s a slow descent and a chance to cheer on those Le Loop cyclists who are still climbing.
Lite option*: You will start from the 60km mark, removing the first small climb of the day. This leaves you to focus on 105kms and the two big climbs (la Madeleine and Col de la Loze). Our hotel is in Meribel town, 900m up the final climb but the Col de la Loze is another 900m up… so once you get to town, you’ll have the choice between going straight to the hotel or carrying on to the very top.
Start: Short transfer to Grenoble
Finish: Meribel hotel
This will be a fabulous day in the Alps, with over 4,000m of climbing, and scenery to die for. We ascend the Cormet de Roselend via the twisting turning road up from Bourg-Saint-Maurice, and enjoy the sight of its glistening blue reservoir before descending to Beaufort (home of excellent cheese). After Col des Saisies (lovely tarmac, splendid views) and Col des Aravis (very ‘Savoie’ feeling, little stone chapel at the top), we’ll tackle the forbidding gradients (6km at 11.2%!) of the Col des Gliéres, to be ‘rewarded’ with a short gravel section across the spectacular Plateau des Glières (with its monument to the French Resistance), and then the relatively gentle Col des Fleuries, before finishing the day with a welcome 10km descent to La Roche sur Foron and another 5km bonus descent to our very nice hotel.
Lite option*: You will have a lift to the 66km mark in Beaufort, removing 1450m of the Cormet de Roseland climb and leaving you to focus on 100kms of cycling and the remaining three categorised climbs (Col de Saisies, Col des Aravis, Montee du plateau de Glieres).
Start: Meribel hotel
Finish: La Roche sur Foron hotel
We’ll see the Jura mountains on the horizon for part of this stage, but the riding will be mercifully a little flatter than what’s gone before. This stage takes us east of the Burgundy vinyards and west of Geneva and the high Alps, giving us the best of both worlds… We’ll roll through lush farmland, meander past vineyards, and enjoy the quiet rural scenery and flawless tarmac of this less visited part of France. The second half of the stage involves significantly more climbing than the first half so it’ll be worth saving some energy for the challenge. Then, as we approach Champagnole, we’ll pass through some of the pine forests that give the region’s honey its distinctive flavour and will be rewarded with a fast, downhill, last 10km into town.
Start: Transfer to Bourg en Bresse
Finish: Transfer to hotel in Pontarlier
The Tour’s only time trial, and it’s an uphill one. La Planche des Belles Filles is fast becoming a modern Tour de France favourite, having featured in several editions over the last few years. Today there will be nothing else to detract from this wonderful climb, with its unrelentingly steep gradient, and the ‘top of the world’ feeling that only completing the twentieth stage of the Tour can bestow. We’ll take a moment at the top to wonder who will don the yellow jersey here, a week hence.
Start: Transfer to Lure
Finish: Transfer to Mantes la Jolie hotel
Time for our lap of honour and the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Paris! But before we live out our maillot jaune fantasies on the sacred cobblestones of the Champs Élysées (one lap only for us – one is enough!), we’ll enjoy a relatively gentle roll in from the suburbs, passing through Mantes la Jolie with it’s awe-inspiring 12th century church, and sticking as closely as possible to the Tour route from that point – but not strictly because we can’t close roads. The Arc de Triomphe will greet us as we cross the sacred cobbles of the Champs-Elysées. We’ll have a few hours to savour the highs and lows of our achievements, and look forward to celebrating that evening.
Start: Mantes la Jolie hotel (actually in Orgeval, about 20km from Mantes la Jolie)
Finish: Paris hotel and Seine river cruise party included for all cyclists (tickets and hotel packages available for friends and family).