Raid Alpine - Trip Briefing March 7th 2017

Tuesday 8th August will see us leave Tring and head to the shores of Lake Geneve to embark on a 6 day cycling challenge known as The Raid Alpine.

This route will take us from Thonon Les Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean resort of Antibes. This North to South traverse of the Alps will see us ride 740km following the official route which was the concept designed by Mr Georges Rossini of the Velo Club Thononais.

The Randonnee Alpine Leman – Cote d’Azur is the cycling route which takes you over the amazing roads that the French and Italian Alps have to offer. The scenery shifts dramatically from quintessential Alpine meadow views in the North to rocky gorges and the Mediterranean scrublands of the South. The Raid Alpine allows you to get to know this mountain range intimately.

Amongst the many Cols that we will conquer, which have featured so prominently in the Tour de France, are the the Col de Ramaz, Col d’Iseran, Col d’Izoard, Col de Vars. We will climb the highest paved road in Europe at 2802m the infamous Cime de la Bonette. This Col has featured four times in the Tour de France (1962, 1964, 1993 and 2008). The climb is 26km in length with an average percentage of 6.4% with sections at both 10 and 15%

On successful completion of the Raid the Velo Club Thononais will issue a certificate and medal that will honour our efforts and reward our achievement on completing one of the world’s greatest trips on a bicycle
Total Route

Monday 7th August

This will see us collect our transport for the trip down to Thonon Les Bains. We will be travelling in a VW 6st Kombi Transporter T30 which will have adequate space for bags, bikes and passengers.

VW Transporter
Packing of the van will need to be completed by the evening of Monday 7th

Tuesday 8th August

This will be an early start for us to catch the crossing - the last check in is 05:20. It would be good to leave Tring at about 03:00 to give us adequate time to make our connecion.

Calais to Thonon-les-Bains

We arrive in France at 07:25, once in Calais the journey down to Thonon-les-Bains is approximately 8hrs – with stops we should arrive at our overnight accommodation at around 16:30 – 17:00. This will give us time to build bikes, have some food and an early night, as on Wednesday the adventure will continue in earnest.

On the 8th we are staying in the Ibis Budget hotel on Avenue de la Grangette, 74200 Thonon-les-Bains. Three single bedded rooms have been booked with an option for breakfast.

Ibis Budget Thonon-Les-Bains

Day 1: Wednesday 9th August

Thonon-Les-Bains to Megeve

2 carnet stamps today at Col des Moises and le Praz-de-Lyz (2)

We have a gentle warm up from the shores of Lake Geneva before we hit the first climb, the Col des Moises (1118m), and collect our first carnet stamp. Our route takes us through lovely pine forests and over the stunning foothills of the Alps. We musn't be be fooled though, the Col de la Ramaz (1557m) is respectable, and we are stopping for the night in Megeve, a ski resort, so don’t imagine that there isn’t much climbing involved! An additional carnet stamp will be required and obtained from le Praz-de-Lyz.

Day 1 Route
Day 1 route is 108km and 2880m of Ascent

We are staying at the 3* Au Vieux Moulin which can be found at 188, Rue Ambroise Martin, 74120 Megève. This retreat has been booked with 2 rooms with 3 single beds. Food will be available in the hotel along with breakfast.

Au Vieux Moulin Megeve

Day 2: Thursday 10th August

Megeve to Val-d'Isère

1 carnet stamp at Arêches Beaufort (3)

A beautiful ride today through some of the most iconic areas of the Alps in the shadow of Mont Blanc. We start with the Col de Saisies (1633m) and a fabulous descent into Arêches-Beaumont. The climbs come thick and fast: Col du Pre (1740m), Cormet de Roseland (1968m) and completion of the day at the Alpine ski resort of Val-d'Isère. A single,but well earned, carnet stamp today will be collected at Arêches-Beaufort.

Day 2 Route
Day 2 route is 118km and 3806m of Ascent

We are staying at the 3* Le Fornet, 73150 Val dʼIsère. This retreat has been booked with 2 rooms with 3 single beds. Food will be available in town with the hotel providing breakfast.

Le Fornet Val dʼIsère

Day 3: Friday 11th August

Val-d'Isère to Cesana

3 Carnet stamps at Col de l’Iseran,Col de Mont Cenis and Col de Sestriere (6)

We start the day with the ascent of the Col de l’Iseran (carnet stamp)before before an incredible 31kms descent. Nip up the Col de Mont Cenis (2081m) for our second stamp of the day before we roll down across the Italian border into the town of Susa. Cesana is just a 35km ride from here up the valley, gently uphill. We will need to ascend the Col de Sestriere (2035m) for our final stamp of the day before retracing our route back down to Cesana for our nights food and sleep.

Day 3 Route
Day 3 route is 143km and 3454m of Ascent

We are staying at the functional 2* Olympic Mountains, Viale IV Novembre 35, 10054 Cesana Torinese, Italy. This hotel is located next to the ski lift and has a bar. Booked with 2 rooms with 3 single beds. Food will be available a short walk away at the sister hotel Casa Cesana with our hotel providing breakfast.

Olympic Mountains Cesana

Day 4: Saturday 12th August

Cesana to Jausier

2 Carnet stamps at Col d’Izoard and Col de Vars (8)

We will start the day by heading back into France over the Col de Montgenevre. The main climb of the day will be the infamous Col d’Izoard (2361m) with its monuments to Fausto Coppo and Louison Bobet. It’ll be an epic 19km climb from Brandon.

The col d’Izoard outdoes even the mighty Galibier and Mont Ventoux for the sheer majesty of its breath-taking scenery. There is no other col quite like it in Europe. Most of the passes near the Italian border were of strategic significance in times past, and the col d’Izoard is no exception, dominating the southern access to the fortress town of Briançon. The first road was constructed in 1710, and the current one was built between 1893 and 1897 by an army General, Henry Berge. The summit is at 2361m, making it the fifth highest pass in the French Alps, after the Iséran, Agnel, Bonnette and Galibier. The total climb from the lowest point near the village of Guillestre to the summit is 1380m, and the distance 31.5km. It is the last 14km however that justify the Izoard’s reputation. The col d’Izoard first figured in the Tour de France in 1922, when Philippe Thys, winner in 1913, 1914 and 1920, was the first over the summit. Its legend was soon established by Henri Desgranges, who wrote at the time:

“The task is so hard that our men gave up all thoughts of competing with each other until the arrival… they sensed that above all they had to survive and to finish, and that faced with such a challenge, so much suffering, it would perhaps be a consolation to do so in the company of others.” Desgranges wrote again in 1923: “The Izoard is interminable… just when you think you have mastered it, at the exact moment when you are about to let out a sigh of relief, it throws up a new rise that would stop a mule in its tracks”.


Frenchman Antonin Magne changes gears in the Col de l'Izoard during the 9th stage of the Tour de France between Briançon and Digne on July 16, 1936. Magne finished eighth of the stage won by his compatriot Léon Level.

Memorial to Coppi and Bobet

Coppi in full flight

Mémorial col de l'Izoard

Louison Bobet 1953

View from Col d'Izoard

Day 4 Route
Day 4 route is 115km and 3261m of Ascent

Located in Jausiers, Chalet les Moineaux,Quartier de l'Auche, 04850 Jausier, offers a panoramic terrace with a mountain view, a sauna an outdoor and a heated swimming pool. With a view of the surrounding hills, all of the rooms at Chalet les Moineaux feature wooden furniture and a parquet floor. Each heated room is fitted with a desk, a wardrobe and a private bathroom with a shower. This basic and functional bed and breakfast lodge will provide us with orange juice, pastries and jams for our breakfast, for an extra cost. Dinners with traditional dishes from the region are available, upon prior reservation. There is a restaurant 500 metres from the property and a supermarket is 8 km away. We are booked for 3 rooms with 2 single beds in each.

Jausiers, Chalet les Moineaux

Day 5: Sunday 13th August 

Jausier to Valberg

No Carnet stamp today (8)

Sunday sees us on the "Queen Stage" of the trip leaving the small town of Jausiers to the start of the ascent of the highest road going over a col in Europe, on the Cime de la Bonette (2802m). It's a long climb (23km) but is fairly steady and we earn an incredible 53km descent from the top to St Saveur de Tinee. Just one more little cliff hugging climb to go; the Col de la Couillole (1678m) before we reach Valberg for our well earned rest.


The Cime de la Bonette is home to Europe’s highest paved road, and is… what’s that you say? It’s not Europe’s highest paved road? Then why does it have a sign at the top saying it is? It’s one of life’s little mysteries. Officially the Pico del Veleta in Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains is the highest ‘proper’ road, reaching just over 3,300m. Still, the Cime de la Bonette is at least France’s highest paved road, which isn’t to be sniffed at. However, if you’re talking about Europe’s highest cols things get even more confusing, because the Cime de la Bonette is not quite the same as the Col de la Bonette. A ‘col’ is a pass – a road that passes over the top of a climb en route to a descent down the other side – whereas the road around the Cime de la Bonette (‘the peak of the Bonette’) is just an extra loop for sightseeing, which bumps the altitude up to 2,802m, versus the 2,715m of the Col de la Bonette.

Three other European cols beat that: the Col Agnel, which straddles the French/Italian border, at 2,744m; the Stelvio Pass at 2,758m in the Italian Alps; and, beating them all, the Col de l’Iseran at 2,764m in the French Alps.

Day 5 Route
Day 5 route is 105km and 2646m of Ascent

Our bed for the night is the 20 room Hôtel l'Adrech de Lagas in Valberg, a basic sleep, but adequate for our needs. There are a number of restaurants in town for our evening meal, although being Sunday this may be difficult! We have 2 rooms booked to sleep 6 in single beds and breakfast is provided on site.

Hôtel l'Adrech de Lagas, Valberg

Day 6 : Monday 14th August

Valberg to Antibes

2 Carnet Stamps at Beuil and Saint-vallier-de-Thiey (10)

We start with a stunning descent through the Gorges de Cian today before climbing the Col de St Raphael (876m) and undulating across some fabulous countryside – dryer and distinctly Mediterranean! The last main col of the Raid is the Col de Bleine (1439m) followed by a 27km descent to St Vallier de Thiey. One more pimple to cross, the Col du Pilon (786m) before we head into suburban Cote d’Azur. Heading towards the coast we can have a celebratory toe dip and a maybe something to drink!

Day 6 Route
Day 6 route is 148km and 2959m of Ascent

After our festivities, our bed for the night will be the Hôtel Campanile Antibes located in downtown Antibes at 2317 Chemin De Saint Claude, 06600 Antibes, 2 rooms and 3 beds in each plus breakfast before we set off back to Calais and home.

Hôtel Campanile Antibes

Tuesday 14th August

Depart Antibes at and embark on our journy back to Calais and the UK

Journey back
Folkestone to Tring

Wednesday return van to Milton keynes

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