100 historic climbs and hidden gems in the Southern Alps.
This Cent Cols Challenge works its way across the historic climbs of the Southern Alps, including a day scaling the various faces of Mt Ventoux - a stage that has proven to be a perennial favourite with riders. The route connects the most famous cols to rarely ridden gems, making use of seasonal mountain roads that rarely see traffic. Cent Cols Challenges have never been described as ‘easy,’ but this trip has been designed to be a degree less severe than the originals. In practice, this means 12-hour days, and a route designed to start on lower slopes and crescendo to three tough days in the High Alps.
Single occupancy — £3,650 per person
Double occupancy — £3,050 per person
The Cent Cols Challenge is the brainchild of endurance rider Phil Deeker: his determination, commitment to riding and will to explore has created one of the ultimate tests of what is possible on a road bike. Cent Cols Challenges take place across Europe, criss-crossing entire mountain ranges to combine the classic routes and climbs from the Grand Tours with lesser-known backcountry gems.
Flights and travel insurance are not included.
Because of the distances, and the huge physical and psychological challenge, the Cent Cols are for the strongest and most experienced riders. On most days riders should expect at least 8-10 hours in the saddle, and to be self-sufficient for long periods of time. The remoteness of the terrain also means that accommodation and food are less luxurious than on Rapha’s other trips. However, Phil Deeker and the Rapha team of guides, mechanics and soigneurs take care of all logistics and everything riders need, letting you focus your mind and legs on the cols. It is usual that some riders don’t complete the parcours. But, thanks to the stunning settings and the camaraderie, and possibly to reserves they didn’t know they had, riders often find they rise to the demands of the trip and take their riding to a new level.
Double occupancy as standard
|Arrival day Meet us at the first night accomodation|
|Day 1 Carros (Nice) Loop||198 KM||3,900 M|
|Day 2 Carros - Castellane||200 KM||5,500 M|
|Day 3 Castellane - Sisteron||186 KM||4,400 M|
|Day 4 Sisteron - Vaison la Romaine||212 KM||4,100 M|
|Day 5 Vaison La Romaine Loop||212 KM||5,900 M|
|Day 6 Vaison La Romaine - Gap||200 KM||4,100 M|
|Day 7 Gap - Barcelonette||202 KM||4,650 M|
|Day 8 Barcelonette - Guillestre||191 KM||4,900 M|
|Day 9 Guillestre - Cuneo||181 KM||4,600 M|
|Day 10 Cuneo - Carros||145 KM||3,600 M|
|Departure day Transfer Day|
See full itinerary
A loop stage to begin with, which is in no way a compromise for convenience. With so many exceptional climbs in the Maritime Alps behind the Cote d’Azur and Grasse, this stage visits some of the best.
Mont Vial, Bleine
With its glorious sea views, the Col de Vence opens the stage, followed by another unforgettable loop around the Montagne du Cheiron. From here, we head west towards the Lac de Castillon and a beautiful loop above turquoise lakes, via the Col Ste Barnabé. This brings us to the gates of the Gorges du Verdon for the first of a two-part ride in this formidable landscape.
Col de Pimpinier
Via the unbeatable Corniche Sublime on the Rive Gauche, we explore the best of the Gorges du Verdon before heading east towards Provence, through extensive lavender fields and choppy hills. The stage ends with a superb 30km descent into Sisteron, following the stage’s major climb up the southern slope of the Montagne de la Lure.
Pas de la Graille
A progressively harder stage that makes its way to the northern ascent of the Ventoux along the boundary between the Hautes Alpes de Provence and the Drome region. A fascinating loop north of Sisteron opens the stage before we head west, tackling the tough duo of the Pierre Vesce and St Jean climbs mid-stage. The loop north of Malaucene in the latter part of the stage is full of the unique and powerful charm of this exceptional area. The Ventoux, seen from its threatening northern slopes, glowers over us for almost all of the second half of this stage.
The Ventoux day. Three separate ascents of the Giant of Provence are divided up by equally compelling roads. From Bedoin, after the first northern ascent we head across to climb up through the unique Gorges de la Nesque. The beginning of a long haul all the way up to Sault, the lavender capital of Provence. From here we carry on up over the Giant for the second time, via its ‘easier’ side, before then exploring the roads that take us near the ‘Dentelles de Montmirail’. A bumpy section that eventually brings us to Bedoin for our third and final ascent via its ‘classic’ side. Riders completing this stage will become credible members of the Cinglés du Ventoux club, while those not feeling up to all three ascents will be able to take a shortcut. A truly classic day.
Back round the northern side of Ventoux for the last time, and by another route, we climb through the magical village of Brantes before heading east towards the long steady climb up to the Col de Perty, with its panorama over the high Alps. The second half of this very picturesque stage takes in most of the challenging and beautiful ‘Tour de la Montagne d’Aujour’ loop, followed by the ‘Balcons de Rousine’ with 180-degree views over the Parc des Ecrins to our east. Provence is now a fond memory as the high Alps prepare to welcome us.
Col de Perty
The first of the final four stages, that between them cover almost all of the classic giants of the Southern Alps. After a rolling ride towards and across the Durance valley, followed by more steady climbing that brings us down to the Ubaye valley, we reach the outskirts of Barcelonette and the start of the epic trilogy-loop that makes up just over half of this stage. In stages seven, eight and nine, we climb no less then ten cols well over 2,000m.
Col d'Allos, Champs, Col de la Cayolle
There may only be four climbs on this stage but each of them are legends unto themselves and put together make up a massive second day with the giants. At 2,800m the Bonette is naturally our highest point of the 10 days and the desolate landscape will underline this. From the Lombarde to the Larche (Colle della Maddalena) we are in Italy for the first time.
Col de la Lombarde
Beginning in France, the majority of this stage enjoys the drama of the Italian Piemonte region with some more extraordinary climbs. The Col d’Agnel has featured recently in the Tour and its steep slopes set the tone for this epic penultimate stage. It is lower than the Bonette by a mere 55m. After an adrenalin-rush descent to Sampeyre, the 16km climb to the colle of the same name is our first true Pantani-playground climb. This brute is followed by the epic trilogy of the Esischie-Valonetto-dei Morti which provides the meat for a renowned local annual Fondo. It will be more than enough to finish our day. The 25km descent off the final climb is probably the best descent of the whole event. Finally, our arrival into Cuneo is as grand as it gets, our very classy hotel is on the main plaza. Although here for just one night, we certainly get the best possible taste of Italy. Best breakfast, too, of the whole event.
Col Agnel, Colle di Sampeyre
Heading due south over the dramatic Colle del Tende and back into France, we close this Challenge with some choppy climbs and sweeping descents. Up and over one ridge after another, our efforts are rewarded by stunning views of the area. A deliberately shorter stage, allowing more time for café stops and an earlier finish, but even this stage has some tough ascents to deal with.
Col de Tende, Col de Brouis
I think what makes these rides so very special is the fact that Phil and Rapha Travel even dare to attempt them: on paper, they look ridiculous and in practice, they are just that - but also, somehow, possible. Most riders have reserves they never knew existed and Phil's planning and ability to improvise, results in the majority of riders completing stages and events beyond their wildest dreams.
— CCC rider, May 2016
Ride routes and on-bike food/food stops were outstanding!
— CCC Pyrenees 2015
All our trips are physically demanding, but some are harder than others. Cent Cols Challenges are the toughest challenge. Our guides will support every rider to go beyond their usual level of riding, but you should be able to spend up to 12 hours in the saddle for multiple days.
We ask all customers to pay a deposit (usually £500/$800/€650) when they book, which confirms their reservation. The balance is due 60 days before departure – we’ll get in touch to remind you when it’s time. If you book less than 60 days before departure, we’ll usually ask you to pay the full trip price upfront.
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Telephone: +44 (0) 207 482 9175
Hours: 9.30am-6.00pm (BST)
Hours: 8.30am-5.30pm (PDT)
Telephone: +44 (0) 207 482 9175
Hours: 9.30am-6.00pm (BST)