Feature: Riding the Alps with AlpCycles

Q & A with AlpCycles who help riders climb a mountain or three in the Alps as well as get a ride in the major Sportives/Fondos

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Feature: Riding the Alps with AlpCycles

A valued supporter of VeloUK, we thought it was time to find out more about how this company AlpCycles who help cyclists get their fill of the household names in the Alps as well as provide us with some tips.

AlpCycles are based in South East France in the Northern French Alps in the Savoie region. They are just 10 kilometres up the valley from a climb well known in Grand Tour history, Col de la Madeleine and also very close to the Col du Petit Saint Bernard and the Cormet de Roselend all bucket list Tour De France mountains steeped in history if not gradient.

With winter approaching fast, it is also worth pointing out for those looking for some cross training on skis instead of wheels, they live just 15 minutes from la Trois Vallees ski station which is the biggest linked ski area in the world.

AlpCycles started out with their own chalets but after ten years in the area building up their business, they now have the circle of contacts to find accommodation for budding mountain climbing cyclists in France and Italy to suit their clients’ budgets. Here is our Q & A with Ade and Shelley:


1. VeloUK – What services do Alp Cycles provide cyclists?
Alpcycles is a family run business with over 10 years of cycling based tour operating experience. We specialise in European events, training camps, and bespoke trips.
Our main goal is to take away the stress of traveling abroad with your bike, whether it be for a few days riding in the mountains or a seven day event. To do this, we will organise everything from the moment the plane touches down the in the airport until the time you climb back on board after your trip.

Airport transfers, accommodation, food, event entry, route planning, vehicle and mechanical support. Our main role is to ensure whilst you’re with us, you think about nothing else other than riding your bike and relaxing off the bike.

You will be supported on and off the bike by what we are proud to call the AlpCycles family which is made up of guides, mechanics, and drivers; some of which have been with us for many years and are all very experienced in what they do.

Above all, we will work hard to make your stay with us as enjoyable as possible…….And we’re all bike mad!

2. VeloUK – On the website home page are some well known big name events and sportives – what is AlpCycles connection to these events?
Over the years, we have built up good relationships and worked with a lot of the most famous European Grandfondos and are now Official Tour Operators for La Marmotte, Maratona dles Dolomites and Haute Route Event.

This means that we have guaranteed entries into the events and we are able to build logistics and accommodation packages with entries included. For example, each year the Maratona has over 20,000 people enter the ballot for entries, and la Marmotte regularly sells out of entry’s in 24hrs…

So again, we work to take the hassle out of these events so you can concentrate 100% on doing the best you can on the bike and we deal with everything else.

3. VeloUK – Of all the sportive events, which one is your favourite?
I (Ade) am a little biased with this question! It has to be the ‘la Marmotte’ for me as it was the first event we started working around so I have been running trips to it for over 10 years and I rode it for five years in a row… I really love the whole event but the sheer brutality of the course is what makes it I think one of the toughest days you can find on a bike.

4. VeloUK – The company offers lots of different packages, weekends and so on. Are these on set dates during the year?
Most of our trips are on set dates throughout the season as it enables clients to be able to forward plan for the year in advance. We are heavily events based also so lots of the summer is taken up around these, but we are capable of running multiple trips on the same dates in different locations.

5. VeloUK – When do you start accepting cyclists during a year?
We never start running trips until the last week of May or first week of June as this is traditionally the time that the high mountain passes are cleared of snow to allow access to the summits by vehicles and bikes.

6. VeloUK – What does the business do during the winter?
AlpCycles runs trips from June until October, so in the autumn up until Christmas, myself (Ade) and Shelley work together to organise the following year’s calendar. A lot of time is taken up booking accommodation in various locations and sorting logistics.

And also the majority of our bookings come before Christmas especially around the events. We live in the French Alps all year round, so Shelley continues working for AlpCycles all winter but I also work a few days a week bringing in clients from the airport to the ski fields…. of course also some time is spent cycling and skiing too ….!

7. VeloUK – Do you have a favourite Col in the Alps?
For me, it has to be the Col du Galibier from the northern side. It is just so vast and you are right in the big mountains plus you climb to a proper summit which makes you realise how small we are in this world! But a lot of my favourite climbs are lesser local roads near my house that I ride every day.

8. VeloUK – What would you say is the ‘easiest’ mountain in the Alps?
I think the Col du Petit Saint Bernard is a great Col as even though its 30kms long, it has a steady average gradient of 4.4% which enables most people to be able to climb it but it is still a good challenge so not too easy.

9. VeloUK – And the hardest?
For me, the Southern ascent of the Col de la Madeleine is a climb that I always find hard. It’s shorter than the other side at 20km but steeper with an average of 8% and normally in mid-summer, you get crucified by the sun the whole way.

Also, for us, we have normally come over either the Col de Glandon or Croix de Fer before we hit it and it is usually the mountain that we have to get over to get back to our base hotel, so it is a bit of a nemesis for me now.
When you have been climbing up these for over 10 years, day-in-day-out, some of them play with your head a little…..also Alpe d’ Huez on the end of the La Marmotte – Brutal!

10. VeloUK – If someone is planning on coming on a weekend long camp there, what gearing on their bike would you recommend for a rider with lots of miles in their legs.
I think if you are just over for a few days and are a strong rider, you can get away with a standard chain set of 53×39 but you would need a 28 cassette. But if over for longer, you are better off on either a semi compact or full compact with a 28 or 32 rear cassette as the days will be easier then as you can spin and you will still have some knee caps left!

11. VeloUK – Do you accept bookings from one or two people who just need a base for riding in the Alps – ie, not a package tour?
Yes, we can sort this out as over the years we have built up good relationships with hotels and other tour providers in other locations and can sort all different types of accommodation to suit a client’s needs if just after a cycling base for a few days.
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12. VeloUK – If travelling to the Alps to attend a camp, where is the best place to fly to?
If you’re heading to the Northern French Alps where our home base is, best to use Geneva Airport but if you’re looking at Southern French Alps, more towards Alpe d’ Huez where we also run lots of trips, better off using Lyon Airport.

13. VeloUK – If some one wanted to travel without a bike, could they get a suitable hire bike there and what type of bikes roughly would be available?
When we first started out in 2007, it was very difficult to find top quality rental bikes but now as the cycling market has grown, you can now hire more or less whatever you want; Colnago, Trek, Pinarello, you name it. Bikes are now always fitted with semi compact gearing and normally 28 or 32 rear cassettes. More recently, a lot also have disc brake options if needed.

14. VeloUK – During the winter months, does the weather prevent you from any cycling on the road?
I normally try to ride on the road most of the winter as I’m not really a fan of indoor trainers but it can be difficult in December and January due to snow and low temps so I tend to mix it up a little with running and skiing.

Saying that, we do normally get quite a lot of sun in the winter and I live on the sunny side of the mountain, so the roads clear very quickly after a snow fall, and if snow stops play, a group of us will drive down the valley once a week to ride on the rolling terrain. But it really is all dependant on the winter weather. The last few winters have been pretty mild so good for cycling.

15. VeloUK – Finally, if a reader is unsure which sportive to choose, which is the easiest to begin with or the hardest for the really fit riders?
They are all fairly tough as they’re in the mountains but I think for a first try, the Maratona is a good one as it is a looping course so has three different length options and you can decide on the day which option you want to take.

For people looking for a challenge on the bike, the toughest one day event will be the la Marmotte, but if you’re after real pain and suffering, go for a seven day Haute Route event that consists of seven back to back mountain stages… they now run three day haute route event to give you a taste of what’s in store!

Website: AlpCycles.com



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