VéloSki French Alps Bicycle Tour: Rhone Alpes // June 18 – July 3rd, 2018
The VéloSki tradition continues…another new riding season—and another brand new tour! This could easily become our new favorite, we can’t wait to ride with you!! We’ll be taking you far from the madding crowd..to the home of iconic gorges, mountain passes and unknown towns, unique specialty cheeses, and the opportunity to experience authentic French country cuisine. But not before giving you the chance to challenge yourself with some of the most famous French climbs. Not least of which includes paying homage to the legends of the Tour de France named on the 21 switchbacks from le Bourg d’Oisans to l’Alpe-d’Huez!
Kilometers - Std Route
Vertical Meters Climbing - Std Route
Kilometers - Long Route
Vertical Meters Climbing - Long Route
The Rhone Alps region takes it’s name from the Rhone River as it passes from Lake Geneve southward to the Mediterranean Sea. Our ride begins near Geneva and will have glimpses of the Mount Blanc as we ride into the more “unplugged” portion of the trip. While tourists aren’t far away, for most of the time on this section of route they’ll be rare. Route planning is difficult in an area that still retains a largely agrarian approach to daily life. The pace is more tranquil than neighboring Provence. Yet the smooth, narrow farm lanes (perfectly suited for adventurous bicyclists) wandering through pastures, meadows and forests under the rocky outcrops and mountainous features of the Jura, Chartreuse, Haute Savoie and the Vercors make it all more than worthwhile.
Gorges and sheer cliffs create an oasis of tranquility where grasses grow and herds graze—all within sight of Grenoble or Chambery residents—yet seemingly inaccessible! Narrow roads literral carved into the mountain cliffs give pause to ponder. You’ll find the tiny passages of the Grandes Goulets and Combe Laval to be perhaps one of the most visually stunning loops of our Rhone Alps Unplugged itinerary. And you’ll have the spectacular photographs to prove it. Come ride with us this year as we unravel a spectacular thread of a route stitching together this mostly-untraveled region known as the Rhone Alps! Reserve your spot today—or you may be another year older when you can!
Cycling the Rhone Alps of France
Day 1 — Gex
Beginning with arrival into Geneve, we will stay at a newly built hotel in Gex at the base of the Col de Faucille (Jura Mountains).
Day 2 & 3 — Hauteville-Lompanes
NC-85km / 1300m
CR1-95km / 1800m
CR2-105km / 2500m
Leaving Gex we ride over the Faucille into the southern portion of the Jura on an almost secret passage of obscure, tiny roads that eventually take us to the banks of the Oignin (a tributary of the Rhone). We climb a quiet road through a deciduous forest toward Plateau de Retord, where we are greeted with open meadows and meandering, gently descending roads. A final small climb takes us to Hauteville-Lompanes. The 2-night stay here allows a full day to explore more of the “unplugged” nature of this region.
Day 4 — Champagneux
100km / 1700m
75km / 1000m
From Hauteville we descend at first slowly, then dramatically down toward the Rhone and Lac du Bourget. We ride over the Col du Chat (or the hors category Relais du Mont Chat) and descend to Champagneux.
Day 5 — St. Pierre en Chartreuse
67km / 1500m
90km / 2500m
Many of our regular guests have traversed the Chartreuse Mountains during our numerous criss-crossings of the French Alps; we know some amazing, pastoral roads far from the normal routes that we will share with you on our way to St. Pierre en Chartreuse.
Day 6 & 7 — Villard de Lans
60km / 1500m
80km / 1900m
Next we leave the Chartreuse and ride into the Vercors skirting the edge of Grenoble by way of St Nizier to stay in Villard de Lans for two nights. We stay two nights in the Vercors, site of the 1968 Grenoble Olympics Nordic events at Autrans. Our second day in the Vercors we will explore the dramatic Gorges de la Bourne, Comb Laval and Col de la Machine to name a few key geographic markers.
Day 8 — Creyes
90km / 1800m+ (other options for more elevation)
A dramatic departure from the Vercors awaits as we descend into Die, where Claret de Die and Cremont de Die are famous (sparkling wines that rival the delicate crispness of prosecco.)
In keeping with the goal to create somewhat less-demanding transfer days we may divide the route from Villard-de-Lans to Bourg d’Oisans into three segments. The result is that the least distance/climbing between stops is as follows:
Day 9 — Valbonais
65km / 1400m
85km / 2100m
While we could ride to the Oisans region in one grueling ride, it seems more appropriate to take an extra day/night to avail ourselves of some “off-the-grid” remote roads with stunning views of the Rhone Alps towering above the Route Napolean while we are in the neighborhood.
Day 10 — Mizoen or Le Freney via BdO
NC-55km / 1700m
ECR-Alpe d’Huez-la Garde traverse 80km / 2600m
CR-Alpe d’Huez-Sarenne 70km / 2200m
We will spend just one night near BdO, because the accommodations in town are deplorable. And, by riding the 21 turns of the “classic climb” up to Alpe d’Huez on the way to Le Freney, we can enjoy a less demanding ride the next day. And for anyone familiar with the Tour de France, one of the less known yet important climbs in the Oisans valleys is Les2Alpes. So we will also have a climbers option that includes both the frontside Les2Alpes climb and the “local’s” back route.
Day 11 & 12 — St Jean de Maurienne
90km / 2300m
The climbing routes include either Col du Lautaret and Col du Galibier OR Col de Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer and Col du Mollard on the way to the Maurienne valley and the home of the Opinel knife factory. Here we will stay 2 nights; numerous loops rides are available including the infamous Lacets of Montvernier and/or the more demanding eastern approach of the Col du Glandon.
Day 13 & 14 — Albertville
62km / 750m
80km / 2000m
90km / 2000m
The climbs of Cormet de Roselend, Col de la Saisses, Col de la Forclaz, Col de Tamie are just a few of the nearly household named climbs just outside the entrance to the only virtual 4 Star hotel in the Haute Savoie and are well known to most of our veteran VeloSki Sports riders. So, it is necessary to stay with our great hosts for two nights to enjoy both the riding and the always exceptional meals prepared especially for our group.
Day 15 — Annecy
48km / 755m
97km / 2498m
Our final riding day is filled with more choices than we will have time to explore before the sun sets on our fantastic Rhone Alps tour. The Col d’Aravis is one of the most used climbs in the Haute Savoie region during the Tour de France, so it is included for anyone who wants to enjoy a last lunch with views of Mont Blanc before descending to Lac Annecy. But, you may also want to include a demanding climb up the steep approach to the Col de la Forclaz (there are actually 3 different Col de la Forclaz climbs within about 50km as the “crow flies” of each other). After a relaxing afternoon packing our bikes we will clean-up for our last supper on the famous canal edge of Vieux Annecy (Old Annecy) where we will enjoy typical local cuisine.