The 2014 Tour de France is well underway and this week, we’re heading to the mountains. Gruelling? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Spectacular? Absolutely breathtaking. The alpine stages of the Tour not only make or break professional Tour de France riders; they offer some of the world’s best cycling scenery. Whether you’re an armchair cyclist on board with the Tour from the comfort of your lounge room or a keen amateur following along on your turbo trainer, you may be inspired head to Europe for a cycling inspired holiday.
Cycling is an excellent way to tour Europe with routes catering for beginners and families through to professionals. Euro Velo, a project co-financed by the EU to promote sustainable tourism, is a network of 14 dedicated long distance cycleways across Europe. The Euro Velo network offers cycling routes through 42 European countries and, when complete in 2020, will cover over 70,000kms! The Euro Velo network takes you through some of Europe’s most historic and scenic sites. Much of the Euro Velo is still under construction, however many of the routes in France, the UK and Ireland are complete.
In honour of the Tour’s leg-breaking mountain stages, we’ve compiled a list of must see-and-cycle sites from this week’s Tour destinations.
Mulhouse, located in Southern Alsace, offers visitors plenty of opportunity to stroll or cycle its historic streets. Trade two wheels for four and visit the European automobile museum, with over 400 luxury models of Rolls Royce, Maserati, Porsche, Lamborghini and more! Mulhouse is a cycling friendly city, with dedicated paths and biking facilities throughout the metropolitan area.
The mountain resort of Haute-Saône is a cyclist’s paradise and boasts 21 ‘boucle’ or looped routes for cycling. The majority of routes caters for experienced riders and includes significant stints of hill climbing; this is a training area for professional cyclists during the warmer months and transforms into an alpine winter wonderland as the area’s only ski resort in winter time. However, if you’re up for a challenge, routes vary in length and are exquisitely maintained and picturesque.
Besançon, described as ‘the jewel in my crown’ by Julius Caesar, is home to many historical and cultural gems, like the citadel, Vauban’s UNESCO World Heritage 17th century cathedral and the Museum of Time; Besançon was once the watchmaking capital of France. Situated in the loop of the Doube River, it’s a perfect spot for a leisurely pedal. Besançon is located on Euro Velo 6, a dedicated cross-country cycleway that travels along the course of some of Europe’s most famous waterways, including the Loire, Saône, the upper Rhine and the Danube. Besançon is also a university town, so there’s plenty of nightlife and cycling friendly hostels.
Chamrousse, located in the heart of the Rhônes-Alpes region in the Belladonne Mountain Range is the finishing point for Stage 13 of the 2014 Tour de France. The Isère region is home to many ski resorts and alpine hamlets, including Alpe D’Huez, Villard de Lans, Gresse en Vercors and Grenoble, famous for hosting the 1968 Winter Olympics. In summer, there are a myriad of nature-based activities like hiking and fishing as well as cycling routes. It’s also a popular spot for paragliding.
The Final Word
Those are this week’s Tour inspired hotspots. Grab your bike, your bib nicks and your clicky shoes and you’ll be off and racing towards your European cycling adventure in no time. There are lots of companies who offer cycling tours in Europe and these are definitely a good idea; they cater for a range of cycling abilities and they sort out any pesky ‘language barrier’ issues you may come across. Some tours provide you with bikes while others let you BYO.
Remember, cycling’s not without its risks and injuries are common. Make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance before you push down that pedal so that you’re covered if you fall of between Paris and Roubaix and break your wrist! Additionally, if you’re a road biking enthusiast, you may own a bike worth thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars. Comprehensive travel insurance may provide cover if your bike is damaged or stolen whilst overseas; compare travel insurance providers to make sure you and your bike are fully covered. Happy cycling!