From Trieste to Menton, the full traverse of the Alpine Arc involves riding some 2150 kilometres, ascending around sixty mountain passes and over 54000 metres of climbing. An epic mountain challenge, shared here through a long photographic voyage from East to West, then from North to South: over 80 images, from Slovenia to the Mediterranean Sea!
Crossing Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and France, this veritable alpine traverse is a once in a lifetime experience, taking 3 weeks (indicative, largely dependant on how far you're prepared to ride each day!). Numerous variants can also be added to the itinerary.
After crossing the Italian border, the route heads into the mighty Dolomites! With their unique rock type (Dolomite) and formation, the Dolomites offer some particularly impressive and huge rock faces. The range is made up of several distinct groupo, criss-crossed by numerous road passes, often topping out at over 2000 metres.
The Dolomites offer the possibility of including numerous variants to take in some legendary and breathtaking passes: this is the end of the climb to Passo di Giau (2236 m), at the foot of the elegant Ra Gusela tower. It's one of the famous climbs of the Giro d'Italia.
The Passo Sella, at 2218 m, is a particularly popular pass for cyclists. It can be combined with 3 other passes (Passo Gardena, Passo di Campolongo and Passo Pordoi) to form a 55km loop, known as the "Sellaronda".
Clear blue skies above the first hairpin bends on the north side of the Stelvio! 24 km of climbing with 48 bends. The first kilometres are around 8%, whereas the last kilometre is a gruelling 12 to 14%.
Welcome to the Swiss Alps! Rural life is ever-present here in the heart of the mountains, and the well-kept prairies are one of the most obvious signs of the Swiss attention to detail. The region around Andermatt is home to some fantastic passes, such as the Saint Gothard, Passo Dela Novella and Furka that make up a magical 105 km loop!
The old road up the Saint Gothard Pass is almost entirely cobbled, offering it an air of elegance as it weaves its way up the mountainside. However, cyclists will mostly remember its nickname of tremola vecchia, meaning "old shaker".
Important historical route between the Rhône and Tessin valleys, the Nufenen Pass was traditionally used for salt and animal trading. Like all the major alpine passes, it remains closed from October to June, covered in several metres of snow.
The Belvédère Hotel, built on one of the Furka Pass hairpin bends, opened in 1882. It offered a superb view of the Rhône Glacier, which descended down into the valley. The glacier has since receded 1km, and can barely be seen from the hotel. Having welcomed a range of famous guests for over 100 years, the hotel finally closed its doors in 2005.
The climb up the Grosse Scheidegg on a quiet and wild mountain road. Motor vehicles are only allowed up the first 6km. The rest of the route is only open to walkers, cyclists and postal vehicles, offering a rare traffic-free cycling experience.
Welcome to France! The French Alps traverse begins in Thonon-Les-Bains (Haute-Savoie). Here, at the foot of the Massif du Bargy, on the climb up the famous Col de la Colombière (1613 m) just before the final section. The last 3km are tough going with a 9,5% gradient which ramps up to 10,5% for the last 800 metres...
Climbing the Col du Télégraphe (1566 m) and the Col du Galibier (2645 m) in succession makes for a big day of riding! Last few pedal strokes in the Northern Alps, before crossing the geographical and geological border with the Southern Alps.
After passing through Briançon, the rocky decor on the climb to the Col de l'Izoard is a reminder that we're now in the Southern Alps. At 2362 m, the pass links the Briançonnais with the Queyras. Part of the Tour de France route on no less than 36 occasions, the Izoard is a legend in the world of cycling!
The Casse Déserte merits a brief stop. A commemorative stone pays tribute to two famous names from the world of cycling: The Italian Fausto Coppi and the Frenchman Louison Bobet. Both riders crossed the Izoard in the lead during several tours in the 1950's.
From the Col de la Bonette, at 2715 m, a tarmac road circumvents the peak, climbing to an altitude of 2802 m, high point of the Grande Traversée des Alpes. However, contrary to the claim on the sign, it's not the highest road in Europe... Two other tarmac roads are higher: the Ötztaler Gletscherstraße in Austria at 2829 m, and the Pico Veleta in Spain at 3396 m.
The climb up the Col de la Cayolle is memorable. Steep rock faces on one side contrast with lush green pastures opposite, full of marmots, waterfalls and larch forests. The narrow mountain road appears to have been built for cyclists...
For those with energy to spare at this late stage of the Grande Traversée des Alpes, the Col de la Lombarde, above Isola 2000 on the frontier with Italy, is highly recommended. 6th highest road pass in France at 2351 m, the challenge is rewarded with some stunning Maritime Alps scenery. The climb on the north side is 21 km, with a few sections at 10%.
Everywhere you look on the Alps Traverse, the mountain pass signs are covered in stickers, all but obscuring the signs themselves... Each year the major passes draw thousands of tourists from the four corners of the world.
The Col de Turini (1604 m) is the last major pass of the route. Before plunging to the Mediterranean, a tour of the Authion is well worth the effort, offering panoramic views and some wild scenery, as well as one last chance to top the 2000 m mark. The route offers superb views of the Nice Pre-Alps!