Cycling in the French Alps

Following in the tracks of the Tour de France · Part 2

Almost every amateur sports cyclist dreams of winding his way up the legendary mountains of the Tour de France at least once. We also wanted to experience what it feels like to climb the heights where legends are made! Alpe d’Huez, the Col du Galibier, Col de la Croix de Fer and Mont Ventoux were at the very top of our to-do list.

Words and photos by Markus Remscheid
Translation by Sophie Schlondorff

Tour 4 – Up early to conquer Mont Ventoux.

STARTED FROM: Carpentras
HIGHLIGHTS: Mont Ventoux · 1,909 m

Heat wave in Provence: The last few days, the mercury has topped over 40 degrees C in the shade. Of course that didn’t change our plans to climb Mont Ventoux. But, to avoid the blistering heat, we set out at daybreak.

Up early to conquer Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux

In the early morning light, you can already make out the “Giant of Provence” in the distance. The real climb was yet to begin.

“Vent” means wind, which regularly buffets the peak. Gusts of over 90 km/h are not uncommon. But on this day there was little trace of these fierce conditions and the “windy mountain” showed us its friendly face.

Mont Ventoux

After climbing through a dense oak forest, the view of the observatory opens up for the first time.

Mont Ventoux

To get from Carpentras to the peak, you have to climb approx. 36 kilometers with an elevation gain of 1,800 meters.

The Tom Simpson Memorial

Mont Ventoux achieved sorrowful fame in 1967 with the death of the English cyclist Tom Simpson, who, during one of the stages of the Tour de France, collapsed about one kilometer before the finish line.

Mont Ventoux

The finale: The road gets really steep again in the home stretch.

Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux

Once you get to the top, you can enjoy the view over Provence and buy jelly fruits.

Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux

The view from the peak over the moonlike landscape.

Mont Ventoux

Back in Carpentras – we’re part of the world again.

Mont Ventoux

Tour 5 – Vosges – Cool ride through the clouds.

DISTANCE: 100 km
HIGHLIGHTS: Col de la Schlucht · 1,138 m, Hohneck, Grand Ballon 1,343 m

Sudden drop in temperature! Just two days earlier in Provence, we’d been sweating in over 40 degrees C in the shade. But in the Vosges it was cool and damp. Not exactly Jan Ullrich weather! Who, according to legend, was driven to win the tour in 1997 on the roads of the Vosges by the famous words of his teammate Udo Bölts: “Suffer, you pig!”

But we got off to a slightly more relaxed start. The route took us along high plains at over 1,000 meters, where low-hanging clouds blocked our view. But light broke through the clouds regularly, revealing views of the idyllic valleys and woods of the region.

Tour 5 – Vosges – Cool ride through the clouds

The climbs are crisp. Our goals for the day: Col de la Schlucht, Hohneck and Grand Ballon.

At the top of the Grand Ballon pass, we take advantage of the chance to warm up and boost our energy reserves.

View from the Grand Ballon: the sun reveals itself in the distance.

After 100 sweat-producing kilometers, it was all downhill at the end. Exhausted but elated, we flew along the final bends down into the valley to Gérardmer.

More photo stories: