South Alps Touring – 8 Great Climbs


Col dIzoard

What a trip.  Our most ambitious cycling vacation ever.  Our first visit to the Southern French Alps.  Eight big climbs in 8 days. Every one a legendary Tour de France route.  Hard work but really fun.   it was a  dream of mine to climb Bonette (the highest road in Europe) and Izoard (scene of so many epic Tour de France  days.  Luckily Doreen was supportive and allowed me to indulge a little).  And she biked 5 days and climbed Izoard and the equally amazing Galibier. 

I knew Bonette and Izoard would be awe inspiring but what a nice surprise that Col d’Allos and Col de la Cayolle (both also ridden by Doreen) turned out to be as spectacular as anything we have ever ridden.

The trip was a great way to minimize the heatwave as the start of 7 climbs and all three hotels  were above 1,000 metres – seven also ended above 2,000 metres.  In fact the only exception was Alpe d’Huez – and what a ride that is!  We are currently being extremely lazy at home and lamenting the death of our terrace plants.

Click for Slideshow of Trip 

The Climbs (with links to Blog Entries):

  1. Col du Galibier
  2. Col d’Izoard (north)
  3. Col de Vars
  4. Col de la Bonette
  5. Col d’Allos
  6. Col de la Cayolle
  7. Col d’Izoard (south)
  8. Alpe D’Huez

About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Your site has inspired me! I’ve been looking to do something for charity later this year which will be physically demanding and I have now decided to spend a week in the Alps doing a number of the demanding routes!

    At this early stage I have some very basic questions when organizing this, I hope that you do not mind answering a few. I’m looking for late Aug/Early Sept. The first question I have is, how do you fly your bike/bikes over to the start? I’m looking to do it with a group of 3-5 of us. When planning out a route how many miles do do you think could be covered on a daily basis? I’m aware that obviously ability and the climb are factors but any guide, no matter how crude would be most welcome.

    Kind regards


  2. Will:

    GREAT BLOG!! I share your passion for cycling in the Alps. I live in USA, but go to Europe 1-2 times a year to race/climb.
    I am a veteran of the last 3 TransAlps races. Loved the event, but this year, the dates did not work out.

    I need to be in Nice for work in June and will bring my bike. Are any of the amazing climbs you have done accesable from Juan Les Pins ( near Nice.)? I would love to do la Bonnette, but am unsure if it is accesable.

    Also, I will do transAustria race from Sept 14-20,2008. How cold do you believe it will be? I have trouble with very cold weather and have concerns.

    Any advice appreciated. Again, GREAT BLOG and MANY THANKS for any information you can provide!!


  3. Hi John

    Thanks for messsage. It’s difficult to say if the big climbs near Barcelonnette will be open in early June. But quite possible. This link may help: It indicates status of South French Alps Cols. Also if you email the Barcelonnette tourist office as the dates approach, they should respond in English and may be able to give a planned opening date.

    Austrian Alps in September? Again, who knows, but one needs to be prepared. This year there was snow end-September at relatively low altitudes.

    (I responded to Stefan privately)


  4. Will:

    Hope you are well and enjoying the climbs! I come for my race in 2 weeks. We race through the Austrian Alps. My biggest fear is the cold weather and not having the correct gear. I get cold very, very easily. Do you have suggestions regarding types of base layers, types of rain gear ect that might help? Any thoughts regarding weather, cold, and surviving the alps appreciated.
    Many thanks for any help you might provide.

  5. Hi John

    I am no expert but …. here goes.

    First, you are correct to be worried about the cold. It may be incredibly cold up above 2000 metres in September.

    As to what to wear, again I am no expert but:

    – light foot covers
    – long gloves (fingers covered)
    – vests – I love mine, not too hot going up and great help descending
    – layers – I find two or three light jackets are very warm and easy to carry
    – I have various levels of tights/leggings ranging from light to really comfy warm

    basically pack like it will be winter up top. Once you arrive, decide how much to carry up based on up high forecast.

    Look, I am perhaps stating the obvious but again, the important thing is to check the weather up HIGH when you arrive and remember descents of 10, 20 or more kms will be COLD even on moderate weather.

    Sorry to not be more helpful

    Good luck

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