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Cycling the Route des Grandes Alpes

Cycling through the French Alps from Lac Leman to Menton/Nice

By Giles Belbin

Guidebook to cycling the 720km Route des Grandes Alpes through south-eastern France. From Lake Geneva to Mediterranean Nice via numerous high Alpine passes, taking in the Vanoise, Écrins and Mercantour National Parks, the route is challenging, although entirely on roads. However, with plenty of charging points, it is well suited to eBikes.


Late-spring to early-summer or late-summer to early-Autumn are the best times to ride the route when the high passes have been cleared of snow while avoiding the heat of mid-summer.


Thonon-les-Bains; Cluses; La Clusaz; Beaufort; Bourg-Saint-Maurice; Val d'Isère; Val-Cenis-Termingnon; Valloire; Briançon; Guillestre; Barcelonnette; Valberg; Saint-Martin-Vésubie; Sospel; Nice


Difficult. For well-prepared cyclists with experience of undertaking medium-distance rides on mountain roads. eBike technology makes the route more accessible but good fitness levels remain necessary. This is not a route for novices.

Must See

Col de l'Iseran; Col du Galibier; Col d'Izoard and the Casse Déserte; Annecy; Briançon; The Guil Valley; Cime de la Bonette; Col de la Cayolle; Col de Turini; National parks of the Vanoise, Écrins and Mercantour; Sospel; The Grande Corniche and the French Riviera
20 Jul 2022
17.20 x 11.60 x 1.20cm
Abounding in history and dotted with cols coloured by stories about the world's greatest cyclists, the Route des Grandes Alpes (RdGA) is a must for competent, hill-hungry cycle tourers. Covering some 720km from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to mediterranean Nice, the route is described across 14 stages and can be completed in anywhere from 7 to 14 days - depending on how you'd like to spread out the 17,000m of climbing. Six variants are also described, ensuring no holiday is compromised or cut short if a col on route is closed.
Clear and concise route descriptions are provided for each stage (and variant), together with 1:150K mapping and extremely helpful gradient profiles. Also included is invaluable practical advise - everything from bicycle selection (including eBikes) and nutrition in the saddle, to logistical planning and accommodation options.
Showcasing some of the world's best Alpine cycling, the RdGA takes in 17 major climbs, including the famous Col de l'Iseran (the highest paved pass in the Alps), the Col du Galibier (favourite climb of Tour de France founder, Henri Desgrange) and the Col d'Izoard (synonymous with cycling legends Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet). It also passes through some of the most spectacular national parks in France, including the Vanoise, the Écrins and the Mercantour.
Table of Contents
Giles Belbin Cicerone author GBELBIN

Giles Belbin

Giles Belbin is a cycling writer and author based in southwest England. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Cyclist, Ride Cycling Review, Cycling Weekly, Procycling and Rouleur. He first rode his bike in the French Alps in 2006 while watching the Tour de France, falling off his bike near the top of the Col du Galibier in exhaustion. He has been a frequent visitor since and in 2012 spent two months riding in the mountains while researching his first book Mountain Kings. The research trip for this guidebook offered an opportunity to revisit some favourite climbs as well as discover some he had not ridden before, with the Col de la Cayolle and the Col de Turini among his first-time highlights.

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