Cycling Col de l'Iseran (and surrounds): your ultimate guide - Epic Road Rides Back to top
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Cycling Col de l’Iseran
(and surrounds):
your ultimate guide

Col de l’Iseran and the Northern Alps are stunning, with soaring peaks and twisting ribbons of tarmac that wind their way to spectacular summits.  It’s a cyclist’s paradise.

The climbs and landscapes of the Northern Alps are very similar to the better known Central Alps. Yet the Northern Alps are less regularly visited by the Tour de France. As a result, they are better known for their ski resorts than their cycling destinations. 

We think the Northern Alps are the choice for the cycling connoisseur. They’re for those that have ridden the Central Alps and are looking to dig deeper into France’s cycling heritage.

Everything you need to cycle the Col de l’Iseran region

In this guide you’ll find information on rides, accommodation and bike hire that’s accessible from Bourg Saint Maurice.

Bourg Saint Maurice is a bustling town at the start of the Col de l’Iseran climb and the entrance to the Isère valley. It offers easy access to:

Bourg Saint Maurice is also just 30 minutes drive from Feissons Sur Isère and the infamous Col de la Madeleine. If you’re willing to drive for around an hour, you can get down to the Central Alps. For example, La Chambre is 1 hour 15 minutes, and from there you can ride the Glandon and Croix de Fer.

Other awesome Alpine cycling destinations

Check out our other French Alps guides:

  • Alpe d’Huez covers Alpe d’Huez and the famous climbs around it like the Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col de Sarenne, Col du Galibier.
  • Provence and Ventoux covers Mont Ventoux and the beautiful Luberon hills.
  • Nice covers the unmissable climbs of the southern Alps close to the Côte d'Azure. 

Planning some cycling in the Alps? Drop us a line; we’d love to hear from you!

Cycling routes: Col De l’Iseran and beyond

The main reason to visit Bourg Saint Maurice is easy access to bucket-list-essential, the Col de l’Iseran. You can also ride the wonderful Cormet de Roseland and the more easy-going Col du Petit Saint Bernard. There are runs to Tignes and Les Arcs too. 

We rode the Col de la Madeleine from Bourg Saint Maurice (admittedly driving to Feissons Sur Isère before our both sides extravaganza). If you're up for a long day, it would be possible to avoid the car transfer and ride the Madeleine from Bourg Saint Maurice. 

The cols of the Central Alps are just about do-able from Bourg Saint Maurice, but you’d need to drive first: Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Lacets de Montvernier, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe d’Huez

In summary, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Bourg Saint Maurice for a four day weekend, but you might end up repeating some rides or driving further afield if you base out of Bourg Saint Maurice for a week.  Instead, you may want to cross over to Bourg d’Oisans and tackle Alpe d'Huez and some of the routes in the Central Alps.

Col de l’Iseran

  • Distance: 48km
  • Elevation: 2,250m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Col de la Madeleine

  • Distance: 26km
  • Elevation: 1,700m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Col du Petit Saint Bernard

  • Distance: 31km
  • Elevation: 1,420m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Lac/Cormet de Roselend

  • Distance: 27km
  • Elevation: 1,220m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Want some support with your trip? Check out our pick of the best French Alps cycle tours!


Family cycle routes near Bourg Saint Maurice

The classic routes around Bourg Saint Maurice are all pretty demanding, due to the fact you’re surrounded by 2,500m peaks. However, there are some good options in the Isère valley. We haven’t tested them ourselves, but we did see the river bike path which looked fantastic for those with kids.

Here are some ideas:

1. Aime via river bike path

A flat-ish bike path follows the river south from Bourg Saint Maurice to Aime. At 8.5km you reach the rather lovely Plan d’Eau where there are a café, playground and lots of water-based activities that kids love.

2. Aime valley loop (via landry and river bike path)

This route takes you out to Aime via the pretty D220 and small quiet villages. It’s more undulating than the bike path route, with 350m of elevation gain.

3. Aime Valley Loop (both sides of the valley)

This is a pleasant ride along roads either side of the Aime valley. The route incorporates nearly 1,000m of climbing, so not one for those cycling with younger kids.

4. Sainte Foy Tarentaise Loop

This route passes through some very pretty, untouched villages on small lanes. There is around 780m of climbing.

Alps cycle tours

If you'd like some help with organising your trip to the Alps, check out our article on the best bike tours in the Alps. You might also be interested in our tips for how to pick the best bike tour company for your needs and the different kind of French cycling holidays out there.

Accommodation

This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.

People often us ask us where in the Alps they should stay.

We suggest you start by deciding what rides you most want to do. This will help you decide on the best summer Alpine resort for you. Take a look at our road rides section for more on the rides from Bourg Saint Maurice. Also, take a look at our road rides suggestions for the Alpe d’Huez region and Ventoux region.

Once you’ve identified the rides you want to do, then consider other things, like what there is for when you’re not cycling, bike hire options etc. 

Once you’ve decided you want to stay in Bourg Saint Maurice, the next question is, where?

Our choice

We stayed about 20km east of Bourg Saint Maurice, in Sainte Foy Tarentaise station. The village is 4km above the main Isère road, at around 1,500m. Despite only being 25 years old, it’s charming. There are gorgeous mountain views, and planning restrictions mean all the buildings have traditional stone roofs and are built from wood. 

The Peak, Sainte Foy Tarentaise

The Peak is a great place to stay in Sainte Foy Tarentaise. It has a solid, modern feel with spacious, well-furnished rooms. The huge living room is a particular highlight with chunky exposed wooden beams, funky light fittings and comfortable sofas. A winter snow theme is evident even in summer, and it’s cosy yet wonderfully light due to the enormous windows that look out over the mountains and distant waterfalls. We stayed on a half board basis.

What we loved

  • Friendly staff with a can-do attitude. The chalet is run by Premier Neige, and everyone we met seemed eager to help. When we needed a transfer to Tignes at very short notice, it was arranged quickly and easily. When we requested a 6 am breakfast and 6 pm children’s tea, it was no problem. When we asked for an English speaking nanny, they put us in touch with a lovely woman. When we asked to use the kitchen to fix lunch for the children, they were not only more than happy for us to do so, they made us a beautiful salad with ingredients from their larder.
  • Spacious bedroom. Ski chalets in the Alps are not known for being spacious. Yet our room had a super king sized bed, a fold-away bed and travel cot - and there was still plenty of space.
  • Well equipped toy room. A mezzanine above the dining/living room housed floor-to-ceiling shelving and a treasure trove of books, games and toys. This was a real bonus as it provided hours of entertainment for our 2 and 4 year old.
  • Cycling-friendly facilities. Plenty of room in the spacious garage for our bike and bike box. Premier Neige was happy to organise bike hire and also for us to use their basement washing machines and dryers. Fruit, cakes and hot drinks were always available. There is a gym with spin bike, rowing machine and yoga mats. There’s also a sauna and a hot tub on the terrace.

Downsides

  • Lack of cycling information. Neither our chalet host nor the concierge had information on routes or bike tools. However, if you book ahead on the Premiere Velo package, the company can arrange guiding, coaching and support.
  • Mountain location. The mountainside location means there’s a significant climb home at the end of the day. Also, the restaurant choices in the village are adequate, but you’d run out of new options after a few nights.

Conclusion

The Peak is a relaxing and comfortable place to stay in the French Alps. Staff are friendly and helpful, the accommodation is good quality, and the mountain panoramas are impressive.

Other options

Most of the accommodation in and around Bourg Saint Maurice is small and family run. There are a few chain hotels, but those tend to be up in the big ski resorts. The Peak was good, and we’d give it four stars, but generally we found it hard to find high-quality accommodation.  

Here are the places we would consider staying on a future trip:

Chalet Mathilde
  • Good location in a hamlet in the valley, about 10 minutes east of Bourg Saint Maurice. This means that each ride starts and finishes on the flat. Unusual in the mountains!
  • The decor is classic-alpine-chalet, not overly smart, but certainly comfortable and serviceable.
  • The hosts are keen road cyclists and are on hand to help with trip planning 
  • The chalet is available catered or (on a whole chalet basis) self-catered. The catered option includes breakfast, afternoon cake, biscuits, tea, coffee and beer, three course evening meal including unlimited beer and wine. 
  • Large lockable storage area for bikes, equipped with track pumps, bike stands, cleaning equipment and basic tools. 
  • Based in a 19th Century farmhouse in the pretty village of Landry, 7km west of Bourg Saint Maurice.
  • Decor is described as stylishly combining rustic alpine charm with modern comforts.
  • Library with maps, route suggestions and guide books.
  • Secure bike store with workshop area, basic tools, track pump, repair stand and bike washing facilities.
  • Breakfast includes porridge and eggs as well as the usual continental option. There are cakes or biscuits for afternoon tea, as well as pasta salads, followed by a three course dinner.
  • If you prefer self-catering, you can take the top floor of the farmhouse (4 bedrooms). Or try their small chalet (2 bedrooms, up to 6 people) in a mountain hamlet just above Aime (14km from Bourg Saint Maurice). It has a large sitting room with log stove and doors to the garden, a dining room and terraced gardens with lovely mountain views.

If you’d prefer a hotel, we would try Hotel Autantic in Bourg Saint Maurice or the Hotel Mercure, Les Arcs 1800. Both have confirmed that they have secure bike parking facilities. They both also have a heated swimming pool.

Bike hire

Surprisingly, road bike hire rental in and around Bourg Saint Maurice is not that obvious. Hopefully this will help.

This information is offered as an indicative guide only: we periodically update it but prices, services and bike brands may change. Please let us know if you find anything that is incorrect.

Company

Bikes and services

Bike hire Bourg D'Oisans

Intersport
Zone commerciale de Super U, 595 Avenue du Stade
+33 (0)4 79 07 07 61

Limited information available

Revolver

Zone commerciale de Super U

+33 (0)4 57 37 20 08

Note: this is a repair shop too.

Bike hire La Rosière

Arpin Sport

Centre Commercial La Rosière

+33 (0)4 79 06 81 21

Stock is limited. Management confirmed they would have two Scott Speedsters for 2018 season.

Tips:

Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.

When to go

Read our article, Cycling in the French Alps: when to go for full details.

Tips and articles

This section includes details of products we have either used and liked or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy (which includes our Amazon Associates disclosure) for further information.

Maps and books

IGN has a useful map covering Bourg Saint Maurice at 1:75,000 scale. It covers the Cormet de Roseland, Petit Saint Bernard and Les Arcs but doesn’t get very far east so doesn’t cover the Iseran or Tignes. Click here to check prices

Many of the area’s climbs are described in evocative detail in Chris Sidwell’s Tour Climbs, the complete guide to every mountain stage on the Tour de France.

For the history of cycling in the mountains, take a look at Friebe and Goding’s Mountain High and Mountain Higher. (We've reviewed Mountain High, here).

Good to know

  • Read our Tips for cycling in the French Alps before you go.
  • Don’t miss the cheese! Beaufort cheese is a creamy, hard, mild-medium tasting cheese. You can buy it around the world and locals are passionate about it. Beaufort is just over the other side of the Cormet de Roseland, and you’ll find lots of local providers in and around Bourg Saint Maurice.
  • The Alps are home to some fantastic sportives and granfondos. But be aware, Alps granfondos are not for beginners. They’re tough, and you need to be fit.
  • The largest sportives/granfondos are well established and well organised, attracting thousands of cyclists each year. Two of the most famous are often based in the Bourg Saint Maurice area -
  • L’Etape du Tour: around 181km and 3500m of climbing (mid July) and over 11,000 participants. The sportive is organised by the ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France. The route changes each year as cyclists test themselves against the same route as a Tour de France stage. It’s generally held on one of the important mountain stages in the Alps or Pyrenees. It’s so famous it’s now a festival of cycling, spread out over a long weekend.
  • Haute Route Alps: 896km and 22,200m of climbing between Nice and Geneva over seven days (mid-late August). This is the original event of the European Haute Route sportive series, and it’s one of the hardest sportives on the international calendar.
  • Here are some less famous options. Do one in its own right or as a warm up to one of the more famous granfondos:
  • Time Mégève Mont-Blanc: three routes available, all based out of Mégève. In 2017 the longest was 142km with 3,950m of climbing and around 1500 participants, making it one of the bigger Alpine sportives. It includes the excellent climb up from Beaufort to the stunning Lac de Roseland. It takes place on the first weekend in June.
  • La Morzine Haut Chablais: 155km with 3,800m of climbing, starting and finishing in Morzine. The route includes the infamous pass of Joux Plane and takes place in mid June.
  • Le Tour du Mont Blanc: 330km with 8000m of climbing with around 1300 participants. The Tour du Mont Blanc route starts and finishes in the village of Saises, northeast of Albertville. It takes place in mid July and loops through three countries around Mont Blanc. It includes the ascent of the Col du Grand Saint Bernard, Col du Petit Saint Bernard and the beautiful Cormet de Roseland. It can be done solo or as a relay.
  • If you want to ride on closed roads but don’t want to do a sportive, look out for the car-free days that are organised on some of the most famous climbs in the Alps. The Hautes Alpes website has the full listing - this is the 2017 list.

Enjoyed our guide?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the Col de l’Iseran/Bourg Saint Maurice area. Don’t miss our ride guides to the area’s most famous climbs: Col de l’Iseran, Cormet de Roseland, Petit Saint Bernard and Col de la Madeleine.

Want to check out some other destinations? Search by the month you want to travel or cycling destination you want to visit, here.

(Banner photo credit: slava17/Shutterstock.com)


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