The Annecy region really is a haven for cyclists. The climbs are high, the views are spectacular, the roads are quiet and, miraculously, the drivers are very patient with cyclists.
The surrounding mountains are home to many cols that have featured in the Tour de France and the Dauphiné. Sure, there are towns that are closer to the very well known mega climbs like La Toussuire and Alpe D’Huez but none, in our opinion, are as beautiful or picturesque as Talloires and the valleys around the Annecy Lake. You can spend the morning testing your legs up a famous col in the morning and be in an historic French Village for a long recovery lunch followed by a swim in Lake Annecy or exploring the many non-cycling attractions of the region in the afternoon. Non-cycling halves of partnerships have been known to describe this as a perfect match.
Talloires is within 50 km of about 10 cols and climbs that have featured in the Tour de France at some time in the past. Some, like the Col Des Aravis, nearly 40 times. Below are some suggested routes and climbs that are within easy reach of Talloires and some that are a bit further afield, but well within reach of home base in Talloires.
Cycling the high cols is usually possible from the end of April to the end of October. It is often cool in the mountains, so you need to bring wet and cold weather gear, if only for the long descents.
We have included below a brief description of a number of routes and climbs. Links to maps also have GPX and KML files for download to your GPS.
Some of the Local Climbs
Distance: 38.5km. Max Elevation: 554m. Gain: 373m.
Ideal afternoon sight-seeing ride after you have settled in and need to stretch the legs and recover from a long flight. The lake ride is very popular. Except for a short steep bit near Talloires (which you can avoid by going clockwise) the trip is flat and mostly on a designated bike track for all of the west side of the lake and some of the east.
The ride is a scenic 40-km ride that takes in a number of the villages around the Lake as well as the town of Annecy itself which makes for a very convenient café stop.
The east side of the lake is on a partially dedicated bike track and some on the main road. This is generally not an issue as drivers tend to be very courteous to riders. The map route will take you away from the main road and through the back streets of Veyrier-du-Lac and the lake front of Menthon.
Distance: 60.0km. Max Elevation: 969m. Gain: 1022m.
If Option 1 is too easy for you and you’re looking for a bit of a challenge on your first day you can easily add in a small climb up the Col de Leschuax (Lake Ride Option 2) which will add just a bit more interest and if it’s the right time of year you may score some wild strawberries on the side of the road on the way up.
Distance: 36.0km. Max Elevation: 1420m. Gain: 1211m.
This climb starts almost out the front door of our house. It has featured in the tour 3 times (but is usually done from the South side or the Dark Side as it is called… steeper and darker).
From the house in Talloires it’s definitely not an all morning outing but if you’re willing to climb a bit further (and assuming the snow is all gone) you can go further to the Col de l’Aulp and have a very nice, if simple, lunch outside at the Chalet de l’Aulp and enjoy the cows and views of paragliders. Go back the way you came or head down the Dark Side and regain the bike track near Giez then around the lake.
Distance: 72.0km. Max Elevation: 1666m. Gain: 1690m.
This is a serious unrelenting climb. It is high, long and steep and it can snow (even in summer). There are a couple of options for the descent. You can keep going over the top and descend via the Col de Leschaux. The 5km road down to the col is not the best but from Leschaux the road home is fine. You can of course go back the way you came and spend the afternoon exploring the town of Annency and partaking in another lunch.
If you happen to have a mountain bike there is a nice 14 km downhill single track from the top of Semnoz. See video.
Distance: 86.5km. Max Elevation: 1485m. Gain: 1947m.
In fact, there is a total of 5 categorised climbs on this route but only three that really matter. The Col du Marais, Col del la Croix Fry and the Col des Aravis. This is a loop that takes in the best views to be had of the Aravis range and it is best to be done in the order suggested, as part of the last section is on a busy road, which is fine for a quick descent but makes for unpleasant uphill riding with the trucks. Depending on what time you start out, lunch at a restaurant on the highest of the cols, the Col des Aravis, is possible or later in Clusaz or Thônes.
Three Cols of the Aravis plus one.
Distance: 114km. Max Elevation: 1618m. Gain: 2765m.
If you clear the Col des Aravis early and still feel the need and have time for one more climb then you can do this variant which takes in the ski villages of Le Grand Bornand, Chinaillion (another good spot for lunch) and finally the Col du Colombier before heading home.
Distance: 78.5km. Max Elevation: 1582m. Gain: 1591m.
This is not a col that has featured in the tour but is very worth doing. Great climbing with a 15 km Cat 1 hill up to high mountain pastures filled with the scent of wildflowers and fresh pasture in the early spring. There are great views of Mt Blanc once at the top. Depending on how early in the spring you attempt this route there may be some snow to negotiate. This ride is a “must do” particularly if you like switch backs. Highly recommended.
Distance: 133km. Max Elevation: 1171m. Gain: 3025m.
This beautiful route is … well … beautiful !Not much else I can say. Rolling hills that will take in the Col de Leschaux, Col des Prés, Col de Plainpalais as well as a number of unnamed lesser climbs. It’s a bit of a long trip so start early or a make a day of it as there is just over 3000 metres of climbing to be done in the Bauges mountains.
Other local climbs are listed below.
- Col de Tamié (and a visit to the cheese and butter making monks at the Tamié Abbey;
- Col du Vorger
- Station le Sambuy
- Mont Revard
- Col des Saisies
- Plateau des Glières (La Résistance)
- Col de l’Epine
If you’re still after a bit more “uphill” the Alps can accommodate. Below is a short list of some you may know that are a little further away and may require a bit of driving to get to the start.
Col de la Madeleine: Distance:
110km. Max Elevation: 1994m. Gain: 4147m.
Approximately 40 min drive to La Bâthie to start. This route takes you to the top of the Madeleine, down to La Chambre and then back up to the Madeleine … again … but from the steeper side. You can of course just head straight back down to La Bâthie or do a circuit to the river valley of the Isère river and back to Albertville and to La Bâthie but I have not included this route as the latter part is pretty ordinary and industrial in parts.
Distance: 53km. Max Elevation: 2065m. Gain: 1816m.
Approximately 1hr drive to La Chambre to start the 25km uphill. If you get an early start and drive to La Chambre you could do the Madeleine from the south side, head down to La Chambre, have lunch then do the Glandon/Croix Fer in the afternoon.
Distance: 15km. Max Elevation: 1851m. Gain: 1135m.
About 15 kilometres of 21 hairpin turns at an average of 8.1% and a max of 13%. Needs no further description, you have seen it enough on TV. Start in the town of Bourg d’Oisans which is about a 2hr drive from Talloires.
Events during the year
There are a number of significant cycling events in the year that are worth timing your visit for. Some are for watching and some you can take part in.
- Cycle tour Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) 21st May 2017. This is a very well organised group ride around Lake Geneva. It typically offers three distance options. http://www.cyclotour.ch
- 180km. Full tour Lausanne to Lausanne
- 110km. Evian to Lausanne
- 60km. Geneva to Lausanne
- The Criterium du Dauphiné. Held in 4th to 11th June and well attended by Tour GC contenders as a pre-tour training event. In 2017 the final stage will pass through nearby Villages of La Clusaz and Le Grande Bornand.
- Cyclomontagnarde Annecy. On June 2017. See link to shop below. http://www.velo-club-annecy.fr
- The Tour. Generally comes close enough to drive to one or two start and/or finish towns.
- La Resistance. A unique cycling challenge on paved and dirt road in the mountains that surround Annecy. Run over two days (15th and 16th September 2016) there are a typically a selection of courses to choose from depending on your ability and level of fitness. Go to http://www.laresistance.cc/ for more details
Bike Shops and Rentals
Talloires now has its own cycling shop/cafe, Basecamp Bike Rental. They rent a range of bikes from comfy touring and leisure bikes to sleek carbon fibre machines. They can also help you with an organised tour if you need help to explore the area by bike. The Basecamp shop front is 100m from our house and the website is as follows. https://www.base-camp.bike/en/
Other bike shops around the Lake are as follows:
- Cyclable: annecy.cyclable.com. 8 Place aux Bois, 74000 Annecy, France. Near the old part of town on the lake in Annecy.
- Annick Toinet Cycles: http://www.cycles-annick-toinet.fr/ also rents bikes.
- Little Big Shop: 38 Avenue Mavéria 74940 Annecy-le-Vieux France -shop only
- Bcylet: http://www.bcyclet.com/bike-rental-scott-alps-geneva-annecy also rents bikes.
- Classic: http://cycleclassictours.com/bike-rentals/cycle-hire-annecy-and-road-bike-rentals/ also rents bikes.
Links to Cycling in Annecy
- Top 10 cols near Lake Annecy http://www.cycling-challenge.com/top-5-cycling-climbs-lake-annecy/