The most iconic climbs in the world are out there just waiting to be ridden, and they are all just a short hop from the UK & Ireland making it possible to ride these on a short weekend break. Check out our guide to the best short breaks to the best climbs in cycling:
The Trip: 3 Night Cingles du Mont Ventoux Challenge from £399
One day off work, three climbs of the Ventoux on one of Europe’s great cycling challenges. This is one of the toughest climbs in France due to it’s length (over 20km) and steepness (several sections over 10%). To climb it once is great, doing all three sides in one day is part heroic, part lunacy. There is a club for everyone that completes this challenge, the Club des Cingles du Mont Ventoux.
To join the club, this three night trip is for you. Leave after work on Thursday and fly to Marseille. It is a short hop to Bedoin at the base of the Ventoux. You will have two full days of riding and the possibility of a coffee ride on Sunday before flying home. Because of the changeable weather, be prepared to do the Cingles on either day (whenever the wind is more favourable). On the other day, there is a stunning 100km route around the base of the mountain through the famous Gorges de la Nesque. For many, this ride is the highlight of the trip.
Provence is a magical place for a cycling break. The weather is consistently great, the food and wine are top class and the villages are picturesque, the perfect place for an after ride drink and game of boules. The roads are mostly good quality and traffic is light outside the peak summer period.
The Climb: There are three ways up to the summit on this challenge. You take this in order of difficulty with the hardest first. From Bedoin the route starts easy and then gets steep in the forest with almost 10km averaging 9 to 10%. You leave the woods at Chalet Reynard and are into the lunar landscape that makes the climb so famous. This is less steep but open to the elements. The summit is at almost 2,000m so can be chilly. The next way up is from Malaucene which is almost as tough. The steep stuff near the bottom is more open with some great views and the lunar part is shorter as you come up the back of the weather station. The final climb is from Sault and is a bit easier. This is a long climb over more gentle gradients (5 or 6%) and gets you to Chalet Reynard and you reclimb the final section. That will just leave a final descent to Bedoin, a thrilling way to finish an epic day.
Best Time to Go: May to early July, late Aug to mid Oct
More Info: See HERE
The Trip: 3 Night Stelvio Break from £399
The most famous climb in Italy and once described by Top Gear as the greatest road in the world. The Stelvio is long, steep, stunning, high and an absolute must ride. It is less easy to get to as our other bucket list climbs being almost 3 hours from the nearest airport.
This is realistically a Thursday lunch time departure to Milan and then a 3 hour drive to Bormio, the pretty spa town at the bottom of the Stelvio. You will have time for 2 full rides and an extra ascent of the Stelvio on your last morning. There are two ways up this climb and a third way via the Umbrail Pass in Switzerland. We take on both ascents and descent down the Umbrail.
While the Stelvio is the main draw, there are two other classic climbs close by in the Gavia & Mortirolo. The Gavia is another monster goes way over 2,000m and the Mortirolo is one of the toughest climbs in pro cycling with plenty of kms over 10%. Bormio makes a great base for a cycling trip with lovely natural hot springs, mountain fresh air and riders from all over the world.
The Climb: The two Stelvio ascents are From Prato: The famous image of the Stelvio with it’s 48 hairpins are coming up from the Prato side. The bottom section is in pretty Alpine forest with friendly gradients of around 5%. Out of the Forest, the road hugs the valley and fairly soon you start to hit the hairpins. You can see the summit from a long way out and you are then in the heart of the climb – the many, many hairpins to the top. This section is pretty relentless, steep and repetitive. Eventually, you reach the final hairpin and a straight run to the top and you get the glorious view of the climb you have just completed. From Bormio: This side doesnt have the postcard view but is arguably more interesting with several distinct sections. The first challenge is some short, sharp hairpins (8-9%) which take you into the tunnel section. Through here you see the famous section of the Bormio ascent and start on the major hairpin section, accompanied by a waterfall and building used in the war. There is normally animals grazing here so you should have the lovely sound of cowbells accompanying you. This section is not super steep and has great views, definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of the climb. From here, you hit a long saddle which feels very remote. From the end of the saddle, you can turn left to Switzerland and the Umbrail Pass or right to the summit of the Stelvio. Continuing to the summit takes you to the steepest part of the climb, a short hairpin section to the summit.
Best Time to Go: A short season. Ride from early June to mid July and mid Aug to late Sept.
More Info: See HERE
COL DU TOURMALET
The Trip: 3 Night Pyrenees Circle of Death from £419
Why just ride the Tourmalet when you could take in four classic Pyrenees climbs in one short break? This break takes in two days riding from Pau to Luchon over the most hallowed cycling roads in the Pyrenees. The Circle of Death is now the name given to the hardest stage in the Pyrenees but the classic route is this one taking in the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin & Peyresourde. We love to split this into a two day ride and adding a couple of extra climbs in, the fun Luz Ardiden and the glorious Superbagneres.
Leave after work on Thursday and fly to Toulouse. Get into Pau and have some dinner in the old town before starting on the old F1 road course in town. The first day takes us over the foothills and up the Col d’Aubisque before finishing on Luz Ardiden. Day two starts with the Tourmalet and is up and down all day, taking in the Col d’Aspin, Peyresourde and finishing with an optional ascent of Superbagneres.
The finish town of Luchon has a famous spa and a lovely tree lined main street packed with bars and restaurants to celebrate your ride.
The Climb: From Luz Saint Sauveur its a gentle roll out of town with an easy first kilometre. The climb starts along a stream and the road is quiet wide and busy at this stage (this is the only road connecting this part of the Pyrenees). There are markers ever kilometre telling you how far to the top and the gradient of the next section. After 7km of fairly stready, 6 to 7% inclines, you go through the small town of Bareges and then the climb gets more remote. Not too long after town you hit a ski station and the first hairpins, and from here the climb is stunning. For miles, all you can see is the road snaking down the valley, jagged peaks and animals grazing. The gradients start to get steeper (8 to 9%) and then inexplicably the kilometre markers disappear with 5km to go to really mess with your head. Near the top, the scenery changes again. You are far above the tree line and the lush pastures change to rocky views and even steeper gradients (the last km is over 10%). The climb finishes with a sharp hairpin and then the welcome sight of the famous monument and cafe at the top.
Best Time to Go: mid May to mid Sept
More Info: See HERE
The Trip: 3 Night Alpe d’Huez Break from £449
The box office climb of the Tour de France. On a Tour stage, there can be nearly a million fans on the climb packing each of the 21 hairpins. Few other climbs have such Tour history, because this is a climb to a resort rather than a mountain pass it is so often a finish to a stage where all the drama unfurls. There are 3 ways up to Alpe d’Huez and you can ride all of them on a 3 night break.
Like the Stelvio, it is not the easiest to get to with a 2 hour transfer from Lyon or longer from Geneva. This is an incredible region for cycling. Our first ride takes in some stunning local routes finishing the back way up Alpe d’Huez on the Col de Sarenne. Day two follows the route of the classic sportive La Marmotte, one of the best one day routes in the world. This goes over the Glandon, Telegraph & Galibier before a thrilling descent gets you to the bottom of the classic way up Alpe d’Huez for a killer finish. On the last day, you can ride a 40km loop taking in the final way up to the resoty, the pretty Villard Reculas.
The Climb: From Bourg d’Oisans the start is marked by a line in the road and straight away the gradients are steep. The first three hairpins are probably the hardest with gradients of 9 to 10%. This means you gain height quickly and before long you have nice views of the valley below.
There are a couple of real benefits of all the hairpins. Firstly, it gives you a natural countdown and focus for the ride and secondly the corners are almost flat so by going wide around them you can gain real momentum for the straight section. After the first six hairpins there is a short straight taking you to the next tight turns up to the village of Huez. The gradient never dips far below 8% and one by one you tick off the hairpins counting down from 21. Heading through Dutch corner is a real highlight, if you are lucky to ride in the days before a Tour stage there is not just a party atmosphere, there is a full blown party complete with disco balls, djs and of course thousands of drunk Dutch fans.
In between Huez and the top the route is lush green and picturesque with the sound of cowbells accompanying you. The finish is visible for the last few hairpins but the gradient do not let up so digging in for a quick finish is easier said then done. As you go past hairpin 1, there is just one straight left to the finish. As you come into town you will see the finish line drawn into the road right next to a podium where you can take a celebratory selfie.
Best Time to Go: Late May to Late Sept.