Melbourne, Victoria

+61 (0) 411 362 644

European Cycling Holidays in France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The BEST value tours on the market! Personalised, affordable, fun, challenging and social. Provence, Alps, Tour de France, Italian Lakes, Dolomites, Giro Climbs. A magical mix of challenging but social cycling in some of the most spectacular regions of Europe. See the Tour de France 2019!



Uno spritz, per favore!

Clare Holdsworth

Aperol Spritz!  My perfect aperitivo in Italy & beyond...

Having “uno spritz” in an historic Italian piazza (square) while soaking up the atmosphere and watching the world go by is a perfect pre-dinner activity after a day on the bike! Around aperitif time (5 to 9pm), you invariably get a small snack “spuntino” free of charge along with your drink.  This could be a few crisps or olives to something more elaborate, such as warm crostini or mini focaccia slices, depending on the bar. Keep in mind that the spuntino isn’t likely to be sufficient to re-fuel a hungry cyclist who has just conquered an Alpine passo, but a light snack to go with your drink.

Aperol Spritz is one of the most popular aperitivo in Italy. Known as “Veneziano” in northern Italy, its bright orange, zesty, bitter, refreshing and makes a perfect early evening pre-dinner drink.  It originates in the Veneto region of northern Italy – on a warm summers evening the piazzas and cafes are filled with people enjoying the sparkling orange drink along with a small snack or “spuntino”.  

One of my favourite places to enjoy an Aperol Spritz is in Piazza Walther in the cosmopoloitan northern Italian town of Bolzano; the “gateway to the Dolomites”, where we will spend a night on our upcoming 2015 Milan to Venice ride. 

 The only downside to the Aperol Spritz is that they are so delicious it’s hard to stop at 1 or 2… and one always needs to consider the kilometers and altitude gain the next day!

How to make it:

According to the Campari Group — which owns Aperol — the "official Aperol Spritz" is made of 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and 1 part soda. Check out the “3-2-1” campaign on their website.





Victoria vs France: 7 Peaks Challenge versus the French Alps!

Clare Holdsworth

I am often asked 'How do the mountains in Europe compare to cycling the climbs in Australia?'.  Firstly, if you have conquered Victoria's 7 Peaks Challenge - then you should be able to manage almost all of the iconic European climbs.  Whilst every climb presents its own challenges and quirks (e.g. the gruelling first 3 ramps of Alpe d'Huez, or the ups and downs of the final 8km of Mt Hotham),  the overall distances and gradients are comparable.  

One main difference in Europe can be the altitude - with iconic Cols such as the Galibier, Izoard and Bonette taking you to well over the height of Australia's highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko (2228m).  At these altitudes, the body begins to notice the impact of the drop in barometric pressure (the percentage of oxygen in the air is always 21% at all times).  The drop in air pressure results in a reduction in the availability of oxygen transfer to our blood, leading us to feel breathless.  The impact of this whilst cycling these higher climbs in Europe (mostly all less than 3000m) is likely to be subtle in most healthy fit recreational cyclists -  you may notice you are breathing more heavily or that your speed has slowed slightly comparable to what you would expect for a given gradient.  The impact of altitude is certainly more pronounced for higher climbs, such as that to Manua Kia in Hawaii (4,200m), where altitude related side-effects like dizziness, nausea and severe breathlessness are common.

Other differences are the scenery, history, culture and cuisine.  Australia has wombats, France has marmots.  Australia has gums, Europe has pines.  Each of the 21 hair-pin bends of Alpe d'Huez are named after previous winners of the climb; Mt Ventoux has a memorial to Tommy Simpson near the summit.  At the top the European climbs there is a Col sign for a brag-worthy "I made it!" selfie, a bar and a shop, where you can usually get some quality food and drinks and pick up a souvenir jersey "Mt Ventoux Finisher".  While there's nothing wrong with the food at Mt Hotham's "The General Store" - the beauty of being in France is that you can order an omelette jambon fromage of equal quality to that at an inner Melbourne cafe - it's hard to believe you are on a mountain in the French Alps.  To me, these are some of the things that distinguish France from Australia!  

Below we compare Victoria's 7 Peaks Challenge (+1) to 8 iconic climbs that we will ride this year on our Nice to Alpe d'Huez cycling holiday.  We have chosen climbs that are comparable (as much as possible) in terms of total distance and average gradient.  The only one we struggled for a fair comparison is Dinner Plain's 42km at 2% (so we threw in the Col de la Bonette  - the highest sealed road in Europe, instead).   Despite some similarities in distance/gradient/altitude gain - each has its own unique differences, but we hope this will give you an idea of what it's like to ride the climbs of the Tour de France.  


mt hotham

  • Length: 30.8km
  • Average Gradient: 4.2%
  • Elevation Gain: 1279m
  • Max Gradient: 18%
  • Max Elevation: 1970m
  • Start: Harrietville, Victoria
  • Finish: Ski Bridge, Entry to Mt Hotham village
The view over the Victorian Alps from near Mt Hotham Summit.

The view over the Victorian Alps from near Mt Hotham Summit.

Image thanks to Cycling Profiles

Image thanks to Cycling Profiles

MT buller

  • Length: 15.3km
  • Average Gradient: 6.2%
  • Elevation Gain: 921m
  • Max Gradient: 13%
  • Max Elevation: 1560m
  • Start: Mirimbah toll booth, Victoria
  • Finish: Entry to Mt Buller village
Photo thanks to Kristin Simpson, Photographic Artist.

Photo thanks to Kristin Simpson, Photographic Artist.

Image thanks to Cycling Profiles

Image thanks to Cycling Profiles

MT buffalo

  • Length: 23km
  • Average Gradient: 5%
  • Elevation Gain: 1119m
  • Max Gradient: 11%
  • Max Elevation: 1420m
  • Start: Eurobin Picnic Area, Victoria
  • Finish: Dingo Dell Cafe, Mt Buffalo


  • Length: 6.5km
  • Average Gradient: 11%
  • Elevation Gain: 741m
  • Max Gradient: 20.6%
  • Max Elevation: 1460m
  • Start: The Gantry, Mt Baw Baw Tourist Rd
  • Finish: Mt Baw Baw village entry gates
Pic thanks to the Climbing Cyclist - note the old-style WOR jersey!

Pic thanks to the Climbing Cyclist - note the old-style WOR jersey!

lake mountain

  • Length: 20.9km
  • Average Gradient: 4%
  • Elevation Gain: 932m
  • Max Gradient: 10%
  • Max Elevation: 1345m
  • Start: Marysville, Victoria, Australia
  • Finish: Lake Mountain Village

fAlls creek

  • Length: 30.9km
  • Average Gradient: 4%
  • Elevation Gain: 1181m
  • Max Gradient: 10%
  • Max Elevation: 1500m
  • Start: Mount Beauty, Victoria, Australia
  • Finish: Falls Creek Village

dinner plain

  • Length: 42.8km
  • Average Gradient: 2.1%
  • Elevation Gain: 943m
  • Max Gradient: 11%
  • Max Elevation: 1500m
  • Start: Omeo Bakery, Omeo, Victoria, Australia
  • Finish: Dinner Plain village entry sign

donna buang

  • Length: 16.8km
  • Average Gradient: 6.4%
  • Elevation Gain: 1069m
  • Max Gradient: 11.4%
  • Max Elevation: 1252m
  • Start: Warburton, Victoria, Australia
  • Finish: Donna Buang Lookout Tower



















Col de la croix de fer

  • Length: 27.5km
  • Average Gradient: 4.7%
  • Elevation Gain: 1292m
  • Max Gradient: 9%
  • Max Elevation: 2064m
  • Start: Barage de Verney, Rhone-Alps, France
  • Finish: Col sign
Image thanks to climbbybike.com

Image thanks to climbbybike.com

alpe d'huez

  • Length: 13.2km
  • Average Gradient: 8.1%
  • Elevation Gain: 1071m
  • Max Gradient: 13%
  • Max Elevation: 1815m
  • Start: Bourg d'Oisans, Rhone-Alps, France
  • Finish: Alpe d'Huez village
Clare on one of the final hairpins, Alpe d'Huez

Clare on one of the final hairpins, Alpe d'Huez

Image thanks to climbbybike.com

Image thanks to climbbybike.com

MT ventoux

  • Length: 21.4km
  • Average Gradient: 7.6%
  • Elevation Gain: 1639m
  • Max Gradient: 12%
  • Max Elevation: 1912m
  • Start: Bedoin, Provence, France
  • Finish: Mt Ventoux Summit 

col du galibier

  • Length: 8.5km
  • Average Gradient: 6.9%
  • Elevation Gain: 585m
  • Max Gradient: 10%
  • Max Elevation: 2642m
  • Start: Col du Lautaret, Rhone-Alps, France
  • Finish: Col sign at top
It's busy on the Col, 2 days before the arrival of the Tour de France

It's busy on the Col, 2 days before the arrival of the Tour de France

col du vence

  • Length: 19.3km
  • Average Gradient: 5%
  • Elevation Gain: 958m
  • Max Gradient: 12%
  • Max Elevation: 963m
  • Start: Cagnes sur Mer, Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur
  • Finish: Col sign

col du lautaret

  • Length: 28km
  • Average Gradient: 3.1%
  • Elevation Gain: 853m
  • Max Gradient: 5.2%
  • Max Elevation: 2057m
  • Start:  Briancon, French Alps
  • Finish: Col sign
Profile thanks to Climbbybike.com

Profile thanks to Climbbybike.com

COL DE La bonette

  • Length: 24km
  • Average Gradient: 6.6%
  • Elevation Gain: 1589m
  • Max Gradient: 9%
  • Max Elevation: 2802m
  • Start: Jausiers, Provence-Alps Cote d'Azur, France
  • Finish: Col sign at top

COL de l'izoard

  • Length: 15.9km
  • Average Gradient: 6.9%
  • Elevation Gain: 1095m
  • Max Gradient: 12%
  • Max Elevation: 2361m
  • Start: Guillestre, Rhone-Alps, France
  • Finish: Col sign at top
The view from one of my favourite little restaurants in the French Alps, hiding along a dirt road, high above Bourg d'Oisans

The view from one of my favourite little restaurants in the French Alps, hiding along a dirt road, high above Bourg d'Oisans

Alpe d'Huez: The Hollywood Climb?

Clare Holdsworth

Alpe d'Huez is one of the most famous climbs in the world of cycling.  21 hairpin bends, 13.9km, with an 8.2% average gradient form Bourg d'Oisans in the valley below, the climb to Alpe d'Huez is historic, fun, epic, challenging, beautiful... and an icon of the Tour de France.  Wide Open Road will be back in 2015 as part of our Nice to Alpe d'Huez cycling holiday.  Not only will we ride it, but we will ride it when it is lined with thousands of spectators and camper vans, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the 2015 Tour de France!  Watching the Tour on Alpe d'Huez is a lifetime experience.  But climbing the Alpe is a pilgrimage that all cyclists should make.  Here's a little vid. profiling the climb to whet your appetite, produced by Bike Radar

Profile, thanks to climbbybike.com

Profile, thanks to climbbybike.com

Bourg d'Oisans, a cyclists mecca at the foot of l'Alpe d'Huez

Bourg d'Oisans, a cyclists mecca at the foot of l'Alpe d'Huez

"Les 21 virages"... the 21 hairpin bends

"Les 21 virages"... the 21 hairpin bends

Made it... !

Made it... !

Awaiting the arrival of the Tour de France

Awaiting the arrival of the Tour de France

Dutch corner

Dutch corner

Stage finish on Alpe d'Huez, 2013

Stage finish on Alpe d'Huez, 2013


Joining both 2015 holidays?

Clare Holdsworth

How to travel from Grenoble to Milan

Our Nice to Alpe d'Huez ride finishes on the morning of Sunday the 26th of July on Alpe d'Huez and our Classic Northern Italy ride starts on Wednesday 29 of July in Milan in the evening.

At the end of our Nice-Alps ride, we will help organise transport for you from our hotel on Alpe d'Huez to Grenoble on the morning of 26 July.   Grenoble is a large town at the foot of the Alps situated approximately 65km from Alpe d'Huez.  Grenoble has  a major rail station with links throughout Europe.

The quickest way to get from Grenoble to Milan is by train.

There are multiple daily trains connecting Grenoble to Milan.  The total duration of this service is 5:15mins and costs approximately 40 Euros per person for second class. There is one change at Chambery.  See http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/ for bookings. Please note that bookings with SNCF do not open until around 3 months prior to departure date.

There are also options for bus travel (approx. 7.5 hours, 20 Euros) with Eurolines

We will take your bicycle and bike box with us in our luggage van.

What to do for 4 days off the bike?

If joining us for both trips, we would suggest you have some rest, recovery and relaxation!  Milan is a world-class city, known for its fashion, art and architecture.  You would not be short of things to do by spending a couple of days exploring the city sights.  Grenoble is known for its restaurants, museums and nightlife and could make an interesting stop for a day or two.

If you have any questions or want more information, give Clare a call +61 411 362 644 or send us an email.




2015 Season Launch

Clare Holdsworth

Our 2015 ride schedule is now confirmed and bookings are open!

Tour de France: Ride from Nice to Alpe d'Huez via Provence, Mont Ventoux and arrive in the Alps to see final mountain stages of the 2015 Tour de France!  2 weeks 11-26 July*

Northern Italy: Lakes, Alps and Dolomites - Ride from Milan to Venice via Lago di Como, the classic climbs of the Giro d'Italia including the Passo di Gavia and Stelvio and the Sella Ronda loop in the Dolomites!  We finish with a descent to the Med and spectacular finale arriving in Venice! 12 days, 29 July - 10 Aug*

* Dates accurate to within a few days. Exact dates TBC following release of the Tour de France in the last week of October.