Biking in the French Alps: explore Chamonix Mont Blanc on two wheels

With the Tour de France annually showcasing spectacular Alpine scenery, a growing number of bikers are making for the mountains.

Cyclists can retrace the route of the Tour de France in the French Alps. 

Photograph by Getty Images
By Abigail Butcher
Published 11 Mar 2023, 07:00 GMT

For two-wheel travellers the allure of the Alps reaches a peak during the Tour de France, the annual cycling endurance test that showcases the region’s steep descents, gravel tracks and long climbs over high, paved mountain passes. And with the Haute-Savoie region also gearing up to host the 2027 World Cycling Championships, there’s never been a more inspiring time to hit the trails. 

Choose a specialist cycling operator to retrace the route of the Tour de France, to cycle fully supported over the classic climbs, or go it alone, with the help of the Savoie Mont Blanc cycling app offering detailed descriptions of routes and a host of practical tips including repair shops, and even local bike club outings. The app lists dates when different mountain passes are open and includes GPS tracking — essential when heading off-route. Free to download in the Google Play or Apple Store. 

One of the most famous Tour de France landmarks to tackle, Alpe d’Huez is a nine-mile climb with 21 bends and a gradient that reaches 13%. First ridden on the tour in 1952, it’s a must-do climb with good travel links. 

And it’s not just about serious road biking over the famous cols; ski lifts open every summer and e-bike rental businesses help cyclists of all levels explore more than 3,100 miles of biking routes across the Alps. Or for the more competitive: make the most of myriad mountain, gravel and e-biking events, races and cylosportive (mass-participation) events springing up across the region. Catering to the growing gravel biking craze — a hybrid of mountain biking and road biking — the Maurienne Valley launched the first gravel cyclosportive in the Savoie region this summer in conjunction with the French Cycling Federation, and also helped to create the Ultra Gravel Tour of the Alps, an entirely off-road route between the Maurienne, Tarentaise, the Hautes-Alps and Italy. The route covers 285 miles. 

Top three Alpine cycling stops

1. The Maurienne Valley
Home to the legendary Tour de France climbs of Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier, the Maurienne Valley holds its second week-long road biking camps this summer. Allowing everyone from beginners to more experienced cyclists to make the most of the region’s world-class climbs, camps include workshops, group meals, stretching recovery sessions, cultural events and planning tips, as well as a race. Register by email at

2. Mont Blanc
Start and finish a 124-mile tour around Mont Blanc from the village of Megève. Get as close to the big mountain as possible via small wild paths and secondary asphalt roads crossing eight mountain passes (including two climbs over 8,200ft) on a route created by record-breaking cyclist Nicolas Roux. But be warned: this tough event, held over the first weekend in September, is not one for the faint hearted. 

3. Cycle path around Annecy Lake 
After several years of work, the Voie Verte cycle path around Lake Annecy is completed. Following one of the oldest greenways in France, the 22-mile biking trail now makes an entire loop of the lake, following part of the route of the old railway connecting Annecy to Albertville.
It’s a great one for families, being mainly flat except for the climb between Talloires and Menthon-Saint-Bernard, and the entire route takes between 1h and 2h30 to complete and is perfect for cyclists of all abilities.

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