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Overview

Route Description and design concept

Where does the mHealth Grand Tour go?

The 2,100km route from Brussels travels through Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, France and Northern Spain on to Barcelona.

Heading east from Brussels, the ride goes into the Ardennes before crossing Luxemburg and meeting the Rhine near Saarbrucken.   We then head south to the Black Forest and on into France crossing the Jura mountains and on into the Alps. After the rest day the Tour heads west across Languedoc, through the Pyrenees and into Catalonia, to head down to Barcelona

What have we tried to achieve when planning the route?

Our chosen route will enable riders to experience the breathtaking scenery and quiet country roads on offer in Belgium, Germany, France and Spain.  At the same time, in the spirit of the Grand Tours of old, we have also designed the ride to take in the outstanding cultural sights on the way.

How did we plan the route?

  • The most important thing is to ensure the roads are safe and suitable for groups of riders.  We have checked the route, made changes where we think there may be issues, and will be back for a final check before the Tour.
  • Then, there is the practical consideration of how far people can ride in a day.  Although the average day will cover about 160km, we shorten the daily distance in the hills and make it a little longer on flat sections.
  • Where we can, we pick up some of the classic cycle routes.  As we will be close to Bastogne anyway, it seems a shame not to ride some of the Liege-Bastogne classic route: Not all of it, but enough to get a feel for where the professionals ride.
  • We planned the route before the 2013 Tour de France was announced, but even so, part of our route is similar to Stage 8 and it includes the mountain top finish at Semnoz on Stage 20.  We have also looked to pick up vignettes of past Tour de France stages along the way.
  • We want riders to experience the culture, architecture and sights on the route.  Rather than riding round Baden Baden, Annecy and Carcassonne, or skipping past the, the Réserve Naturelle des Gorges de l'Ardèch‬, or missing the Millau bridge - we have made a point of going to each of these places.  There is only so much you can cover in 14 days, but the route provides a rich and rewarding cultural itinerary.
  • We wanted to have one continuous route from Brussels to Barcelona.  To do this, we have had to balance the distance we ride each day with places where we can all stay.  We will have a few big days, but at least we know there will be a shower or bath, good food and a comfortable bed when we finish each day.
  • Finally (and selfishly), we planned the route to go where we would have wanted to go if we were riding.

mHealth Grand Tour Map

Overview Route Stages

The Tour incorporates 13 days riding, split into four stages, all classics in their own right.

Not everyone has the time to ride for two weeks. We have, therefore, divided the ride into four stages. All have their own personality and all are challenging in their own right.

We have revised original planned route adding a couple of countries - Luxemburg and Germany – whilst managing to keep the distance and the amount of climb roughly the same. We still go from Brussels to Barcelona! The structure of the ride, with four stages and a rest day, is the same and the route is the same from Annecy to Barcelona.

We think the change enhances the ride, as we will be heading over to Baden Baden and then into the Black Forest before heading west from Mulhouse through the Jura mountains. We have one final safety check to complete, at which point we will finalise the route but provisionally the route, the distances and the amount of climb each day will be as summarised below.

hover over route to see more details of each stage

Stage 1 - Brussels & Ardennes

stage 1 map

Starting in Brussels, we head east to the Ardennes to pick up part of the classic Liege to Bastogne route, before going through Luxembourg to Saarbrucken in Germany.

  Start/Finish Description Km/m
Day 1
5th Sept
Brussels
La Roche-en-Ardenne
Leaving Brussels the capital for Belgium and the 'political capital' of Europe we head to La-Roche-en-Ardenne - a popular tourist destination in the Ardennes. 155km
1352m
Day 2
6th Sept
La Roche-en-Ardenne
Saarbrücken
From La Roche we head through the Ardennes to Bastogne (picking up some of the famous route of the Liege - Bastogne spring classic route) before crossing Luxemburg and into Germany and to Saarbrücken 192km
1368m
Day 3
7th Sept
Saarbrücken
Baden-Baden
Out of Saarbrücken we head south through forests and farmland - broadly following the Rhine - to the spa town of Baden-Baden. 150km
827m

 

Stage 2 - Black Forest & Jura

Stage 2 - Black Forest & Jura

Spa towns, lots of trees and rolling countryside. Fantastic riding on quiet roads through the Black Forest and the Rhine valley before crossing into France and heading over to the Alps for some climbs!

  Start/Finish Description Km/m
Day 4
8th Sept
Baden-Baden
Mulhouse
Out of Baden-Baden we ride up into the Black Forest before passing through Freiburg and crossing into France at Mulhouse. 187km
2247m
Day 5
9th Sept
Mulhouse
Pontarlier
From Mulhouse we cross to Pontarlier through rolling countryside. Pontarlier is famous for producing Absinth. 185km
1937m
Day 6
10th Sept
Pontarlier
Annecy
The ride from Pontarlier skirts along the Swiss border through the Jura mountains. One big climb, then passing round Geneva we ride into Annecy. 172km
1895m
Day 7
11th Sept
Annecy
Voreppe
The first climb of the day from Annecy is up to Semnoz (which is the end the Etape de Tour route this year). We then ride through the Rhone Alps to Voreppe, outside Grenoble. 124km
3122m

 

The Rest Day

At the end of the first week of the Tour, there will be a rest day.

This is between Stage 2 and Stage 3. The main reason for the rest day is to allow riders going all the way from Brussels to Barcelona to rest and to recover before the second half of the ride.

However, for Tour participants who aren't so keen on rest, we will also organise a day out in the Alps. Riders leaving at the end of Stage 2 will have the option to stay on an extra night and those starting on Stage 3 can come in a day early. We will be heading into the high Alps to ride a Col or two, before getting back to prepare for Stage 3.

Providing an opportunity to see and ride in the high Alps, the rest day trip will be relaxed and informal: The route won't be signed, but we will have some of our team riding with you to show the way. We will stop in cafes for coffee and food on route.

Stage 3 - Rhone Alps & Languedoc

mHealth Grand Tour Stage 3

Leaving the Rhone Alps, we head into Languedoc’s limestone gorges and hills. Quiet roads, spectacular scenery and some classic architecture to enjoy as we head over to Castres.

  Start/Finish Description Km/m
Day 8
13th Sept
Voreppe
Bourg Saint Andeal
After the rest day we continue through the Rhone Alps for two reasonable climbs before descending into the Rhone Valley and following this south. 182km
2340m
Day 9
14th Sept
Bourg Saint Andeal
Florac
The ride from Bourg Saint Andeal to Florac includes some spectacular scenery. We head north through the Gorges de Ardèche past the Pont d’Arc before heading into the Cévennes National Park. We stop at Florac. 144km
2053m
Day 10
15th Sept
Florac
Castres
The ride from Florac leaves the Cévennes National Park and follow the Gorges du Tarin before heading over to Millau and the Norman Foster designed Motorway bridge (it’s more impressive than it sounds!) and on through the Park Natural du Haut-Languedoc and into Castres. 198km
2248m

 

Stage 4 - Pyrenees & Barcelona

Stage 4 - Pyrenees & Barcelona

Takes us up and over the Pyrenees for one of the literal and figurative high points of the ride, then into Spain and south through Catalonia to Barcelona to complete the Grand Tour.

  Start/Finish Description Km/m
Day 11
16th Sept
Castres
Ax-les-Thermes
Castres to Ax-Le-Thermes is Stage 8 of the 2013 Tour de France route. We head into Carcassonne to pass the medieval City so don’t follow the route exactly. The second half of the day does except, we stop in Ax-Le-Therme and don’t finish the day climbing to the ski station. 175km
2371m
Day 12
17th Sept
Ax-les-Thermes
Berga
This is the biggest day’s riding on the Tour. It is long with lots of climb. We leave Ax-Les-Therme and immediately over Col de Pailhères in the Pyrenees – this is the second highest of the French Pyrenean cols with 1000m of climb. We then cross into Spain for two more climbs before getting to Berga. 182km
3974m
Day 13
18th Sept
Berga
Barcelona
Not quite all down hill but overall more than 2200m of descending. A great days riding through rural Catalonia before coming into Barcelona and the finish. 135km
1530m

 

Accomodation

The hotels we will be staying in along the route will be mainly 3 star. On most nights, we will be staying in either family-run hotels or one of the leading hotel chains in the centres of towns or cities. However, we will also have a couple of nights where we will be staying in fairly rural areas. To sleep and feed everyone, our team has searched out the best accommodation available, including smaller hotels and B&Bs.

Transfer Information For Each Stage