The Top 5 Mountain Resorts to Visit if you Love Road Biking!
Each summer when the snow has melted and the skis are packed away, the European Alps become the ultimate playground for road cyclists. With stunning views, plenty of incline, beautiful descents and superb roads, it no wonder that thousands of visitors flock to the mountains every summer to get their road-biking fix.
Here are our 5 favourite ski resorts or mountain destinations for road biking enthusiasts.
1. Cycling From Innsbruck
The Austria Tirol region is an absolute paradise for road-bike lovers. Laying claim to the Austria's highest mountain pass, the highest point accessible by bike and the steepest incline, this September the region will host the UCI Road World Championships. With thousands of miles of fantastic riding there are endless routes to choose from, though our favourite climbs are:
Innsbruck to Kühtai
Featuring in the Tour of Austria, this is a classic Tirolean road bike climb. With 110km of riding and 1,720m of ascent, it is a challenging route which offers beautiful views of the Ötztal and Stubai Alps. There are many charming villages along the way for pit-stops and it is a fantastic choice for a hot day as the route offers plenty of shade.
The Olympia Express
Circling the entire village for 172kms with 2,800m of elevation, this is a long, challenging ride full of climbing which takes you around all the 1976 Winter Olympic sites. Most of the roads are quiet, the views breathtaking and if it all seems a bit long for you, it has been designed in such a way that you can shorten the ride and head straight back into Innsbruck when you have had enough!
2. Mountain Cols Near Chamonix
Known more for its steep skiing than road biking, Chamonix is one of the underrated gems of the cycling world. Whilst the Chamonix Valley itself has little in the way of challenging climbs to tackle, almost immediately on the outskirts you will find some of the most beautiful and challenging routes – many of which are regular features on the Tour de France. So which ones do we recommend?
Chamonix to Emosson Dam
A picturesque route perfect for intermediate riders with 62kms return and 913m of climbing. It featured as a stage finish in the 2016 Tour de France. If advanced riders want more of a challenge, the ride can be extended to include Martigny in Switzerland which involves going over the Col de la Forclaz and coming back again. The ride back from Martigny is a tough one, so make sure you have plenty of water. If you don’t feel like riding all the way back, bikes are allowed on the train back to Chamonix.
Passy to Plan Joux
A short but challenging climb just outside of Chamonix. The climb itself is only 15km with 855m of ascent, but the entire loop from Chamonix and back again will take half a day. With lots of pretty sites and Lake Passy to cool off in once you are back down again it is a great option for intermediate riders or beginners looking to step it up!
3. Mountain Roads near Cortina d’Ampezzo
With over 700km of incredibly well kept mountain roads winding around the town of Cortina, cyclists are spoilt for choice in this amazing Italian resort. With 8 bike refuges dotted around the mountains Cortina is well set up for riders who are looking to make the most of their cycling time.
The Tour of 6 Passes
As the name suggests, this route takes you over 6 of Cortina’s most famous mountain passes. 116kms of riding with a total of 3,274m change in elevation. Not a route for the faint hearted it starts with the Falzarego Pass (made famous by the Giro d’Italia), moving onto the Col di Lana, Pordoi Mountain Pass, Sella Mountain Pass, Gardena Mountain Pass, Valparola and Falzarego Passes followed by a well-deserved descent into town. One of the more challenging routes from Cortina, it is best for advanced riders.
The Auronzo Loop
Riding anti-clockwise from Cortina, this loop takes you 188kms through the rolling hills of Auronzo di Cadore and up to the beautiful Passo di Troci. The entire route has 2,814m of climbing and will take the better part of a day to complete, but it is one of the most beautifully scenic loops from Cortina and an excellent tour for the experienced rider.
4. Tour de France Classics near Samoëns
A quiet village making up part of the Grand Massif, Samoëns is a hidden jewel amongst the giant resorts of the Haute Savoie. It is a fantastic base for cyclists featuring heavily in the Tour de France over the years and offering riders for all abilities.
Col de Joux Plan
With a reputation as one of the hardest climbs in the Haute Savoie and a regular feature on the Tour de France, the Col de Joux Plan is a fantastic climb that any dedicated rider will want to attempt. Even though it is only 11.6kms long, the average grade of the climb is a relentless 9% which is made all the more difficult in the summer heat so make sure you start early! The descent into the ski resort of Morzine is steep and exhilarating.
Col de la Colombiere
A classic alpine Col for road bikers, if you are in Samoëns this is one not to miss! At 125kms with 3,100m of up, it is definitely for advanced riders. For more novice cyclists there are numerous places to shorten the route or skip some climbs. From Samoëns you head to the Col de la Colombiere via the Col de Romme. You then descend to Le Reposoir and climb up 1,400m to the Col de Pierre Carré (the longest climb in the area) before taking the well-deserved descent back to the village
5. The Bends of Alpe d’Huez
A place of legends in the cycling world, Alpe d’Huez has been the site of many Tour de France uphill battles. The smaller village of Bourg d’Oisans below Alpe d’Huez is actually the better base for cyclists and offers some of the best biking in France.
Bourg d’Oisans to Alpe d’Huez
A route that every keen cyclist dreams of completing (and the finishing stretch of the infamous Marmottes road race). It isn’t the steepest or the longest climb in the French Alps, but the relentlessness of the 8% gradient over 13kms and the 21 hairpin bends has seen even the best in the world struggle to make it to the top. But once you get there, a professional photographer is usually perched waiting to take a picture of all the triumphant riders who make it!
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