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Road bike France

A superb mountain gravel tour through the Northern Alps, from Lake Geneva to BriançonRef CR3A

At France Bike Trips, we love gravel as much as we love the Alps and their majestic landscapes. With this in mind, it seemed only natural to bring the two together and create an unforgettable "mountain gravel" tour. Set off on an alpine adventure to discover the lush green valleys, flower filled mountain pastures and secluded cols of the northern French Alps. We leave the classic, well-trodden itineraries of the Madeleine and the Galibier behind us and set off on a more adventurous route. From Lake Geneva to the Vauban town of Briançon, a superb mix of quiet back roads, doubletrack and old military roads awaits us. Our gravel bikes offer us the perfect ride as we discover the wilder side of the Chablais, Beaufortain, Vanoise and Cerces ranges. An arrival in the Southern Alps under the watchful eye of the mighty Mont Thabor marks a superb finish to this alpine gravel adventure. If you’re the type of person who enjoys great alpine cycling, with a gravel twist, this tour is for you!

Tour with assistance vehicle: from 945€ - Details Duration : 6 days | Level : Customer satisfaction : - 0 reviews
+33 458 140 435 A dedicated team of travel specialists is available to offer you expert advice Monday to Friday from 9 to 12:30 AM and 13:30 to 6 PM (French time) on the phone, or by email.
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In the event that there are official travel or mobility restrictions in France or in your country of origin at the booked tour dates (official travel warning, quarantine upon return, closed borders) which make it impossible for you to undertake the trip, we offer to defer your booking to a later date at no extra charge. If no suitable date can be found, we offer a full reimbursement.
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Highlights

  • A unique alpine adventure, in the true pure spirit of mountain gravel riding
  • Breath-taking panoramas of the great alpine mountain ranges: Mont Blanc, Vanoise and Ecrins
  • The perfect mix of quiet back roads, doubletrack and old military tracks
  • The secluded cols and secret passes that join up the big alpine valleys
  • An unforgettable arrival in the Southern Alps, under the watchful eye of the Mont Thabor

Description

Comments

  • Choose daily from two different route profiles (level 2 and 3) - depending on your condition, daily form and taste
  • Some of the gravel sections are optional and can easily be avoided
  • This tour is part 1 of our Gravel Traversee across the French Alps: Part 1) Evian-les-Bains - Briançon, Part 2) Briançon - Vintimille
  • For group offers please contact us directly

State of mind for this trip

If you’ve already ridden the Alps on a road bike, you’ll no doubt have some superb memories of the great Alpine passes, stunning landscapes and breath-taking panoramic views. You’ll no doubt also remember that some of the classic roads and cols, especially on the Route des Grandes Alpes, can be very busy, sometimes tarnishing the cycling experience. With the advent of gravel bikes (see the “useful information” tab), it’s become possible to get away from the traffic and the main routes in order to enjoy a more authentic and pure cycling experience. The Alps are full of small secondary roads, 4x4 tracks and old military tracks, where peace and quiet still reign. This tour uses as much of the latter as possible, especially to cross the mountain passes.

The gradients on this circuit can exceed 15 % from time to time. Therefore, a gravel orientated gearing is more suitable (either a 30/46 or 28/44 drive train, coupled with an 11/32 cassette, or a single 42 chainring and a 10/42 cassette). We also recommend a minimum tire width of 38mm, as the terrain can get a bit technical in places (gullies on the tracks and ford crossings...)

Physical levels

Some of our Gravel tours offer various levels of difficulty, from 1 to 3. When variants are available, details (distance and altitude gain) can be viewed in the day by day details of the “programme” tab.

In the case of tours with variants, regardless of the level you choose, accommodation is always in the same destination (except some rare exceptions, clearly stated in the description). This allows you to choose the most suitable level on a day-to-day basis.

Day 1: "From Lake Geneva to the mountains", Evian-les-Bains - Samoëns

Itinerary start: Rendezvous with the organisation team is on day 1 at 9 am at Evian-les-Bains SNCF railway station. On request we can book the previous night's accommodation for you in town.

An early departure for our mountain gravel adventure. From the shores of Lake Geneva, our first pedal strokes allow us to quickly gain altitude on some small winding roads. A nice warm up! Shortly after, the first gravel tracks take us through a mix of fields and small woodland. After crossing the Dranse River, we head south along the main valley, on a mix of small roads and tracks. We soon find ourselves in the ski resort town of Morzine, in the heart of the Chablais mountains. The first real difficulty of the day awaits us just after Morzine: a long climb on doubletrack, through the forest at first, then across mountain pastures to a col at an altitude of more than 1600 m... At the foot of 2400 m summits, the setting is breath-taking! The following descent begins on a doubletrack, which quickly becomes a small road, allowing us to lay off the brakes a little before finally arriving in Samoëns, our overnight stop. Evening and night in a hotel.

The level 3 route follows a wilder valley to the east with an additional pass on doubletrack at almost 1800 m in the heart of the Portes du Soleil resort, before descending to Morzine.

  • Level 2: approx. 65 km / altitude gain: approx. 2200 m
  • Level 3: approx. 80 km / altitude gain: approx. 2600 m
  • Tarmac sections: approx. 65 % / Non-tarmac sections: approx. 35 %
Day 2: "The eternal snow-capped mountains", Samoëns - Les Contamines-Montjoie

Today we head for the Mont Blanc Range, hidden behind the impressive peaks of the Haut-Giffre. To reach the Vallée de l’Arve and our destination, we first have to cross the Platé Range. Our first 10 km climb is on a small road towards the resort of Samoëns, before following the ridgelines on high altitude doubletrack. The section offers spectacular views of the Giffre valley below and the Chablais mountains to the north. Along woodland tracks we begin the long descent into the valley, making the most of the tracks that zigzag along the mountain side in order to avoid losing altitude too quickly. The last section of the descent is on road, before arriving in the valley and heading for Sallanches.  We then tackle one last climb to Les Contamines at 1200 m, nestled between the Mont Blanc (4810 m) and the Crêtes du Mont Joly (2525 m). Evening and night in a hotel at the foot of eternal snow-capped mountains.

On the level 3 route, we pass above Passy in order to head deeper into the Arve Valley, towards Chamonix. By way of a small mountain road we soon arrive at the foot of our last challenge: a mountain pass, which we cross on steep tracks that allow us to join the Bionnassay Valley and Les Contamines.

  • Level 2: approx. 70 km / altitude gain: approx. 2100 m
  • Level 3: approx. 85 km / altitude gain: approx. 2800 m
  • Tarmac sections: approx. 70 % / Non-tarmac sections: approx. 30 %
Day 3: "Between lakes and mountains", Les Contamines-Montjoie - Aime

Two big climbs gravel await us today. First the winding track of the Col du Joly, which takes us to an altitude of almost 2000 m, with spectacular views of the Mont Blanc Range. From here we head into the Beaufortain Region, with its mountain pastures and typical wooden chalets. A fast road descent leads us to Beaufort in the Doron Valley, home to the Beaufort dairy cooperative (important for cheese lovers!). We then tackle the second part of the day with a climb to the village of Arêches. On a road that becomes progressively narrower and narrower, we make our way through some pretty traditional hamlets, before plunging into the forest. We take a well-earned break at the Saint Guérin dam, surrounded by the most remote summits of the Beaufortain, peaks that still separate us from the Tarentaise Valley. Then it’s en route for the last ten kilometres of climbing in a beautiful alpine setting. We pass the pretty Lac des Fées, before arriving at the top of the Cormet d'Arêches at 2100 m. Optional stop for a drink at the mountain refuge before beginning the long descent to Aime, initially on a track, then on the road. Evening and overnight stay in a hotel in Aime.

On the level 3 route, we take advantage of the Beaufortain's high altitude doubletrack to ride a ridge towards the resort of Les Saisies, before descending to Beaufort on the road.

  • Level 2: approx. 70km / altitude gain: approx. 2300 m
  • Level 3: approx. 85 km / altitude gain: approx. 2800 m
  • Tarmac sections: approx. 70 % / Non-tarmac sections: approx. 30 %
Day 4: "La Madeleine, but not as we know it…", Aime - Saint-François-Longchamp

Now in the Isère Valley, at the foot of the high peaks of the Vanoise National Park, we start with a descent towards Moutiers. We then take a small mountain road that leads us up a gentle, but winding ascent and along doubletrack to the family resort of Valmorel. We make the most of the resort's high-altitude tracks to climb up to 2100 m, before reaching the famous Col de la Madeleine (which we descend to!), natural col separating the Massif de la Vanoise from the Lauzière. The silhouette of the Cheval Noir (2 832 m) looms above us in a high-mountain setting, with the whole of the Lauzière Range ahead of us. After a 2 km descent on the south side of the col, we head off on a track which crosses the resort of St-François-Longchamp and allows us to reach a small, remote valley. We’re now in the Maurienne. Night in a guest house in a small village.

For the level 3 route, we first add a climb on a small road to a secondary col above Moutiers, before descending to Valmorel on a forest doubletrack.

  • Level 2: approx. 60 km / altitude gain: approx. 2200 m
  • Level 3: approx. 75 km / altitude gain: approx. 3000 m
  • Tarmac sections: approx. 70 % / Non-tarmac sections: approx. 30 %
Day 5: "The Grande Vallée de la Maurienne", Saint-François-Longchamp - Valloire

For today’s stage there’s no change of valley - we stay in the Maurienne - but we move on to another mountain range. We begin the day on some small balcony roads overlooking the Maurienne Valley, before a first short climb to the pretty Col de Chaussy. We pass above the famous Lacets de Montvernier, with its impressive hairpin bends, before descending on narrow, winding roads to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. 8 km of flat valley floor roads allow us to cross the town and tackle the start of the climb to our destination: Valloire! We leave the Col du Télégraphe with its road traffic for another day, taking a route on the other side of the valley, under the Arves Range, with a compulsory passage on a doubletrack. We end this short stage at 1400 m in the pleasant resort-village of Valloire, at the foot of the mythical Col du Galibier.

For the level 3 route, we prolong the pleasure of riding on small, quiet roads and tracks, avoiding the direct descent to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne… but adding distance and altitude gain.

  • Level 2: approx. 50 km / altitude gain: approx. 1700 m
  • Level 3: approx. 65 km / altitude gain: approx. 2300 m
  • Tarmac sections: approx. 90 % / Non-tarmac sections: approx. 10 %
Day 6: "Gateway to the South", Valloire - Briançon

Today is the last stage of the tour, with a crossing into the Southern Alps via a historical alpine pass! We begin with a warmup alternating roads and tracks in the direction of the Col du Galibier. The impressive Rochers de la Pare and the Grand Galibier loom large overhead. A few pedal strokes later we leave the Galibier road climb and head off on an old military track. The route winds its way up through mountain pastures to reach an abandoned military camp, and then a pass at an altitude of 2500 m in a stunning high-mountain setting. The climb is our ultimate challenge, but the arrival at the Col des Rochilles with its emerald-green lakes is well worth the effort. The descent from the pass begins on a path with some compulsory pushing through technical sections (roughly 30 min), before continuing on an easy track in the Clarée Valley. We continue descending to reach the first high alpine village: Névache. Further downhill we change riverbank to join a track that allows us to arrive in the upper town of Briançon via the impressive Vauban fortifications. We end our trip with a drink at a café terrace in the old town, before saying our goodbye’s at Briançon railway station.

The level 3 itinerary takes us back up from Névache, for a last "alpine gravel" climb on an old military track to the Col du Granon (2404 m, 950 m of altitude gain), before descending on the road to Briançon.

  • Level 2: approx. 55 km / altitude gain: approx. 1250 m
  • Level 3: approx. 75 km / altitude gain: approx. 2200 m
  • Tarmac sections: approx. 45 % / Non-tarmac sections: approx. 55 %

Itinerary end: The trip ends in Briançon in the afternoon after the last stage. On request we can book the following night's accommodation for you in town or transfer you back to Evian-les-Bains with the support vehicle.

Distances and altitude gain are an indication only and may vary.

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