When we started discussing possible destinations for Procycling’s relaunched holiday, it didn’t take too long before the journos who had been on the Tour de France’s epic stages in the Italian and southern French Alps last year were insisting this was the ideal location for a week of riding.
While there is obviously plenty of great riding in the better known sections of the Alpine range, the 2008 Tour’s stages to Prato Nevoso and Jausiers revealed a cycling paradise. Spectacular scenery, almost traffic-free roads and some of the biggest passes in Europe combine to provide something truly special.
However, it was only when I saw the route that our partners at Thomson Bike Tours had put together for what we’ve called “The Giants of the Alps” that I realised the full scale of what we are taking on. Six days of riding include no fewer than eight 2000-metre-plus passes. Among these are Europe’s highest road pass, the 2802m Bonette Restefond, and two other climbs that stood out in last year’s Tour, the astoundingly beautiful 2744m ascent of the Agnel/Agnello and the 2351m Lombarde, with its hairpin bends serpentining up from Italy and across into France.
That trio would be enough of a test in themselves, but the Bonette, Agnel and Lombarde are not even the half of it. Just as this year’s Giro pays tribute to Fausto Coppi’s epic ride from Cuneo to Pinerolo – when he rode alone over five passes to win the stage by 11 minutes – in the 1949 race by replicating the stage, so do we over two days that feature the Izoard, Montgenèvre and Sestriere climbs. Just to add a bit more spice to this trio, we’ve prefaced them with the ascent of a more recent Giro favourite, the Colle delle Finestre, dirt road and all.
As well as superb support from Thomson’s highly experienced staff, Procycling bike testers Marcel Wüst and Frankie Andreu are also signed up for the challenge, together with Procycling’s editorial team. There will also be a number of other special guests and surprises guaranteed to make this a week of riding to remember.
For more details on the trip go to www.thomsonbiketours.com and register your interest for “The Giants of the Alps”, six days of riding those taking part are certain never to forget.