2008 Tour d’Enfer Wrap Up


The greatest cycling trip of my life. Ten great days cycling in the Alps with great company.

The Stats:

Distance: 740 kilometres (460 miles) Ascent: almost 20,000 metres (+66,000 feet)

Major Cols: Col de Joux Plane, Col de la Colombiere, Col des Aravis, Col des Saisies, Cormet de Roselend, Col de l’Iseran, Col du Mont Cenis, Col du Lautaret, Col du Galibier, Col du Granon, Col de l’Echelle, Col de Vars, Col d’Izoard, Col de la Cayolle, Col de la Bonette, Sainte Anne de Condamine, Col d’Allos, Col de Pontis, and a few other minor Cols.

Some Highlights? (map and slideshow at bottom)

#1 – Hail on Day One (yes hail!)
Hail Martin and Greg
Ralph Col de la Colombiere Hail and Eric

Welcome to the Alps! Climbing Col de la Colombiere we ran into a huge thunderstorm. As we got higher, it briefly turned to hail. Yikes.

There was really no other choice but to laugh and keep pedaling – as fast as possible.

#2 – Watching the Tour de France atop Galibier
Woohoo - Watching the Tour de France
Col du Galibier I snuck behind the barrier Peleton near top of Galibier

Everyone watched the Tour de France in different places. Ralph and I braved a gauntlet of French police to make it to the very top of Col du Galibier.

As usual the crowds, the publicity caravan, the amazing views/climb – and the race itself – led to a memorable experience.

Too much fun!

# 3- Unbelievable scenery on every single day
Col de Vars
Col de la Cayolle Casse Desserte - Izoard Col dAllos

Every single ride was stunningly beautiful and unique in its own way. The joke got to be that there was no way tomorrow could be better, but it always seemed to be.

There is nothing like cycling up high in the mountains.

# 4 – Great Company
The 2008 Tour d'Enfer
Beer in beaufort Col de Joux Plane

I spent most of the rides either breathing heavy or laughing. I rode with loads of different people and had a great time absolutely every ride.

Yes, even during the hail.

#5 – Climbing Cime de la Bonette
Doreen climbs Bonette
Col de la Bonette Col de la Bonette Col de la Bonette Restefond

It’s hard to pick a favorite climb, but everyone seemed especially excited and motivated cycling up Bonette – labeled as the highest road in Europe.

I was especially proud of Doreen, who had joined us in Barcelonnette, who persevered on her heavy touring bike to add this to her climb collection.

#6 – A Million Photo Opportunities

The Map: All the Cols, and a very rough route for 1st 6 days then we were based in Barcelonnette.

View Larger Map


About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Looks like you have had a fantastic trip Will. It is so much fun doing this sort of thing in a big group.
    And as you say, there really is nothing like cycling up in the high mountains!

  2. Will-

    Nice wrap up! This was the best adventure I have had in a long time! I still laugh out loud many times a day (people stop & stare, or get ready to call the police) as i think back over the scenery, cycling companions, the ascents, the food, …. and of course the anticipation of doing it again sometime soon.


    keep on spinnin’


  3. Great photos, and a great way of remembering a really fun trip. It was no surprise how quickly we all got into the daily rhythm of the Tour d’Enfer but it has come as a shock to return to the real world where I don’t get on my bike each morning and climb through the most spectacular scenery imaginable. On the positive side, I am getting a big breakfast again but on the negative side–well, I’m not there where each climb is better than the last one.

    Use your subtle yet effective powers of persuasion (you know, the ones you used on the happy gendarmes) to get Doreen onto a racing bike–I was very impressed by her dedication to climbing. As Lance Armstrong said about his then-girlie Sheryl C. after she climbed Alpe d’Huez: “She’s a stud!”

  4. Hi Will,

    Any ideas for good central location town / village to base yourself around Briancon, Embrun to Barcelonnette for week’s cycling for 4 guys.

    Preference is to ride in out each day or drive then ride a loop back to car and drive back.

    Would like to do Vars, Izoard, Isola 2000 (perhaps), and Cols in Vallee Ubaye

    Cheers Mark

    • Mark,

      I have stayed in Barcelonnette twice. Very nice town – big, friendly main square with restaurants. And it’s at the very base of so many great climbs. The road signs all point to famous climbs. Can’t recommend it enough.

      Briancon is OK, but bigger, uglier, busier.

      Maybe brief stay near Briancon (Serre Chevalier is nearby and at the base of the amazing climb to Col du Granon). And then a longer stay in Barcelonnette.
      Good luck

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