The ‘Ride to the Sun’
GPM10’s Chamonix to Nice – the ‘ride to the sun’ – has become a grand touring classic. It incorporates some of the mythical mountain passes of the Tour de France, such as the Cormet de Roseland, the Col d’Iseran and the Col d’Izoard. Add to this some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that the country has to offer, and this four-day getaway has all the makings of a vintage. Due to the difficulty of the route, we recommend that you have a good level of base fitness and previous experience of riding in the high mountains before booking.
On the road, you will be supported by our professional guides, and will benefit from constant vehicle back up for the duration of the ride. Accommodation is in comfortable hotels and one mountain refuge. The group size is limited to ten riders in order to ensure the highest levels of service are provided.
Day 1: Arrive into Geneva airport
Arriving at Geneva airport in the late afternoon, a private transfer will take you to our hotel in the start town of Chamonix, a journey time of around 90 minutes. Our mechanic will assist you in assembling your bike and after dinner our staff will provide you with relaxed briefing of the upcoming route.
Day 2: Chamonix – Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise
Major climbs: Megève (1097m), 14.9km at 3.4% (max 7.4%); Col des Saisies(1657m), 14.8km at 5% (max 10.8%); Cormet de Roseland (1968m), 20.3km at 6% (max 9.6%)
After breakfast, we set up the bikes before rolling out of the shadows of Mont Blanc and down the Chamonix Valley. The first real climb begins in Le Fayet where we take a small back road to Saint Gervais and on to Megève. After a short plateau we arrive in Flumet and the foot of first col of the trip, the Col des Saisies. During the 2006 Tour, this climb provided Floyd Landis with a springboard for his infamous solo attack. The descent off the summit to Beaufort is wide and sweeping, and at the bottom we stop for lunch in the village square.
The next climb is the mammoth Cormet de Roseland. The road winds through pine forests, past the turquoise Lac de Roseland and into the remote Savoie mountains. Miguel Indurain ‘bonked’ in 1996 on this ascent, ending his chance of a record sixth consecutive Tour victory. The descent into Bourg-Saint-Maurice is predominantly wide and well surfaced. The final section of this tough day is a gentle 12km ascent to Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise.
Day 3: Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise – Oulx
Major climbs: Col de l’Iseran (2,770m), 48km at 4.1% (max 6.9%); Col du Mont Cenis (2,083m) 9.8km at 6.9% (max 10.6%); Oulx (1,100m) 24km at 3.4% (max
At 2,770m, the Col d’Iseran, is one of Europe’s highest paved roads and is the first climb on today’s menu. This remote pass in the Tarentaise region has only been included in the Tour seven times, partly because in the early years it was thought that the riders might encounter bears.
We stop for lunch beside an emerald green mountain lake, just below Col du Mont Cenis on the French-Italian border. From here, a twisting descent down the Val Cenischia and through a stone pine forest brings us to the ancient town of Susa.Susa was previously our destination on day two, but we now continue up the Val di Susa to Oulx where we stay in a charming auberge in the centre of the village.
Day 4: Oulx – Vars
Major climbs: Passo del Monginevro (1854m) 8.3km at 6% (max 9.4%); Col de l’Izoard (2,361m) 20km at 5.7% (max 8.5%);Col de Vars (2,108m) 19.4km at 5.7% (max 8.7%)
The ride begins with a gentle climb up the Val di Susa before turning off to climb the Passo del Monginevro in the Cottian Alps. This is the lowest of the main passes connecting France and Italy, and was used by every invading army from Julius Caesar to Napoléon.
A fine, open descent drops us into Briançon where we begin one of the true giant climbs of the Tour de France, the Col d’Izoard. This hors catégorie climb is famed for the bleak, wind-chiselled rock stacks and scree slopes of the Casse Déserte, where a monument stands to the great Fausto Coppi. The descent from the Casse Déserte, through endless hairpins, across Alpine meadows and through a limestone gorge – brings us to Guillestre. After coffee and a snack in the town square, there is one long, final climb to the ski resort of Vars and our destination for the night, an excellent family-run refuge.
Day 5: Vars – Nice
Major climbs: Col de la Cayolle (2,326m) 29.1km at 4.1% (max 8.2%); Côte d’Aspremont (488m) 8.1km at 5% (max 8.4%)
From the refuge where we overnight, it’s a short skip to the summit of the Col de Vars, from which point the scenery changes dramatically. This is the Alpes-Maritimes where gneiss and pine trees give way to limestone and larch, and the temperature begins to rise.
The penultimate climb of the trip is perhaps one of most breath-taking: the Col de la Cayolle winds for 32km through the limestone funnel of the Gorge de Bachelard in the heart of Mercantour National Park, before opening out into a stunning alpine vista at the summit. The final 100km to Nice are predominantly downhill, and includes a dramatic run through the red sandstone Gorges de Daluis. There is however, a sting in the tail.
The climb to Aspremont is far from the toughest on the route, but with 170km in the legs it provides a real challenge. At the top, we regroup in the town square before beginning the superb descent into Nice itself. This final downhill stretch will give you time to savour the achievement of completing the ‘ride to the sun’, before the traditional dip in the Mediterranean Sea on the Promenade des Anglais.
You can stay overnight in Nice unless you have an evening flight back to the UK, in which case there will be time to shower and pack before transferring to the airport for flights departing from 9.00pm onwards.
The Price Includes
- Private airport transfers
- Single room accommodation
- Assistance to assemble & pack your bike
- All meals and sports nutrition
- Professional mechanic
- Experienced guides & staff
- Professionally equipped support vehicles
- Complimentary products for use on the trip
- Client to staff ratio of 4-1