Southern Alps

4 - 14 JUNE 2016

CCC Southern Alps : Ridden for the first time in 2015, with a unanimous big thumbs-up, this journey explores many of the ‘unknown’ roads of this area in its’ first half, before visiting some of the classic climbs of the south-eastern alps of France, and in Italy, in the final stages. The Italian section, in particular, will make a very strong impression on riders on this Challenge. In all, a very rich mix of High Roads that leave few areas unvisited. Together with the CCC Northern Alps, this duo of events would form the Ultimate Alpine Exeperience! This will be as tough as any other of the Cent Col Challenges : do not be misled by the apparent lack of “Big Climbs” ! With ten 2000m+ cols in stages 7-9, the latter part of this challenge will truly provide the “high points”, even if The VENTOUX DAY will be the events’ pivotal stage, with our three nights at the same lovely hotel in Malaucene.

Book the Southern Alps Challenge with Rapha

Stage 1 : Carros to Carros.

Stats: 198km, 4100m.

Main climbs: Cols : Rostan, Sausses, St Michel, Mt Vial, Vé Gautier, Baisse de Rourebel, St Raphael, Besseuges, Trebuchet, Buis, Bleine, Sine, Ecre. (13)

Description: A loop stage to begin with which is in no way a compromise for convenience : there are so many exceptional climbs in the Maritime Alps behind the Cote d’Azur and Grasse. This stage visits some of the best.

Stage 2 : Carros to La Palud-s-Verdon.

Stats: 182km. 3080m.

Main climbs: Cols : Peyron, Vence, Ane, Ferres, Pimpinier, Lattes, Luens, Blache, Ste Barnabé, Croix du Chateauneuf. (10)

Description: With its’ glorious sea-views the Col de Vence opens the stage, followed by another unforgettable loop around the Montagne du Cheiron. From here we head west towards the Lac de Castillon and a beautiful loop above touquoise lakes, via the Col Ste Barnabé. This brings us to the gates of the Gorges du Verdon for the first of a two-part ride in this formidable landscape.

Stage 3 : La Palud-s-Verdon to Sisteron

Stats: 234km. 4350m.

Main climbs: Cols : Collet d’Ampon, Vaumale, Illoire, "Mur des Abeillies", Pas de Laval, Pas de la Graille (Lure), St Robert.

Description: Via the unbeatable Corniche Sublime on the Rive Gauche, we explore the best of the Gorges du Verdon before heading east towards Provence through extensive lavender fields and choppy hills. The stage ends with a superb 30km descent into Sisteron after the stages’ major climb up the southern slope of the Montagne de la Lure.

Stage 4 : Sisteron to Malaucene.

Stats: 196km. 3500m.

Main climbs: Cols : Grele, Hte. Forest, Pierre Vesce, St Jean, Muze, Macuegne, Homme Mort, Aires, Fontaube, Perpencher, Propriac, Veaux, Gainons, Astaud.

Description: A progressively harder stage that makes its way to the northern ascent of the Ventoux along the boundary between the Hautes Alpes de Provence and the Drome region. A fascinating loop north of Sisteron opens the stage before we head west, tackling the tough duo of the the Pierre Vesce & St Jean climbs mid-stage. The loop north of Malaucene in the latter part of the stage is full of the unique and powerful charm of this exceptional area. The Ventoux, seen from its threatening northern slopes, peers over us for almost all of the second half of this stage.

Stage 5 : Malaucene to Malaucene

Stats: 197km. 5300m

Main climbs: Cols : Ventoux (North), Ventoux (East), Chaine, Suzette, Champ Paga, Madeleine, Ventoux (South).

Description: The VENTOUX DAY. Three seperate ascents of the Giant of Provence are divided up by equalling compelling roads. From Bedoin, after the first, Northern, ascent we head across to climb up through the unique Gorges de la Nesque. The beginning of a long haul all the way up to Sault, the lavender capital of Provence. From here we carry on up over the Giant for the second time, via its' "easier" side, before then exploring the roads that take us near the "Dentelles de Montmirail". A bumpy section that eventually brings us to Bedoin for our third and final ascent via its' "classic" side. Riders completing this stage will become legible members of the "Cinglés du Ventoux " club, and those not feeling up to all three ascents will be able to take a short cut easily. A truly CLASSIC ride.

Rest Day in Malaucene

Stats: a leg loosener spin?

Main climbs: www.hotel-domainedestilleuls.com

Description: Our third night at this wonderful base, with a large private park to relax & stretch in. The old part of this little village is particularly interesting. IN THE CASE OF BAD WEATHER FORECAST FOR STAGE 5 DAY THEN WE HAVE AN OPTION TO HAVE OUR REST DAY THEN, IF THE FORECAST WAS LOOKING BETTER FOR RIDING STAGE 5 THE DAY AFTER.

Stage 6 : Malaucene to Gap

Stats: 184km. 2500m.

Main climbs: Vaillant, Pas du Voltigeur, Veaux, Aires, Aulan, Perty, Pierre Vesce, de le Croix, Chaumlane, Espreaux, Foureyssasse, Villard.

Description: Back round the northern side of Ventoux for teh last time, by another route, we climb through the magical village of Brantes before heading east towards the long steady climb up to the Col de Perty with its panorama over the High Alps. The second half of this very picturesque stage takes in most of the challenging and beautiful "Tour de la Montagne d'Aujour" loop, followed by the "Balcons de Rousine" with 180° views over the Parc des Ecrins to our east. Provence is now a fond memory as the High Alps now prepare to welcome us.

Stage 7 : Gap to Barcelonette.

Stats: 205km. 4880m..

Main climbs: Cols : Le Collet de Lareton, La Sentinelle, Haut Forest, Garcinets, St Jean, Allos, Champs, Cayolle. (8)

Description: This stage is the first of the final four stages that between them cover almost all of the Classic Giants of the Southern Alps. After a rolling ride towards and across the Durance valley, followed by more steady climbing that brings us down to the Ubaye valley, we reach the outskirts of Barcelonette and the start of the epic trilogy-loop that makes up just over half of this stage. Over stages 7,8 9 we climb no less then ten cols well over 2000m altitude.

Stage 8 : Barcelonette to Guillestre.

Stats: 195km. 4630m

Main climbs: Cols : Bonette, Raspaillon, Lombarde, Larche, Vars.

Description: There may “only” be four climbs on this stage, but each of them are Legends unto themselves and put together make up a massive second day with the Giants! At 2800m the Bonette is naturally our highest point of the ten days and the desolate landscape will underline this for us. From the Lombarde to the Larche (Colle della Maddalena) we are in Italy for the first time.

Stage 9 : Guillestre to Cuneo :

Stats: 180km 4650m.

Main climbs: Cols : Agnel, Sampeyre, Esischie, Valonetto, dei Morti

Description: Beginning in France the majority of this stage enjoys the drama of the Italian Piemonte region with some more extra-ordinary climbs. The Col d’Agnel has featured recently in the Tour and its’ steep slopes sets the tone for this epic penultimate stage. It is only lower than the Bonette by 55m ! After an adrenalin-rush descent to Sampeyre the 16km climb to the Colle of the same name is our first true ‘ Pantani-Playground-Piemonte’ climb. This brute is followed by the epic trilogy of the Esischie-Valonetto-dei Morti which provides the meat for a renowned local annual Fondo. It will be more than enough to finish our day ! The 25km descent off the final climb is probably the best descent of the whome event. Finally, our arrival into Cuneo is as grand as it gets : our very classy hotel is on the Main PLaza. Although here for just one night, we certainly get the best taste possible of Italy. Best breakfast too of the whole event!

Stage 10 : Cuneo to Carros

Stats: 160km 3400m

Main climbs: Cols : Tende, Brouis, Perus, St Jean, Braus, Colle Donna, Nice, Chateauneuf des Contes, Aspremont.

Description: Heading due south over the dramatic Colle del Tende and back into France we close this Challenge with some choppy climbs and sweeping descents. Up and over one ridge after another, our efforts are rewarded by stunning views of this area. A deliberatly shorter stage, allowing more time for café stops and an earlier finish, but beware, this stage has some tough ascents to deal with !