Piedmont is a region in the northwest corner of Italy that borders with France and Switzerland. Almost half of Piedmont can be described as mountainous while most of the remainder is considered hilly. Its terrain is higher and perhaps more challenging than the description "the foot of the mountains,” the literal translation of its name, might suggest. Its many mountain passes over the Alps make it a hidden gem for cyclists. Crossing over those passes, we will find ourselves in France to ride some iconic Tour de France passes, such as Galibier and Izoard. We will make it back to Italy via Col dell’Agnello (one of the toughest climbs in all of the Alps).
You will get to experience France and Italy in a single journey, marveling spectacular alpine views every day. Our tour, which takes us from elegant Turin – first capital of Italy - all the way to the turquoise shores of the Ligurian Sea, is not without challenges but with daily distances generally between only 50 and 60 miles, it should challenge riders just enough to experience mountain riding in a way that will become a positive milestone in their riding careers. The mountains of the Dolomites might comes to mind before the Western (French-Italian) Alps when considering a cycling destination, however the roads in this area have made – or broken – cycling legends for over a century. The Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia are at home on these passes and villages. However, it’s not going to be all riding.
We combine excellent riding through stunning scenery with superb cuisine, fine wine and relaxing evenings in beautiful and culturally-rich locations. If you love the mountains, there’s hardly any trip more rewarding that this itinerary anywhere in the world.
Non-riding companions are welcome. Get in touch for details.
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Private room (single supplement) USD 495
7 days (6 nights)
I cannot say thank you enough for making our family trip in the Italian and French Alps and the Ligurian Sea possible. Every day was special and challenging. Magnificence and grand beauty each and every day.
Leslie Cavness Western Alps Family Tour[fa icon="quote-right"]
Turin - 18 miles - Hilly
A warmup ride will take us along the Po River and up to a beautiful lookout point (Colle della Maddalena). A walking tour of the beautiful town center will precede dinner. If you plan to arrive a day early, Torino features, among other things, the Egyptian Museum (2nd largest collection in the world), the Cinema Museum, and the Royal Residence of La Reggia di Venaria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bardonecchia - 60/31 miles - Mountains
After a 40-minute transfer and some more bike fitting (if necessary), it will be time to climb some mountains! The Colle de Finestre is atypical because it’s one of the few passes remaining on the Alps that is unpaved. It goes up at a grueling 9.1% average gradient. Some of the Giro champions have conquered the pink jersey on these switchbacks. Colle delle Finestre links Susa Valley and Chisone Valley and it summits at 2178 mt (7,145 ft). Beyond the tree line, the views are stunning as the road nears the top of the watershed at an unforgiving gradient (max 14%). The descent (paved) will eventually lead to the second and final climb of the day to the ski resort of Sestriere. Our final destination is Bardonecchia. Both Sestriere and Bardonecchia were venues for the XX Olympic Winter Games.
Passes: Colle delle Finestre, Col Sestriere
Galibier - Briançon - 45 miles - Mountains
From Bardonecchia we drive though the Frejus tunnel into France. The Frejus tunnel is an amazing piece of infrastructure and one of the 10 longest road tunnels in the world (8.1 mi.). On the other side, we will have a briefing where you’ll learn how the Telegraph and the Galibier passes can be conquered. The Galibier (2,645 mt - 8,678 ft) was first used in the Tour de France in 1911. Being the first rider over Galibier means entering a very special club in the company of the best climbers of all time. The pass connects Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and Briançon via the col du Télégraphe (north) and the Col du Lautaret (south). At the summit, there is a road as well as a narrow crest tunnel that was opened in 1891 to overcome the maintenance challenges of the last mile (the tunnel makes it 102 meters lower and that’s why you often find two heights for Galibier pass). If the weather allows, we’ll have lunch here. We reach Briançon via Col du Lautaret. Briançon is a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. At an altitude of 4,350 ft it is the highest city in France, based on the French definition as a community containing more than 2,000 inhabitants. The old part of town is secluded inside a large fortress, which we will visit with the opportunity to do some shopping.
Passes: Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier
Izoard - Agnello - 52/27 miles - Mountains
Our queen stage with over 13,000 ft of elevation gain takes us back into Italy via Colle dell’Agnello (lamb pass). However, Agnello is preceded by the climb of the just as iconic Col Izoard, right above Briançon (2361 mt – 7,746 ft). The climb from Briançon to the col is 19 km (11.8 mi) in length, climbing 1,105 mt (3,625 ft) at an average gradient of 5.8%. Mountain pass cycling milestones are placed every kilometer. They indicate the current height, the height of the summit, the distance to the summit, as well as the average slope in the following kilometer. Do not forget to take a picture at the Coppi-Bobet memorial on the way down. Colle dell’Agnello is one of the longest and most beautiful climbs in Europe. The French side climbs for nearly 13 miles (it is the “easy” side), while the way down the Italian side is steep and very long, requiring concentration. As epic as the climb is, the pass itself is not glamorous (no shops selling jerseys, no coffee bars). Col Agnello is somewhat unknown and not heavily used. It is one of the many passes suggested as the route taken by Hannibal in his march, with elephants, to attack Rome at the start of the Second Punic War and a modern-era plaque, mounted on a rock on the French side, commemorates the event. Our overnight stay is in the mountain village of Sampeyre, an important Occitan cultural enclave. The cuisine of this valley is superb and you’ll be happy to refuel at the hotel restaurant after such a long day.
Passes: Col Izoard, Colle Agnello
Sampeyre - Cuneo - 51/35 miles - Mountains
From Sampeyre, in the Valle Varaita, we cross over the watershed with the Maira Valley. The valleys of the province of Cuneo are among the prettiest and wildest of the entire Alps. The climb of Col Sampeyre is breathtaking, both physiologically and figuratively, and it summits at 2,284 mt (7,493 ft) after about 10 miles and 4,215 ft of elevation gain. The road is often carved into the rocks of the Cottian Alps. Colle Sampeyre is a humbling climb that is sometimes featured in the Giro d’Italia (last time in 2016) and Tour de France once (2015). We reach the village of Stroppo for lunch and then descend the Val Maira until Dronero where we start our second and final climb: Montemale di Cuneo, 2.5 miles averaging 7%. Cuneo, the capital of the province and of the Italian Western Alps, is our final destination today. The big passes are behind us and it’s time to celebrate some great accomplishments, having conquered some of the most challenging climbs in this enchanting corner of the French and Italian Alps. Dinner will be at one of the finest restaurants in town.
Passes: Col di Sampeyre
Finale Ligure - 59
We start with a transfer (30 min) to the hilltop town of Mondovì. You can fuel up with the local pastries and a cappuccino before you get going. Today’s ride takes us over the Ligurian Apennine Mountains and to the Mediterranean Sea, precisely to Finale Ligure, a town with white sand beaches and lush mountains. A long, winding descent takes us to Finalborgo, the old part of Finale Ligure. This charming corner of Liguria dates back to medieval times in its actual shape, but every historical period and domination has left its mark and can be seen in the original architectural attributes, giving it a timeless feel. It has been recognized as one of the best-preserved hamlets in Italy. We reach the promenade and we will regroup next to the lively Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II where you can have a gelato or relax on the beach. Jumping in the water after the ride is optional, yet highly recommended! Outstanding seafood dinner and final celebrations.
You will ride from Turin to the Alps between France and Italy and down to the fascinating coastline of Liguria. Those climbs have been featured on the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. On the final stage, we ride to the Ligurian Sea. The riding terrain is demanding and it involves plenty of climbing as you can imagine. Most days will qualify as “epic” as the Alps provide no place to hide when the road goes up. Every stage is also going to be very different and you will get to discover some lesser-known passes such as Colle delle Finestre with its unpaved section, and Col Sampeyre, which links two beautiful valleys of the Cuneo Province. Izoard and Galibier will make cycling history come alive switchback after switchback. Skilled bike handlers will undoubtedly enjoy the downhills whereas less confident riders will be expected to exercise caution.