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They’re called moyenne montagnes in the Tour de France: medium mountains. This epic tour from Lake Geneva to the Med takes in somewhere between 25 and 35 cols (depending how you count them), along some of the quietest roads in the Alps.

But though it may skirt the high peaks, this is still a true Alpine challenge with some 17000m climbing over its 900km length. None of the cols top 1400m (a classic Tour mountain-top finish might near 2000m), but there’s still plenty of hairpins, balcony roads and sweeping descents to enjoy.

In short, it’s an exhilarating, taxing Alpine route, but not quite as gruelling as one in the high mountains. And there are delightful moments of respite as the route follows valley roads, passing Provençal lavender fields, meandering upland rivers and three fine lakes (Bourget, Annecy and Aiguebelette). You’ll traverse the Vercors plateau, famous redoubt of the Résistance; coast through truffle country alongside the Oule; ride along the headwaters of the Gironde; and finally follow the Cagne on its course to the sea.

It’s all on roads and the occasional paved cycle path, though there are a couple of places where you can avoid traffic by using a parallel unpaved trail. We’d suggest travelling as light as possible: too much camping gear will prove a drag on the Alpine climbs. If you can plan this as a hotels-and-B&Bs tour, so much the better.

The tour is well served by railway stations, plus both international rail connections and airports at Geneva and Nice. Grenoble is the only city of any size en route.

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