How to cycle to the alps: No1, make sure you know the way

Suddenly, my ride out to the alps is no longer just ‘in the summer’ but actually ‘next month’, which sounds extremely close and rather focuses the mind. While there is still much training to do, I thought I’d also better get down to boring stuff like deciding on a route.

So, the basic roadmap is now (provisionally) sorted. Broadly, it goes: Caen, Sées, Frazé, Orléans, Sully sur-Loire, Sancerre, Nevers, Digoin, Mâcon, Bourg-en-Bresse, Les Neyrolles, Geneva, and so to Les Carroz d’Araches.

Written like that it doesn’t seem so bad.

According to Google maps/Ride with GPS, however, it is about 820km (510 miles) and takes 46 hours of riding. It’s not the shortest possible route but (I hope) avoids the bigger roads and unnecessary hills. It climbs 5665 m and descends 4567 m (18589 ft and 14984ft) but most of the hills are towards the end of the ride – the climb to Les Carroz itself is about 600 metres. Oddly, those Ride with GPS figures for the climbing are about 25% more than Google Maps says – I know which I hope is right.

Based on a rough guess (and with boundless optimism), I might be:

  • near Orléans first night (subject, especially, to disembarkment from the ferry),
  • near Digoin second night (subject, especially, to my legs) and
  • close to the finish line on the third (subject, especially, to everything).

Of course, I might still be near Caen on the first night and abandoned on the second.

What remains to be done is to track along the whole route with street view to check where any cycle paths might not be easily passable on a road bike – and work out a suitable alternative. Worryingly, although I have plotted the route using Google’s bike option, it says ‘use caution–bicycling directions may not always reflect real-world conditions’. How helpful is that?

I had a look at long range weather forecasts, although with little confidence as they rarely seem to be reliable for more than a fews days ahead. As it is, I’m happy to believe the forecast because it’s quite encouraging.

It suggests that the daytime temperature will be mid-to-upper 60s℉ (just under 20℃) and probably dry. Equally important, the breezes should be fairly light – at worst they could be cross winds, but they might even be a bit little helpful.

If the weather turns out to be anything like that in practice, I won’t have much to complain about ….. apart from the fact that I will have to look for other excuses if (when) it all goes belly up.

What on earth made me think I could cycle at 25kph (15.5mph) for 11 hours on three consecutive days? I can’t see it happening.


Interestingly, after wondering about bike sizes last week, the friend who did L’Eroica and the Cinglé du Mont-Ventoux with me in 2015 just bought himself a Specialized Roubaix Expert Di2 which came with a professional bike fit. He’s probably an inch (2.5cm) or so shorter than me and the distance between the nose of his saddle and the handlebars was set up as 49.5cm. That compares to the 51cm with my Rose so I may have stumbled on the right sort of dimensions after all.


After recovering from Saturday’s wedding, I gardened and lit a massive bonfire on Monday but it was back to the turbo on Tuesday evening for 55.5km in 1:15 @ 44.2kph (34.5miles @ 27.5mph).

3 day training block Distance Week Distance
1 150km (93m) 1 271km (168m)
2 246km (153m) 2 407km (252m)
3 160km (100 m) 3 319km (198m)
4 249km (155m) 4 Run 21+ m swim & gym
5 205.1km (127m) 5 205.1km (127m)
6 6 55.5km (34.5miles)

3 thoughts on “How to cycle to the alps: No1, make sure you know the way

  1. theandyclark

    Best of luck on your ride. It looks like huge fun, and I don’t mind saying I’m more than a little jealous on this one, even though there’s no way I could get the ride done in your time frame.

    Liked by 1 person


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