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Cycling the Routes Des Grandes Alpes – 2016 Summer Expedition

A report on the events of our 2016 summer cycling expedition in France, from expedition lead Johannes...


  • Early flight, assembling, dissembling the bikes and cycled to Thonon Les Bains from Geneva Airport

  • We met Cezanne at the camp site

  • We were all knackered and getting used to our bikes so it wasn’t the smoothest ride, but the city was beautiful.

  • Mark’s bike had issues

  • Connie got a flat tire

  • Terouz ran into the back of Connie’s bike and broke her pannier within the first hour…


  • 5am start, groggy movements and lost toothbrushes, but eventually we set off

  • The first half was gorgeous, the mountains and sunshine and crisp air

  • We stopped in a town to get a sandwich, at which point Mark’s bike died and he had to get in the car with Dirk (Johannes’ Dad).

  • Cez, T, Connie, Johannes all pushed on to the first Col… HARD. The first 10k were alright, we stopped every two and even had time to paddle in a river

  • The final 7k were killer, but we made it to the top and had coffee and cake. Wake up call for the rest of the week

  • Back at the campsite we set up. Connie had terrible stomach pain (related to eating too much? Ischaemic stomach?)


  • The routine the next morning was a bit easier and we left earlier

  • Terouz cycled into a post first thing in the morning

  • First Col was leisurely, lots of cows and cow bells

  • The second col was a little harder, but still had energy from the morning

  • Terouz had to be picked up by Dirk in the later part of the afternoon because her bike broke (gear issues), that was after we had a lovely lunch by a beautiful big blue lake.

  • Massive downhill at the end

  • Terouz had gone to the shop by the time we arrived at the campsite, so our meal was extra yummy


  • Val D’Isere Col day! With the fluffy dog and a delicious brasserie

  • The morning was an easier start, the weather was good and our muscles warmed up quickly

  • We pulled over after lunch for a post prandial nap by a river in a valley

  • The last 25k was ascent, we met Terouz and her fixed bike halfway up

  • We got up high enough to make snow angels.

  • We got back to camp early, we had time to stretch, eat and shower before the sun set! Cez played guitar and Connie read Heidi to Terouz.


  • The morning was painful, everyone slept in an extra 10 minutes

  • 35K downhill start which was a good way to warm up! We bought half of a bakery at the bottom of the hill. So cheap! So good..

  • Made our way up to Valliore with a break break for drinks and photos with a massive straw statue of a cyclist.

  • We managed to summit by 3pm, it was haaaarrdd, but the group pic at the top was lovely

  • Downhill was difficult because we were all tired, but we got an early night


  • After a steep cobbley start in the morning we hit the base of the first Col. Terouz struggled with it, so ended up getting a lift with Dirk

  • We had lunch in a car park of a Carrefour

  • The second Col was meant to be easier, but IT WASN’T. It was a good thing that Terouz took the afternoon off because we all struggled and barely stayed hydrated

  • 5k from the top Johannes took an emergency Magnum break, I don’t think any of us realised how much we needed it. Energised for the last 5k we made it to the top

  • Everyone was tired but proud by the time we made it to the camp site


  • Rinse and repeat, by now our morning routine was almost second nature, but everyone was in pain after yesterday

  • As we left Cezanne got a flat, so there was lots of napping on the side of the road as it was repaired.

  • Warmed up with a 15k Col - we saw marmots!

  • We decided to push on when we were ahead of schedule. As we cycled down to the check point it began to rain. And as we put our bikes away the heavens opened.

  • We waited out the rainstorm in a lovely little restaurant and then prepared ourselves for the cold. We bundled up, but by the time we cycled to the bottom of the mountain we had warmed up and the rain wasn’t as torrential.

  • When we made it to the campsite we set up and then went on the hunt for steak

  • Dinner in the local town was lovely, a real treat. It was nice to talk to the group about something that wasn’t related to pain.


  • Extra hour and a half lie in!! We got to wake up at 630, what luxury. It was light, but it was also raining.

  • We had a wet briefing and then began the 58K ascent, it was easier than it had been in previous days though

  • Again we found a tasty brasseries and we were more relaxed about taking breaks because the gradients were so forgiving

  • We arrived early enough such that we could explore the town, lots of cobbles and shops with marmot merchandise

  • There was incredible forked lightning and my tent was nearly flooded by all the rain. We all managed to escape the camp-site sans trench foot.


  • late start again at 6am it was raining so we took down the tents at the last minute

  • The morning Col wasn’t signed and it was surprisingly hard to judge 1k distance

  • More cafes

  • More photos

  • We stopped for a lunch to fuel up for the afternoon, Connie in particular was struggling with hunger

  • Then we did our final Col and compared to the others it was measley. We did initially start by cycling up the wrong side of the mountain though. Cycling down a hill you just cycled up redundantly is a very specific kind of pain

  • Then, it was one lovely road down to Menton.

  • Stopped at an old chapel to have an explore

  • Once we reached the sea, we dumped the bikes and ran into the water

  • Food poisoning hit Connie like a train in the evening though once camp was set up at the site in Italy. The dreamy evening with cocktails by the sea happened for most of the team though!


  • Cycled from the campsite to Nice in the early morning, the route was a short 45km along the coast

  • Connie got lost at one point because she was cycling so slowly

  • Stopped for a drink in Monaco

  • Once in Nice we changed kit with Dirk and went for a fancy lunch

  • Cezanne left for her flight first

  • Then Mark left

  • Which just left committee! T, J and C wandered around the Old Town and then cycled to the airport along the promenade.

  • Everyone got home safe and sound

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