The Short Break Road Cycling Holiday Specialist

6 Reasons We Love Provence and Ventoux

6 Reasons We Love Provence and Ventoux

Why Head to the Provence – Ventoux Region for a Road Cycling Short Break?

As keen cyclists, we are very lucky to live in the Aravis region of the French Alps. With its beautiful, laid back Alpine villages, great road surfaces, and access to the stunning medieval city of Annecy with its aqua-blue lake, it is home to arguably some of the greatest road cycling terrain in Europe.

That notwithstanding, we can’t help getting excited whenever we have a trip booked in for one of our Provence-Ventoux weekends.

So, as a cyclist, what is it that makes a trip to Provence so appealing?

In no particular order, here are our top six favourite things that make a short break road cycling trip to Provence a must:

1) The Weather – warm and sunny

The Provence area of France enjoys a sunny, Mediterranean climate, which means that whilst Northern Europe – and the French Alps – are still struggling to wrestle free from the tail end of the winter months well in to spring, the climate in Provence is generally warm and sunny.

With daytime temperatures extending in to the mid-20’s, this is the ideal environment for road cycling.

Similarly, the agreeable temperatures can extend late in to the Autumn months, making Provence an ideal cycling destination for some early season miles, or a great way to enjoy some late season sunshine.

The area can be very hot through July and August and usually extremely busy, so unless you like to ride in extreme temperatures, the high summer months are best avoided!

2) The Scenery – vineyards and villages

Basking under the Mediterranean sun, the Provençal landscape is famed for its laid-back beauty.

With rolling hills covered in vineyards and cherry orchards, world famous lavender fields, medieval hilltop villages of bleached stone which feature in ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (The prettiest Villages in France), it is easy to see what makes this region of France so attractive to visitors, and there is no better way to experience it than on a bike.

The quiet lanes criss-crossing the area are a cyclist’s dream, and are the best way to really immerse yourself in the quintessentially French feel of villages like Gordes, Lacoste, Ménerbes and Roussillon.

3) The Challenge – Mont Ventoux

At 1,912m the iconic mountain dominates the landscape in this part of the world.

Featuring on every keen cyclist’s bucket list, this mountain deserves its reputation as a serious challenge.

It’s a 21km climb and definitely a test for all levels of rider, giving a great sense of achievement when you reach the top.

Infamous for the untimely death of the British professional cyclist Tom Simpson near its summit in 1967, and more recently witnessing eventual 2016 Tour de France winner Chris Froome running towards the stage finish after a crash with a motorbike, the Giant of Provence attracts thousands of cyclist from around the world seeking to do battle with the mountain – and the elements – to emulate their Tour de France heroes.

The landscape is unique; the challenge very real!

4) Variety of Riding and Routes

One of the things that most surprises our guests on one of Bike Weekender’s Provence-Ventoux road cycling short break weekends, is that there is a lot more fabulous riding in the area than simply riding up the world famous Ventoux – probably the main reason they were attracted to the area in the first place.

Provence really does have something for everyone when it comes to spending days on a bike.

From the rolling hills of the Luberon National Park, and its picture postcard landscapes featuring medieval hilltop villages, to the wilder, hilly Vaucluse region, to the Giant of Provence itself, the area offers up plenty of opportunity for cyclists of all abilities to challenge themselves.

5) The Gorge de la Nesque

It is difficult to talk about cycling in Provence and not mention this stunning 20km stretch of road carved in to the rock face, running the length of the Gorge de la Nesque.

Whether you choose to climb the gorge from Villes-sur-Auzon, never steep and at a very manageable average of 3%, or you descend from the picturesque village of Monieux, the views along the route are simply breath-taking.

This ride has been described by guests as “the best 40 minutes ever spent on a bike”.

Enough said!

6) Regional Specialities – food and wine

The best road cycling breaks aren’t all just about the riding and the views, they’re also about the opportunity to try the fantastic regional cuisine as well.

Provençale menus are full of dishes made with fresh, local produce, typical of a Mediterranean climate – vine-ripened tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and of course ‘herbes de Provence’.

These are accompanied by a chilled glass of rosé wine the area is so well-known for, so refreshing on those hot, sunny days whilst sitting on the terrace or by the pool. It just has to be done!

How to Join Us

If you would like to sample the wide range of rides available in this area, including some a little more challenging, and if you’re keen to ride in a group, why not join us for a Provence – Ventoux Classic 4-day weekend break from May to October 2021.

This is a fully-supported cycling break with a fixed itinerary, that gives you a real taste of the best this stunning area has to offer!

Also, if there are a group of 6 or more of you who would like a more custom cycling break to the Provence – Ventoux region just for you, we can organise that for you too.

Simply get in touch with an idea of group numbers, dates and what you are looking to get out of the trip, and leave the rest to us.

We hope to have you join us very soon!

Top 6 Easy Climbs in the Northern French Alps

Top 6 Easy Climbs in the Northern French Alps

Some of Our Favourite Crowd-Pleasing Introductory Climbs

From Teak, based at the Aravis Lodge in St Jean de Sixt – Bike and Ski Weekender’s home base in the French Alps.

Invariably one of the first reactions I get when I tell cyclists that I live and ride in the Northern French Alps is “Blimey, I would love to ride there, but I am not fit enough”; they then proceed to tell me how much they enjoy riding in the Tramontana mountains in Mallorca!

There is, I guess, a misconception about riding in the Alps, borne no doubt from all those images of pros grimacing their way full gas up the mountains during the big televised races like the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and so on; if the weather conditions are challenging, ‘tant mieux’ from a spectacle’s perspective, as well as for the viewing public’s perception of what it must be like to ride in that environment.

Whilst riding in the Alps is not for the cyclist just starting out, neither is it solely the preserve of the pros. There are actually some very achievable ‘easy’ climbs in the Alps for road cyclists, so as long as you have a reasonable level of fitness and stamina over longer rides, and are happy to just ride at your own pace, you should be fine.

Indeed we are very lucky in our corner of the Northern French Alps to have access to a huge variety of road cycling terrain, including climbs that even the most modest of weekend warriors will find very achievable, but at the same time they are no less rewarding for the sense of achievement and breathtaking views.

In no particular order, here are some of our favourite, crowd-pleasing introductory climbs, easily accessible from our home base in the Aravis mountains:

1) Col de Leschaux


From the Sévrier roundabout on the western shore of Lake Annecy

Length 11.9km, average gradient 3.7%

This climb is used in the annual Annecy Triathlon and its easy to understand why – it’s steady!

The kilometre markers bordering the road for the length of the climb confirm this, rarely straying outside the 2-4% range.

After leaving the lakeside village of Sévrier, the beautifully surfaced road climbs through deciduous forest and alpine pastureland, along the foot of the imposing Mount Semnoz to the right, and breath-taking views of the iridescent Lake Annecy to the left.

2) Col de Tamié


From Faverges, a little way passed the far end of Lake Annecy, towards Ugine/Albertville

Length 10.1km, average gradient 3.88%

Aside from a little pinch shortly after leaving the town of Faverges en route to the village of Verchères, this beautiful climb meanders its way alongside a stream, then climbs through lush meadows before reaching the ancient fort of Tamié, set on a promontory overlooking Albertville and the mountains beyond.

3) Col du Marais 


From St Ferreol, close to Faverges

Length 10.2km, average gradient 3.8%

The ascents up both sides of this col are equally enjoyable. The climb from St Ferreol is the longer, and arguably the more dramatic, but it does offer two kilometres of respite with a gentle descent two thirds of the way up, and the shady water fountain at Serraval is always good for a bidon refill – or a head dunk on a hot day!

4) Col du Marais 


From Thônes, a small Alpine town 15km from the eastern shore of Lake Annecy 

Length 8km, average gradient 3.4%

The climb from Thônes has a grippy section just after the turnoff to the village of Les Clefs past the old wood yard, but beyond that you climb steadily through Alpine meadows.

Both ascents offer up fabulous views of the imposing Tournette, a mountain in the Bornes Massif overlooking the lake at 2,351m.

5) Col des Fleuries


From Thorens-Glières, a pretty village also at the foot of the climb to the Plateau des Glières, of Tour de France fame

Length 5.6km, average gradient 5.4%

This steady ascent rises up from the attractive village of Thorens-Glières along a quiet road through a pre-Alpine, agricultural landscape, a little reminiscent of the rolling climbs in the south of England.

Though don’t take the wrong turn up the Plateau des Glières, as that tops out at 10% over 15km.

6) Col des Aravis


From St Jean de Sixt, home base of Bike Weekender and the Aravis Lodge

Length 10.2km, average gradient 5.4%

Our local col, and the main pass through the Aravis mountain range, which often features in the Tour de France and the Dauphiné.

The climb proper begins at the heart of the ski resort of La Clusaz, and features a long series of switchbacks through lush Alpine pasture. 

On a clear day you are rewarded by sensational views across to Mont Blanc from the top.

Diversity of the Northern French Alps

Whilst the Northern french Alps has a range of topography to test the strongest of climbers, its attraction to the wider cycling community lies in the diversity of its terrain, offering up a rewarding challenge no matter what your climbing ability.

I guess it depend on each individual’s approach; ultimately any mountain is only as hard as you are prepared to make it!

If you would like to try some of these climbs for yourself, a great way to start out in this region is on one of our Northern Alps Lite self-guided road cycling holidays, where you can choose your own itinerary over 4 days, making it as easy or tough on yourself as you wish.

Alternatively, if you would like to sample the wide range of rides available in this area, including some a little more challenging, and if you’re keen to ride in a group, why not join us for a Northern Alps Classic 4-day weekend break.

This is a fully-supported cycling break with a fixed itinerary, that gives you a real taste of the best this stunning area has to offer!

If there’s a group of 6 or more of you who usually ride together, and you would like us to devise a custom bike tour in the area just for you, we can organise that for you as well – simply get in touch with your initial thoughts and an idea of numbers, then we’ll take it from there.

Just 1 hour’s transfer from Geneva airport, this region is ideal for a short road cycling break from Thursday to Monday, with so much to offer, whilst only taking 2 days off work.

Our guests frequently comment how surprised they are at how much they have been able to pack in during their stay, and find it a really great way to fit an enjoyable and highly rewarding cycling holiday into their busy lives.

So, we would love to get to show you these, and many other of our favourite climbs in the Northern French Alps, and do hope you will join us  at some point too!

Lifting the Coronavirus Lockdown in France

Lifting the Coronavirus Lockdown in France

The Start of De-Confinement in France – Monday 11th May!

From Paul, based at the Aravis Lodge in St Jean de Sixt – Bike and Ski Weekender’s home base in the French Alps.

We are approaching the first important milestone in the process of easing the lockdown measures in France, as a result of the coronavirus crisis – and as of this Monday 11th May, we will be free of many restrictions which have become a normal part of our daily life in France.

So, What Does This Mean, and What Can We Do?

It’s not a full release and certainly not everything is possible in one go, with many other aspects of life and the economy being re-introduced if progress goes well, and depending on local conditions. It is also being staged differently in some regions where their remains a higher COVID-19 risk factor (covering Paris and the Ile de France).

The 1st June is the next key date when more things should / could become possible. Until at least then, for example, bars and restaurants remain closed, and beaches and lakes must also stay closed – so the leisure industry is going to have to continue to wait for the all clear to open.

However, shops and businesses can start to re-open, and people are able to offer their services and products direct to consumers (with certain controls in place) across the board.

Schools can (where safe and possible) start to take back some children in certain classes from Monday 11th May. Others may have to wait a little longer, and it’s a complicated, staged process to ensure their safety in a school environment – but mayors and headteachers can now work on these aspects.

Transport will start to function again (albeit at a lower frequency), creches can re-open, people will be able to visit their relatives in care-homes, and so life starts to return to a “new normal”.

All borders (even internally within the EU) remain closed until further notice (at least until 15th June), unless there is an imperative reason to travel and cross them.

The principles of social distancing will remain, and meetings (public or private) are limited to 10 people.

Masks will become a regular part of normal life – they will be compulsory on public transport, and can be required in shops / shopping centres etc as well. Washable and re-usable masks are already available to buy from the Post Office, as well as supermarkets and pharmacies.

For a full update I would suggest consulting this article (in French) here >>>

A useful source of English news in France can be found here >>>

From Our Own Personal Perspective in St Jean de Sixt…

For us, the most important aspect is going to be the fact that we will no longer need to justify our trip out and away from our home, nor to carry the signed attestation form as to what we are doing!

We have only been permitted to leave the house for essential shopping, or to go to/from work (if its not possible to work from home), or to undertake some light exercise (which has to be within 1km of your home, and for no longer than an hour) but otherwise told to stay at home.

This precaution has meant that (apart from a weekly trip to the supermarket for my wife) we have not left our small bubble of the village of St Jean de Sixt for the past 8 weeks!

Whilst we are very lucky to have space to play, and we have some great wooded walks and footpaths within the village and our 1km radius – it’s no lie that all of our family are very much looking forward to spreading our wings a little further, and can’t wait for the 11th May to come!

After being contained within a mini-world for so long, it’s interesting to see that such small steps are going to make a huge difference, and how we are now very grateful for so many things we previously took for granted.

A trip to the neighbouring village of Le Grand Bornand and its riverside cycling path is long overdue.

Going round and round a car park on a bike just doesn’t cut it, and as a result the kids seem to have lost interest in riding their bikes sadly.

I am hoping that this will quickly come back when we’re allowed to just ride and be free!

Same for me, as the ability to go for a bike ride has been off-limits (despite some amazing spring conditions). This will now be possible as of the Monday 11th May, and I shall be permitted to travel up to 100km from my home without any need for authorisations or justifications…. I can go just for the hell of it!

Never before has a simple road-bike ride been so welcomed and anticipated… and I know I shall be smiling even more than usual at just being able to be out, and the feeling of freedom!

Of course, the coffee stop won’t be possible (as cafes remain closed), and I am not allowed to ride with anyone else – but these won’t detract from the amazing feeling of being out in stunning wide open spaces, and just travelling!

Our kids won’t be returning to school just yet, so its at least another 3 weeks of home schooling coming up.

However, they will be able to hang out and play with some of their friends in the afternoon, so they can start to rebuild their social interactions and friendships, as well as get back to using their French language with native speakers!

We, too, are looking to seeing friends again, and just sitting and having a cuppa whilst discussing what’s been going on will be an amazing step forward, as well as a release form the daily routine.

We will likely stay a metre apart (old habits die hard!), but that’s an amazing improvement on a video call or a chat…

We are very fortunate to live in a beautiful area of the French Alps, and are pleased that we shall very shortly be able to get out to enjoy our surroundings once again.

Walking, cycling, exploring or even just taking a picnic with a stunning view…

So – for us, the 11th May is only really about some quite small changes to our daily life, but I have a feeling that the impact of these are going to be huge for our family, and are certainly a very welcome relief after 8 weeks of coronavirus lockdown.

Although it’s a shame we have to have things taken away from us to release how much they mean to us, I hope that we will all recognise the importance of these small things, gestures or interactions as we re-enter “normal” life.

Let’s remember to be grateful for even the smallest of things…

Life Under Lockdown in France

Life Under Lockdown in France

My personal reflections on a month of lockdown in the French Alps

From Paul, based at the Aravis Lodge in St Jean de Sixt – Bike and Ski Weekender’s home base in the French Alps.

Looking back, the weekend of the 12th – 16th March was certainly crazy from a work and business perspective, and is one which will be remembered for a very long-time!

All of the ski lifts closed down on the Saturday as a result of the growing spread of the

Coronavirus in France, which meant our guests in resort couldn’t ski for the remainder of their long weekend ski break. Restaurants, bars and shops had also closed down as well.

Until that point, the ever-changing focus had initially been very tricky to manage, with no knowledge of what was going to happen with the Coronavirus situation in France and the UK even the next day… with the pace of change being the real challenge.

During that time both the team in France and the sales team back in England were glued to news reports and government updates hourly at times, trying to get an insight into what was going on, and what that might mean for our guests moving forward, so that we could communicate and respond as best we could.

However, by the time you had communicated something to the present guests, or next arriving guests – it had moved on and was then time to update them again with something new….I am pleased with how we managed to communicate with all of our guests, and hopefully everyone was kept in the picture.

Thankfully our Ski Weekender guests in resort that fateful weekend were all able to leave on Monday as planned, and with the resorts confirmed as being closed until further notice, we knew that was most likely the end of the ski season, a whole month early!

Then came Monday evening’s announcement from President Macron announcing France’s lockdown from 12pm on  the following day (Tuesday), which finally gave us clarity on what we faced, after a month or more of complete uncertainty.

Luckily we had received snippets of rumours during the day on Monday, so had put in place some “Cunning Plan B’s” to get the Aravis Lodge team home safely the next morning whilst the border was still open.

So Tuesday morning saw the hotel staff and all of their kit squeezed into 2 of our minibuses and headed for the Eurotunnel to get back to the UK asap!

The locally-based team in France also scrambled to do some last minute jobs and return rental minibuses that morning, and as of midday on Tuesday 17th March the crazy few days were over – and it was instantly calm.

Wednesday was eerily quiet around the village – but this has become the new normal for the past 4+ weeks.

The lockdown in St Jean de Sixt

People are generally staying home apart from taking a walk or getting some exercise etc. but as it’s a small village with plenty of space it feels fine. Everyone keeps their respectful 2 metres distance if you do see someone to say “Bonjour”….

We have to take our “signed attestation form” with us if we do go out, which explains why we are leaving home, and we have to restrict our outings from the home to essential food shopping, working which cant be done from home, or for up to hour of light exercise (within 1km radius of our house).

We’re grateful that this still gives us access to some lovely woodland and mountain walks, so we can still enjoy spring time in the Alps, which is a beautiful time of the year.

Helped by some very warm weather and lots of sunshine, it has felt like Spring has sprung. The birds started singing (or was it just that we could now hear them as no traffic?) and spring started to happen in earnest.

And really that’s how it feels – it’s all just happening but a lot quieter than usual….

We’re in a fortunate situation with some outdoor space at home, and essential services close by – but for us, it has certainly felt like “No fuss, no stress”, (apart from maybe the home schooling which my wife Jess is taking in her stride!), and everyone is just getting on with it in their own way…

The supermarkets are open, and there are no restrictions or empty-shelves. Bread flour is the only item not available, but as the boulangerie is open we’re still getting the daily bread!

We manage to only need go once every 8 – 10 days, and that’s a rare day when the boundary of Jess’s world increases by another 3km… Otherwise – we have not left the village for over a month.

I was blown away the first time I heard the evening ritual of going to the terrace to clap, or make some noise to say thanks to the front line and medical staff. In France it happens every evening and the involvement has continued to some extent – with the sound of music, air horns, pots and pans filling the air as soon as the church bells stop chiming 8 o’clock. It lasts a minute or so, but it’s a clear demonstration that we may all be isolated, but we’re definitely all in this together!

On another level, the beauty of online services and video chats etc. means people are so far able to access support. Jess runs pregnancy and baby / toddler classes, and so although she can’t run her workshops she’s still able to stay in touch and support the new mums, as they are faced with the challenges of what to do with the kids.

The teachers and schools have been great at sending through lots of resources and lessons for the kids to do at home, and the challenge now is keeping up with the schedule. Again – they are able to share videos and photos to keep the feeling of a class and its teacher going!

We’re all looking forward to further announcements from the government on how measures may be eased, and how the kids may start to return to school from the 11th May, although we’re also fully expecting partial measures to remain in place for some time to come…

Building sites are starting to work again, and people seem to be finding their new “normal” level of what can be done and how best to do it safely…whilst maintaining that all important social distancing. The economy is of course taking a hit, but people are reacting and doing what they have to.

The government are offering support in many ways, but it’s certainly not easy for everyone. The healthcare system has been stretched, but at least locally in Annecy it seems to have coped admirably, without too many issues… It’s well-funded, and has been well supported by the public at large.

Let’s hope this progress continues, and we can start to look towards the new “normal”!

So – all in all, lockdown in March and April seems to have been rather like some “enforced calm and family time”, when normally we would have been ramping up for our Easter ski breaks, and then everything that goes into closing down the hotel for the end of the latest ski season.

Our main impressions are that we have seen a widespread and well-enforced lockdown being observed respectfully, and as best as it can be, by the whole population!

It’s just a shame we can’t have wider access these beautiful mountains with this free time we have been given!


(Image credits – Woodland – St Jean de Sixt Tourism; Bread – Les Capucines boulangerie, St Jean; View of St Jean de Sixt – @luucieloo Instagram)

Tour de France 2020 – Route Rumours

Tour de France 2020 – Route Rumours

Updated 1/10/19 – Now that the official launch of the route for the Tour de France 2020 is drawing near, the route rumours are steadily ramping up in the French media!

We’re keeping track of these rumours and updating this post regularly whenever we have anything new to report with regards to the Tour de France 2020, right up until the ASO launch on Tuesday 15th October in Paris, so do keep checking back.

You can find the latest rumours highlighted in red below.

Tour de France 2020 – route speculation

Tour Organiser Christian Prudhomme has already said the parcours won’t be reaching such high altitudes as it did in 2019, which was a special edition for the 100th anniversary of the yellow jersey.

This makes us think that the Tour de France route for 2020 has been designed with a French winner in mind yet again, given it will be 35 years since Frenchman Bernard Hinault took home that prestigious jersey.

Julian Alaphilippe set French hearts (and many others) alight in the summer of 2019, and they will be hoping he can complete the job next year, although he has said he won’t be targetting the GC in 2020. Mind you, he said that this year as well and we all know what happened then.

The other key French hopeful is Thibaut Pinot, who showed fantastic form this summer, and many believed he could have gone all the way to the Champs Elysées this year had he not tragically had to abandon on stage 19 due to a thigh injury.

So look out for Tour de France 2020 route that will feature plenty of stages that suit punchy, attacking riders like these, no doubt with at least 1 very short stage of around 60-70km to create some real excitement in the GC.

So what about the mountains you may ask, apart from there being less lung-busters over the 2,000m mark next year?

Route rumours for the 2020 Tour de France are still relatively quiet when it comes to the mountain stages, except to say that current speculation is the Pyrenées will again feature first for the 2nd year in a row, with the Alps bringing up the finale.

Many people are hoping for a return to the iconic Mont Ventoux or Alpe d’Huez, given this year we missed some of the more infamous climbs and it’s a few years now since those spectacular images of Chris Froome running up the Giant of Provence, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to suggest either will feature just yet.

What we know so far about the Tour de France 2020

Dates: Saturday 27th June – Sunday 19th July 2020 (1 week earlier than usual so as not to clash with the Tokyo Olympic Games)

Grand Depart: Starting in Nice on the stunning Côte d’Azur, in the south of France

Stage 1: Nice midlands – Nice (170km). 

This stage starts and finishes on the coast as might be expected, and is actually quite a lumpy stage, with 3 loops which should please spectators.

This is followed by what is expected to be a much anticipated bunch sprint, which could see a sprinter get their day in yellow.

Stage 2: Nice highlands – Nice (190km) – unusually the 2nd stage of the 2020 Tour de France features close to 3700m of accumulated elevation, including an early ascent of the Col de Colmiane at over 1500m, closely followed by the Col de Turini and the Col d’Eze, with a descent to finish. The likelihood of the yellow jersey wearer from stage 1 still being in it at the end of stage 2 are very slim, and we might even see some small gaps appearing in the GC at this early stage.

Stage 21: ??? – Paris, Champs Elysées

(Images and videos courtesy of the ASO and the Tour de France, )

Tour de France 2020 – early route rumours

Exact details of the remaining stages won’t be revealed until the official presentation on Tuesday 15th October.

However various local and national French newspapers and several blog sites have been fuelling a number of different rumours.

Many seem to suggest that after the Grand Depart in Nice and a couple of days in Provence, the route will then veer anti-clockwise towards the west coast maritime regions, then down through the infamous wine region of Bordeaux, to Tour favourite Pau and the Pyrenées, then back across the country through the Corrèze, the Cantal and the Ardeche towards the Alps, via Lyon or Grenoble.

  • Stage 3 – UPDATED – a foray into the gorgeous lavender region of Provence is looking more and more likely, with the Citadelle of Sisteron being named as a favourite for the stage finish, perhaps with the stage start still in the Nice region.
  • Stage 4 – UPDATED – Sisteron – Orcières-Merlettes 1850
  • Stage 5 – UPDATED – Gap – Privas, also with rumours of a possible time trial in/near Gap
  • Stage 6 – ?? to Mont-Aigoual in the Gard region, around 1500m
  • Stage 7 – UPDATED – Millau to ??
  • Stage 8 – UPDATED –  Pyrenées perhaps? Rumours suggest Cazères to Loudenvielle
  • Stage 9 – ?? Bordeaux perhaps?
  • Rest day 1 – La Rochelle in the Poitou-Charentes region?
  • Stage 10 – Ile d’Oléron to Ile de Ré
  • Stage 11 – La Rochelle to Poitiers
  • Stage 12 – Start in Chauvigny to ??
  • Stage 13 – ??
  • Stage 14 – UPDATED – Clermont Ferrand to Lyon
  • Stage 15 – ??
  • Rest day 2 – ??
  • Stage 16 – UPDATED – The Alps – rumours suggest the Tarentaise, perhaps Brides-les-Bains, Méribel and Corchevel
  • Stage 17 – ??
  • Stage 18 – ??
  • Stage 19 – ??
  • Stage 20 – UPDATED – return to Planche des Belles Filles? Possibly a time trial?
  • Stage 21 – ?? to Paris, Champs Elysées

The city of Clermont Ferrand in the Massif Central seems to be a popular bet for a stage start, with a much touted finish atop Puy Mary in the Cantal region.

Some are also suggesting the route may go to Ile de Noirmoutier on the north west coast up from La Rochelle and even as far north as the Mur de Bretagne in Brittany, so these stages would probably come before a trip to Clermont Ferrand – it would certainly make more sense if then heading over to the Alps. Bourges has also been mentioned on a few sites as well.

So we could be looking at a stage from Chauvigny to Noirmoutier (though that would be very long!), followed by a jaunt up into Brittany, then back down through the country via Bourges, Clermont Ferrand and Privas in the Ardeche, eventually ending up with 3 exciting stages in the Alps, which will determine the eventual winner.

UPDATED Whereas more recent rumours suggest that the Alps will feature earlier in week 3, heading further back up north for the penultimate stages. French media went crazy last week over reports of a return to Planche des Belles Filles, with some press even mentioning a possible ITT finishing atop this iconic climb that played such a pivotal role in the 2019 Tour de France.

UPDATED What about a brief foray into Switzerland, with Lausanne and Crans Montana both being banded about.

This will all become clearer over the coming weeks as we draw closer to the big reveal, as more Mayors let their long-held secrets slip, people discover which towns have all of their accommodations booked and the gaps start to be filled in.

In the meantime though, we’re eagerly awaiting the route through the Alps with it being our own play ground, and we’ll hopefully have something up our sleeves that will enable you to come and join us for another Tour de France Watch and Ride road cycling break, where you’ll get to watch a stage of the Tour live and then ride some of the infamous Tour de France cols for yourself!

So watch this space, and we’ll keep this post updated.

(First published 10th September, last updated 1st October 2019)

With credits to, France3,, and various local French (and Swiss) publications

Tour de France 2019 – Route Rumours

Tour de France 2019 – Route Rumours

In less than 2 weeks the official route will be unveiled in Paris for the Tour de France 2019 – but the rumours and details are starting to become more confirmed and certain dates look “certain” to appear.

The local and regional press such as the Dauphine are starting to provide far more details – although much remains speculation and the mayors are always careful with their quotes not to give the game away!


Below is the latest recap we have pulled together of the expected route and stages for the 2019 Tour de France.


Sat 6th July – The opening stage of the Tour de France 2019 – is from Brussels to Charleroi and back.
This will be a stage of 192km and will feature some cobbles!


Sun 7th July – This stage will be a Team Time Trial over 28km from Brussels city centre to the Atomium – the impresive 6-balls sculpture for the Grand Exhibition in 1958.


Mon 8th July – an arrival in Reims has been talked about for this stage.


Tue 9th July – the tour stays in the North East of France on mainly flat ground and a finish is expected in Nancy for this day.


Wed 10th July – from Nancy the Tour is expected to be making for the Vosges mountains and a route around the hills, before finishing somewhere around Colmar?


Thursday 11th July – fairly good authority that there will be a finish at La Planche des Belles Filles, in the Vosges. With apparently a section which is just 100m from the finish line with a gradient of something like 24% – so an exciting stage in the mountains of the Vosges.


Friday 12th July – a stage from the Vosges (Luxeuil les Bains) heading to Chalon sur Saone.


Saturday 13th July – not sure where from but the arrival of this stage will apparently be in Saint Etienne – with a departure from there on the next day the “fete nationale”


Sunday 14th July – depart from the prefecture in Saint Etienne with a course possibly heading out across to Brioude which is where Romain Bardet was born!


Mon 15th  July – normally the first rest day, but it could actually be on the Tuesday with a stage on Monday?


Tuesday 16th July – (assuming rest day on Monday) would be Saint Flour to Albi – crossing through the Aveyron


Wed 17th July – Albi to Toulouse


Thur 18th July – stage from Toulouse and heading for the Pyrenees with a summit finish on Tourmalet.


Fri 19th July – another Pyrenees stage, and possibly a time trial in and around Pau?


Sat 20th July – another Pyrenees stage and a finish in the hills above and near to the town of Foix


Sun 21st July – would appear that Limoux is going to be a depart town and this would fit for Sunday as the Tour de France 2019 head up and across towards the Alps and Provence. Destination is to be Nimes – which looks like featuring prominently within the 2019 event.


Mon 22nd July – second rest day in and around Nimes


Tue 23rd July – talk of a Nimes to Nimes stage and even a bit of speculation that they may ride their bikes in and around the Romain Arena? Gladiator stylee!


Wed 24th July – departing from the Roman Pont du Gard and heading for the Alps – with an arrival into Gap.


Thu 25th July – Nearby Embrun is touted as the departure point, before a stage in Savoie which will finish in Valloire.  This resort is at the top of the Col de Telegraph and the foot of the Galibier, so interesting to see whether the finish is a descent or a climb!


Fri 26th July – A depart in the Maurienne valley and a stage finishing perhaps in the ski report of Tignes.


Sat 27th July  – another finish with a big mountain stage into a ski resort – which is to be from Albertville to Val Thorens and a summit finish in the highest ski village in the Alps of Val Thorens – located at 2 340 metres of altitude and a climb which is in the region of 36 kilometres.

To Note – this stage also has some speculation as being the Etape de Tour 2019 stage, although the single road up and down would in our opinion make the logistics of getting in and out a bit tricky!


Sun 28th July – finish in Paris on the Champs d’Elysee.

Tour de France 2019 – route speculation

What we know so far about the Tour de France 2019

Tour de France 2019 – early route rumours

Tour de France 2018 – 3D route video

Tour de France 2018 – 3D route video

The Tour de France 2018 will feature 3 stages in the Alps, all of which are accessible from the Bike Weekender home base, but stage 10 in particular will pass right by our door, which we are really excited about.

All 3 stages feature some real thrills and challenges – including the Col de la Colombière, Plateau des Glières, Col de Romme, Cormet de Roseland, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col de la Madeleine, the infamous Lacets de Montvernier and a very welcome return to the beast that Alpe d’Huez.

Stage 10 – Annecy – Le Grand Bornand (169km)

Stage 11 – Albertville – La Rosière (108km)

Stage 12 – Bourg St Maurice – Alpe d’Huez (175km)

Check out the full tour route and see the stage profiles in 3D here…


We have an extra special 7-day ‘watch and ride’ package for the Tour de France 2018, where you will get to watch at least 2 stages live, as well as La Course, which is also on our home turf and finishes in Le Grand Bornand, and you get to ride many of the featured cols yourself. Find out more here.

Tour de France 2018 – Route Rumours

Tour de France 2018 – Route Rumours

Now that the Tour de France is over for another year, people are already speculating about the Tour de France 2018 route, and rumours abound. We’re keeping track of these rumours and updating this post regularly, whenever we have anything new to report, so do keep checking back.

Latest Updates:

Update 9th October 2017 – Annecy to Grand Bo with gravel track, and Alpe d’Huez 2 days later

As you can imagine this close to the release of the official Tour de France 2018 route, rumours are flying. Today’s intel come from newspaper Le Dauphiné, which seems to confirm that stage 10 will in fact start in Annecy (after the first rest day in Annecy) and end in Le Grand Bornand as we suspected, but it will also include a 1.8km stretch of gravel track over the Plateau des Glières. Given this could also potentially the stage to be used in the Etape du Tour, that should be very interesting indeed.

Stage 11 is reported to be from Albertville to ski station La Rosière, in the Savoie region – this may also potentially be the stage used by the Etape too. Stage 12 is will then deliver a much anticipated finish up Alpe d’Huez, having started in Bourg-St-Maurice. Le Dauphiné suggested that might take in the Cormet-de-Roseland, another favourite ride of ours here at Bike Weekender – though we’re trying to figure out how that might work. Either way, we could be having 3 exciting days of action in the Alps by the looks of things.

We’re going to be releasing our short break plans for these events after the official launch next week, so watch this space!! Depending on a few details, an epic Tour de France extravaganza may be in the pipeline – we’ll know for sure after the launch next Tuesday – but you might want to consider pencilling out that whole week…

29th September 2017 – Tour Stage finish in Grand Bornand

We have had it on fairly strong authority that the Tour de France stage on Tuesday 17th July will finish in Le Grand Bornand – and the route will take in Col de Romme and Col de la Colombiere before descending into Grand Bo for the finish line.

Not sure yet if they are coming from Annecy – which has been rumoured as the route of the Etape du Tour as well!

Otherwise – we have heard that Annecy will feature for a couple of days (so possibly another time trial?)

Very exciting news that we could have up to 3 days of Tour de France 2018 action very close to our home base!

This route map has been found on the Internet and looks good, but caution – there are often a few versions circulating, so may not be the definitive route.

26th September 2017 – cobbles or gravel, and official route release date

First the rumours mentioned various gravel track stages, including some used in the Tro-Bro Léon, which excited a lot of fans. However, more recent rumours seem to suggest a cobbled stage used in the Paris-Roubaix might be used instead, in which case the gravel might be relegated to another year. Or maybe they’ll trial a gravel stage at the Dauphinè first, before subjecting the Tour peloton to them.

Could we be in for another Individual Time Trial (ITT) on the penultimate stage before Paris? Again this could be a deciding factor as to who takes home the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysèes the nexy day and will be sure to keep riders and fans on their toes right to the end, just like at this year’s Vuelta. If the leader at that point has less than a minute’s lead, they will be feeling very uncomfortable about keeping the maillot jaune – unless it’s Chris Froome or Tom Dumoulin, who might feel slightly more confident. The Gironde is the rumoured location, before a final transfer to the capital.

With regards to the official launch of the 2018 Tour de France Route, that will be in Paris on Tuesday October 17th, so not long to wait. We’re feeling very excited here at Bike Weekender HQ, you’ll find out why for yourselves on the 17th!

8th August 2017 – Northern Alps middle of the 2nd week

  • We have heard more evidence that the Tour will be in the Northern Alps (the Aravis??) during the middle of the second week…Hoping to find further details of the routes and towns soon. That would be brilliant news for us, given that’s our home territory here in St Jean de Sixt. Watch this space and remember, you heard it here first!

31st July 2017 – stages 4-7 leaked by Enedis, and even more gravel roads

    • It is reported that yesterday the French electricity company ‘Enedis’ – partner and official sponsor of the Tour de France –  tweeted a Tour de France 2018 route map showing stages 1-7 throughout Brittany, which included stage 4 – La Baule – Sarzeau, stage 5 – Lorient – Plouhinec, stage 6 – La Pont du Raz – Brasparts, stage 7 – Carmaix – St. Malo. They hastily deleted the tweet soon after. Fake rumour or truth? I guess we’ll find out in October – possibly the 17th.
    • In addition to the dirt roads used in the Tro-Bro Léon, Thierry Gouvenou, the Tour’s route planner recently tweeted from a dirt road near Mont Lozère in the Cévennes mountains with the caption “under the spell of this mountain road… pleasures of the recon” – so maybe there will be two sets of dirt roads in next year’s Tour. However, Gouvenou is also the route planner for the Dauphiné, though that is often used to test run stages ahead of the Tour, so if not in 2018, it may well appear at some point in the future.

Tour de France 2018 – route speculation

The fact that this year’s parcours definitely seemed to have been designed to upset the apple cart (otherwise known as the Sky train and now 4x Tour winner Chris Froome), and perhaps play more in the hands of French hope, Romain Bardet and other punchier riders, folks will be eagerly awaiting to see what event organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) will do next.

Also, many of the more iconic Tour de France climbs were missed out this time around, so will we see any of them make a welcome return in 2018?

What about summit finishes? Given there were only 3 this year, will we see any more of those again?

What we know so far about the Tour de France 2018

Dates: Saturday 7th – Sunday 29th July 2018 (1 week later than originally planned due to the FIFA World Cup – the official map still shows the old dates)

Team Size: – Teams will be reduced to 8 riders instead of the usual 9. This could have a major impact on the race next year, as well as the type of parcours chosen.

Grand Depart: Returning to La Vendée region, particularly the Pays de la Loire for all 3 opening stages – one of the heartlands of French cycling.

Stage 1: Noirmoutier-en-Île – Fontenay-le-Comte (195km). This stage entirely follows the west coast, so cross winds could definitely be a factor in this first stage, especially at ‘Marais Poitevin’. It looks totally flat, so a rare chance for a sprinter to get into the yellow jersey on day one.

Stage 2: Mouilleron-Saint Germain – La Roche-sur-Yon (185km) – slightly lumpy so could be a good one for the breakaway, but it’s unlikely teams with sprinters will want to allow that to happen.

Stage 3: Cholet – Cholet (35km) – after being absent in 2017, the Team Time Trial (TTT) is back! It’s a city centre route, with a tough 800m climb at the finish. The first opportunity for GC teams to see how everyone is doing and perhaps to see some time gaps in the first week.

Stage 4: La Baule – ??? – it is assumed the race will veer north west at this point, into Brittany, one of the other ‘homes’ of French cycling.

Stage 21: ??? – Paris, Champs Elysées

Tour de France 2018 – early route rumours

Exact details of the remaining stages won’t be revealed until the official presentation in October. However newspaper Ouest-France, covering the west of the country seems to have some insider info and have suggested the route might continue to La Baule – Sarzeau, Lorient – Pointe du Raz, and Brest – Guerlédan for stages 4-6.

Could we be seeing an ascent of the infamous Mûr-de-Bretagne on stage 6? Also rumours suggest the Tour might be using some of the dirt roads used in the Tro-Bro Léon – “l’Enfer de l’Ouest” or “Hell of the West”.

This all seems to be on fairly good authority, because the Mayor of Sarzeau is none other than David Lappartient, the President of the French Cycling Federation, and possible contender for the UCI President’s throne.

Other rumours for the Tour de France 2018

    • A diversion into the Swiss Jura via Neuchâtel/Berne to Besançon;
    • A stage in the Alsace/Lorraine area, to commemorate 100 years since the ending of the 1st World War
    • Brides-les-Bains to Méribel;
    • Superbagnères – an Hors Catégorie (HC) climb in the Midi-Pyrénées region;
    • An Individual Time Trial (ITT) up Alpe d’Huez, possibly on the 14th July (Bastille Day) (now THAT would be interesting!!). So if the race only starts on the 7th, that would mean a very early trip to the Alps for the following weekend;
    • Apparently hotels are booked up in Dreux/Chartres for Friday 13th July, the eve of Bastille Day. So that would mean Sat-Mon – the Vendee, Tues-Thur – Brittany, Dreaux on Friday, then potentially across to the Alps for the big day up Alpe d’Huez on the Saturday. Not totally implausible if they were to fly down, but big transfers often tend to happen before rest days rather than in between major stages. This would give us week 2 in the Alps, with week 3 most likely finishing up in the Pyrenées; NEW! – the 2nd week in the Alps is looking pretty certain now!
    • The possibility of the Etape du Tour taking place up Semnoz, behind Lake Annecy, which would mean a stage there again in the Tour de France 2018, possibly including the Aravis region once more – maybe even a stage finish in Le Grand Bornand. This would mean fantastic news for us and our guests as it might pass right by our door again. We’re keeping our fingers crossed! NEW! – this is also looking to be a very strong probability!

    So that’s all for now, but we’ll be keeping an eye on all of the latest news and will keep this post updated.

    In the meantime, if that has sparked your interest, why not check out our recent post about designing your own Fantasy Tour de France Route, featuring your favourite 9 cols. You can read some of our team’s selections there too.

    If you’re interested in joining us to watch a stage or two of the Tour de France 2018, we are organising a special 4-day Tour de France Weekend Package, where you’ll also get to ride some of the cols previously used in the Tour. You can find out more here >>>


Fantasy Tour de France Route

Fantasy Tour de France Route

The Tour de France route for 2017 is quite different from recent years – it features shorter, punchier climbs and less summit finishes.

It has also excluded many of the more iconic climbs we associate with the Tour, such as Mont Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez and the Col du Tourmalet.

Though it does still include some classics such as Col d’Izoard, Col du Galibier and the Col du Télégraphe, all of which we visit on our own Southern Alps trips.

This got us thinking here at Bike Weekender HQ, up in the Aravis mountains surrounded by stunning cols ourselves, many of which have been used in the Tour at some point in the past too.

We started to discuss which climbs we would include if we were to design our own Tour de France route.

They didn’t have to be ones we had personally ridden, just whatever our dream Tour de France parcours would look like.

So we decided to compile our own Fantasy Tour de France Route, with our top 9 cols.

Here are some of our team’s dream routes below – what would your’s be?

Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear about your own – feel free to add why you chose each climb too!

Bike Weekender’s Fantasy Tour de France Routes


  • Mont Ventoux, the Giant of Provence – Vaucluse (Ascents from Bédoin, Sault and Malaucène in one stage)
  • Plateau de Solaison – Haute-Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Col de l’Arpettaz with its 42 switchbacks, from Ugine (via Mont Dessous) – Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Col de la Croix Fry – Thônes, Hautes-Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Col de Romme, then on up Col de la Colombière – Haute-Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Mont du Chat – Savoie (Jura Massif)
  • Col du Galibier – Savoie/Hautes-Alpes (Dauphiné Alps)
  • Col de la Forclaz de Montmin, above Lake Annecy – Haute-Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Col de l’Épine, from Marlens – Haute-Savoie (Aravis Massif)


  • Col de la Forclaz de Montmin, via Vesonne – Haute-Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Col de l’Arpettaz – Haute-Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Col des Saisies – Savoie (Northern Alps)
  • Col de la Colombière, from Reposoir / Scionzier – Haute-Savoie (Aravis Massif)
  • Col de la Madeleine – Savoie (Northern Alps)
  • Mont Ventoux via Gorge de la Nesque – Vaucluse (Jura Massif)
  • Alpe d’Huez – Rhône-Alpes (Southern Alps)
  • Col de la Croix de Fer – Rhône-Alpes (Dauphiné Alps)
  • Col d’Izoard – Hautes-Alpes (Southern Alps)

Paul’s Alternative Fantasy Tour de France Stage to Glières via Lake Annecy

In fact, Paul went a step further and also devised his own fantasy TdF stage as well, featuring one of his favourite rides in the area:

Start in Annecy – all the way around the lake, up over Col de Bluffy – and round to Thônes. Over the Col de Marais and Serraval – along and up Col de l’Arpettaz and then over Col des Aravis – dropping through St Jean de Sixt.

Then down to Entremont and up to the Plateau de Glières for a summit finish after crossing the gravel for 2km! 145km – 3997m elevation

Roc des Alpes – La Clusaz 2017

Roc des Alpes – La Clusaz 2017

Roc des Alpes is a mountain biking festival that takes place in La Clusaz every June. It is spread over a 3-day weekend, and offers a variety of races and events open to people of all ages. Participants travel from around the world to compete among the best.

Races include the Roc Trophy, the Roc Marathon and Enduroc Electrique (on electric bikes).

This year, one of the events came through Saint Jean de Sixt too, through the forested gorge just below the Aravis Lodge. It is a great spectator event, as well as one to participate in for mountain bike (VTT) riders.

The Alps Bike Festival 2018

Next year, the event is totally rebranding itself, and will be called the The Alps Bike Festival, taking place on the 15th – 17th June 2018.

So why not make a weekend of it, to experience the best mountain biking the area has to offer, as a race participant or simply for fun.

It’s not just about the Alps Bike Festival here though – there are more than 200km of marked trails, with 13 cross-country circuits, 10 downhill runs, 6 lifts open to mountain bikers, and 3 bike washing stations to try out for yourself in the Aravis – Annecy region. Plenty for every level of rider, on all styles of bike, with stunning views all around. It’s popular with gravel road riders too.

Mountain bikes are available to hire in numerous outlets in the area, as well as all the gear you might need for an exciting and hassle-free long weekend break in the French Alps.

If you would like to find out more, check out our ‘Lite’ short break holiday options here >>>

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