Newsletter - Odds & Ends

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club


Cycling Challenges in France

Following PBP 2003, Michel Richard stuck around in France and rode several other cycle-tourist events: Raid Pyrénéen, the Diagonale: Hendaye-Menton, and Randonnée Alpine. Events like these are naturally of interest to randonneurs and other distance cyclists, and I thought an information page might be helpful.

Most of this information is summarized or excerpted from the Lonely Planet guidebook: Cycling France... don't leave for France without it! It discusses everything from simple bike maintenance, to wine tours, to local history and geology. It also discusses a number of France's many challenging distance cycling events. (Click image for book details.) I don't look at all at Paris Brest Paris here - it is cover elsewhere: PBP

<-- Link to FFCT site. Contact information for brevet applications can be found in the Lonely Planet guide or on the web site of the Fédération Française de Cyclotourisme. (The FFCT site lists many events, but its usefulness is limited by organizational problems and insufficient detail.)

The links on this page, in the shaded boxes like this one, are direct links to elevation profiles, maps, and photos on The Mountain Site. Oops, it was a GeoCities site - gone in Oct 2009. Too bad. It was a helpful amateur enthusiast's project. The Mountain Site elevation profile links below are broken. I'll deal with this when I'm sure there is no archive retrieval option. (There doesn't seem to be.) There's a newer cluttery commercial site...

Contents (Jump to...) :

Permanent Brevets:
Flèches de France
Diagonales de France
Four Other Permanent Brevets:
        Raid Pyrénéen
        Randonnées Alpines
        Randonnées Des Cols Corses
        Brevet Des Sept Cols Ubayens

Scheduled Brevets:
        Paris-Roubaix Randonnée
        La Marmotte
        Brevet de Randonneur des Alpes ('BRA')
        Memorial Fabio Casartelli

Permanent Brevets:

These permanents fall into three categories: Flèches, Diagonales, and other free standing events not associated with the Flèches and Diagonales series. All require brevet cards with controls for verification. The rides are not on fixed dates (you can ride them anytime with the approval of the organizing bodies).

Flèches de France
[not to be confused with the Flèche Velocio team event - the model for our own Flèche Pacifique]

These brevets all start in Paris and go to 20 destinations around France, typically at its extremities. On a map, it's like a bunch of wiggly bicycle spokes all radiating from the hub, Paris. Dating back to 1954, these rides have become France's most popular permanents. The full series of 20 which adds up to about 11,000 km, will earn you a plaque ("plaquette") - image left (click it). About 650 of these have been awarded (2009). It's organized by our friends at Audax Club Parisien - the program director is Jean-Pierre PENDU. Here the list of Flèches destinations and distances: (Paris to…)

              Classique  Touristique

Calais          303 km      303 km 
Lille           261 km      275 km
Charleville     255 km      242 km
Strasbourg      505 km      489 km
Montbéliard     443 km      476 km
Belgarde        563 km      573 km
Briançon        771 km      772 km
Nice            960 km      973 km
Marseille       911 km      941 km
Perpignan       983 km      989 km
Luchon          871 km      879 km
Hendaye         904 km      906 km
Bordeaux        585 km      623 km
La Rochelle     474 km      481 km
Nantes          419 km      423 km
Brest           607 km      623 km
Mont St Michel  328 km      333 km
Cherbourg       388 km      402 km
Le Havre        220 km      224 km
Dieppe          171 km      184 km

Time limits (3 categories):
  Gold:   20 to 25 km/hr
  Silver: 15 to 20 km/hr
  Bronze: must cycle at least 80 km per day.

- Flèche de France web pages -
Full info on Audax Club Parisien web site


Diagonales de France

[ 'Amicale des Diagonalistes de France' web site - click image ]

Picture France as a large hexagon with six cities at its vertices: Dunkerque, Strasbourg, Menton, Perpignan, Hendaye, and Brest. Now imagine lines connecting each city to the three cities not immediately adjacent. This is the Diagonale formula. The organizing body is the 'Amicale des Diagonalistes de France', Bordeaux.

The Lonely Planet guide is a little short on information on these rides. It does say "like the other permanent randonnées and raids, riders carry a number plaque on their bicycle and must stamp a route card at specified contrôles. People riding these randonnées are known as diagonalistes; it is a great honour to complete all nine diagonals." Michel says that you can actually design your own route but that there are fixed time limits no matter what route you choose. The Lonely Planet guide lists these times as well as distances. Perhaps these are the distances of recommended routes or maybe the shortest routes.

Brest      - Menton     1400 km  116 hours
Dunkerque  - Perpignan  1190 km  100 hours
Strasbourg - Hendaye    1190 km  100 hours
Dunkerque  - Menton     1190 km  100 hours
Brest      - Perpignan  1060 km   89 hours
Brest      - Strasbourg 1050 km   88 hours
Dunkerque  - Hendaye    1050 km   88 hours
Hendaye    - Menton      940 km   78 hours
Strasbourg - Perpignan   940 km   78 hours


Four Other Permanent Brevets:

Raid Pyrénéen

"Slow Beginning for a Big Ride - Originally the dream of Cyclo Club Béarnais leading light, Maurice Bugard, in 1912, a definitive route for Raid Pyrénéen and a successful attempt on it had to wait until 1950. In June that year Paul Mathis left Cerbère with companion Mademoiselle Betbeder, to ride to Hendaye and establish a maximum time to challenge other randonneurs. That time was set at 100 hours for a 710 km route over 18 passes. Later, a version touriste more suitable for unsupported riders, was developed." Lonely Planet: Cycling France, page 412

This tourist version of the raid summits 28 passes (i.e. 10 more than the randonneur version, including the Col du Tourmalet [2115 m], and is a little longer [827 km]). It must be ridden over ten consecutive days. Both the touriste and randonneur versions of the ride can be ridden in either direction. After PBP, Raid Pyrénéen is the most popular and prestigious cycle-touring event in France. It is organized by Cyclo Club Béarnais, Pau.

Raid Pyrénéen - elevation profiles
(randonneur version)

Story: Andrew Powers: Raid Pyrénéen (1996)
Story: Stephen Craig - A Pyrenean Journey (2001)
Story: Judy Watt & Geoff Gadd - Raid Pyreneen: A Dream Come True (2001)
Story: Mark Thistlewood & Simon Chiswell: Raid Pyrénéen Report (2002)
Story: Dave Whitt: Raid Pyrénéan (2002)
Story: Martin Newstead: Raid Pyrenean (2003) Photos
Story: Jean Louis Acin: Un raid pyrénéen : Hendaye - Cerbère (en français)(2003) Photos
Story: Jon Muellner: 2003 Raid Pyreneen Ride Report
Story: Helen & Sam Goulding: Raid Pyrénéan: (2003)
Story: Mark Gordon - Raid Pyreneen 2004
Photos: uncredited - 2004 Raid Pyrenean
Photos: Rod Oliver - Raid Pyreneen (2005)
Story: Big Simon & Little Simon (?) - Riding the Raid Pyreneen 2006
Story: Helyn - Raid Pyreneen (2007)
Story: Gábor Györgyi - Pyrenees / Pyreneen by Bicycle, Raid Pyreneen 2007
Film:  Gábor Györgyi - Raid Pyreneen - Day 3: Col du Tourmalet (2007) (YouTube - 10 mins)
Film: silverthunder2 - Raid Pyreneen 2007 (YouTube 10:45)
Film: jamesmarshalltri - Raid Pyreneen 2007 (YouTube 5:09)
Story: Noel McCluskey - Raid Pyreneen (2008)
Blog:  Bobbo - HeyHo Velo on the Raid Pyrénéen (2008)
Photos: Fairbridge - Raid Pyreneen 2009
Stroy: Rick Gunn - Of Angels and Devils and the Raid Pyreneen (2009)

Story: Phil Roberts - A Very French Coast to Coast in June 2010

History: (author unknown - Dromara Cycling Club, Northern Ireland): a Raid Pyrénéan history (untitled)
(Photos of a Raid Pyrénéan by the Dromara Cycling Club, Northern Ireland - year not indicated - photos uncredited)

Raid Pyreneen Info Page (in French), with a history: Raid Pyreneen - Historique (PDF in French - uncredited)


Randonnées Alpines

"Siblings of the Raid Pyrénéen, these permanent randonnées exist in four variants: two with routes from Antibes on the Côte d'Azur via the French Alps to Thonon les Bains on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva); the others begin either in Venice or Trieste, traversing Italy and Switzerland to reach Thonon… Like the Raid Pyrénéen, the routes cross many passes which feature regularly in the Tour de France…

The Alpine route features a loop from Briançon into Italy across the infamous Col de Sestriere (2035 m), returning to France via Susa. The highlight of the route is the crossing of the stark Col de la Bonette (2715 m) on the highest tarmac road in Europe, which reaches 2802 m 2 km off-route at the Cime de la Bonette. Other well known Tour cols en route include Col de l'Iseran (2762 m), Col du Galibier (2645 m), Col d'Izoard (2361 m, and the location of a monument [photo linked below] to Tour greats Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet), Col de la Cayolle (2327 m) and Col de Vars (2111 m).

Col de Sestriere   2035 m
Col de la Bonette  2715 m  profile-N  profile-S  photo-N
[Cime de la Bonette        profile               photo    map]
Col de l'Iseran    2762 m  profile-N  profile-S
Col du Galibier    2645 m  profile-N  profile-S  photo-N
Col d'Izoard       2361 m  profile-N  profile-S  photo-S monument
Col de la Cayolle  2327 m  profile-N  profile-S
Col de Vars        2111 m  profile-N  profile-S

Veterans rate the Randonnée Préalpine through the foothills of the Alps the tougher route - it follows roads which rise and fall all the time and are not always as easily graded as on the major cols. It takes a lower and generally more westerly course than the Alpine but still rises over 2000 m within the first 170 km at the Col des Champs (2093 m). The highest pass is Col d'Allos (2244 m) at the 202 km mark.


Col des Champs     2093 m  profile-E  profile-W
Col d'Allos        2244 m  profile-N  profile-S

The organizer recommends no-one undertake these randonnées without utmost care in physical preparation and equipment and gearing selection." LP: Cycling France, pages 520-1

Randonnée Alpine    740 km, 43 cols (18,187 m)
Randonnée Préalpine 894 km, 48 cols (17,962 m)

Organized by Cyclos Randonneurs Thononais, in Thonon-les-Bains.

Randonnées Alpine (official? web site)
Includes route maps
Randonnées Préalpine (official? web site) Includes route maps
Thonon - Trieste - Alpine (an unofficial? web site)
Story: Jean-Marc Lefevre - Thonon-Antibes "Par les Préalpes" (2001)
Story: Jean-Marc Lefevre - L'Alpine: Thonon-Antibes (2002)
Story: Henri Courmont - Randonnée Alpine Trieste-Thonon (2002)
Story: Henri Courmont - Randonnée Alpine Antibes Thonon (2003)
Story: Henri Courmont, Jean-Pierre Smith -
Randonnée Préalpine de Rossini de Thonon à Venise (2005)
Story: Henri Courmont - Randonnée Préalpine Rossini Antibes-Thonon (2006)
Story: Mark Thistlewood & Simon Chiswell - The Raid Alpine (Randonnee Alpine) (2007)


Randonnées Des Cols Corses

"This ride, aimed at only the keenest cycle-mountaineers, visits virtually every pass on Corsica's roads. It starts and finishes at Bastia, the island's largest town, near the northern tip. It traverses busy towns, wild countryside and varied, geologically fascinating terrain, it connects most of the island's extremities - Cap Corse in the north, Bonifacio in the south, Cargèse in the west. Its highest pass is the Col de Bavella (1218 m), in the south-eastern quarter." LP: Cycling France, pages 521-2.


1504 km
154 cols (26,353 m of climbing)
No time limit

Organized by Cyclos Randonneurs Thononais, in Thonon-les-Bains.

Randonnées Des Cols Corses (official? web site) Includes route map
Story: Joel Greffier - Randonnée Permanente des Cols Corses (2005)


Brevet Des Sept Cols Ubayens

"This ride takes you over seven major cols in a series of loop rides from Barcelonnette, near the Italian border, to some of the highest passes in the Alps… Cyclists keen enough to conquer all seven can earn a medal… Special card punches have been installed at the top of the passes [photo in box, below] to enable cyclists to validate their route cards. Unfortunately vandalism and wear and tear may mean they don't all work properly all the time." LP: Cycling France, page 522.

Photo: Card Punch Station

Col de Larche*     1991 m  profile-N
Col d'Allos        2250 m  profile-N  profile-S
Col de la Cayolle  2326 m  profile-N  profile-S
Col de la Bonette  2800 m  profile-N  profile-S  photo-N
(plus 3 others) (* a.k.a. Colle della Maddalena)

Distance: 207 km
7 cols (obviously)
No time limit.

Contact: Maison de la Vallée de l'Ubaye, Barcelonnette

Scheduled Brevets:

There is a lengthy discussion of Paris Brest Paris in the Lonely Planet guide (pages 115-8), as well as briefer treatment of the four events listed below (pages 518-9).


Paris-Roubaix Randonnée

"Since 1974, masochists have had the opportunity to test their endurance and skills on a 'tourist' version of the grueling professional Paris-Roubaix classic… Only about 56 km of the ride is on genuine pave…The route is well marked and all cobbled sections are closed to motor vehicles. Food is available at contrôle points en route… All rides have a time limit." LP: Cycling France, pages 518-9.

April: Mt. bike version (120 km - starts in Raismes)

June:  4 distance options:

 50 km  starts from Attiches
 75 km  starts from Beuvry
120 km  starts from Raismes
275 km  starts at Cambronne-lès-Ribecourt, near Compiègne

Organized by Vélo Club de Roubaix Cyclotourisme
(web site -> click image)

Story: Bob Wade/Richard Somerset- Paris Roubaix Randonnee 2006
Story: John McDowall - Paris Roubaix Randonnee 2006

Story: John McDowall - Paris Roubaix Randonnee 2010


La Marmotte

"A gruelling kick-start to summer for about 4000 cyclist who, in a day, ride 174 km with 5000 m of climbing including the infamous crawl up the Alpe d'Huez." Start: Le Bourg d'Oisans.

Profile - Map - Route Sheet

(Profile above & map from Martin Bruinsma's page)

Col de la Croix de Fer  2068 m  profile-E  profile-W  map-W
Col du Télégraphe       1570 m
Col du Galibier         2645 m  profile-N  profile-S  photo-N
Col du Lautaret         2057 m  profile-E  profile-W  photo
Alpe d'Huez             1860 m  profile               map
or all together: La Marmotte [broken link]

Alternate Profiles - Recommended! (on the Ed Peters site)

La Marmotte "is one of three classic rides making up the Trophée de l'Oisans based in Le Bourg d'Oisans at the base of l'Alpe d'Huez, about 45 km south-east of Grenoble." The other two:

Grimpe de l'Alpe - 13 km mass start ride up Alpe d'Huez
Le Prix des Grande Rousses - 40 km up l'Alpe then on to ski station Vaujany, 1250 m

"Both events usually held within a week of La Marmotte. Riders receive a classification for each individual event in the Trophée de l'Oisans, and the times for the three events is compiled to give an overall classification." There is no mention of time limits. LP: Cycling France, pages 519.

Organized by 'Sport Communication'. [???]

Info: Wikipedia entry for La Marmotte
Info, stories, results (Dutch):

Film:  Reportage J. Laurent - La Marmotte 1984 (3:56) [short version (YouTube 2:00)]
Story: Barbara Leonard - Story 1994
Photos: Francis Cooke - Virtual Alps
Story etc: Ed Peters - La Marmotte, de ultieme uitdaging (Dutch) (same as
Story: Dit is Martin Bruinsma tijdens La Marmotte! in 1994 en 1995 (Dutch)
Web site: Info, results (Netherlands): La Marmotte
Story: Dana Albert - Riding La Marmotte (2003)
Story: Peter Hubert - La Marmotte Report 2004
Story: (No author) - La Marmotte (2004)
Story: Joel Bard - La Marmotte and The Death Ride (2004)
Story: Daylian Rousseau - Top Rides: La Marmotte ( (2005)
Film sample: (Sales page): (No author) - Marmotte route DVD (2006)
Story: Dana Albert - Return to La Marmotte (2006)
Story: (No author) - Cycling Alpe d'Huez, Col du Galibier - The Marmotte & Etape du Tour (2006)
Story: Heather Dawe - La Marmotte: A grand day out in the Alps (2006)
Story: (No author) - La Marmotte 2006 (The three amigo’s Tour)
Story: Lynn - La Marmotte (2006)
Story: James Shrubsall - Cyclo-Sportive: La Marmotte (Cycling Weekly) (2006)
Film:  105ultegra - La Marmotte 2007 (YouTube 6:56)
Film:  standringr - La Marmotte 2008 (YouTube 9:55)
Film:  standringr - La Marmotte 2009 (YouTube 10:00)
Article: The 2010 Marmotte - Mark Harding, James Dobbin

La Marmotte is also a restaurant in Telluride, Colorado - really


Brevet de Randonneur des Alpes ('BRA')

"Extremely difficult… based in Grenoble… thousands of cyclists… began in 1960… three route options…" LP: Cycling France, pages 519.

252 km - 4650 m elevation gain
260 km - 4950 m       "
300 km - 5400 m       "

Climbs include:

Col du Galibier         2645 m  profile-N  profile-S  photo-N
Col du Télégraphe       1570 m
Col de la Croix de Fer  2068 m  profile-E  profile-W  map-W
Alpe d'Huez             1860 m  profile               map

Story/Photos: (author not indicated) Riding BRA in Grenoble (2001)
Film:  standringr - 2007 Brevet de Randonneur des Alpes (YouTube 7:50)
Story: (author not indicated) The 2007 Brevet de Randonneur des Alpes
Photos, etc: jeanpba - Le Super BRA en images (2007)


Memorial Fabio Casartelli

In 1995 Fabio Casartelli fatally crashed on the decent from the Col de Portet d'Aspet, on a Pyrenean mountain stage of the Tour de France. The memorial ride, begun in 1997 is centred around St Girons, the starting point of the Casartelli's fatal stage. "Money raised from the event supports a fund established by the Casartelli family to aid professional cyclists injured in falls." It is a two day event with routes starting and finishing in St Girons within a time limit:

"Day 1 offers a choice of a 'small' 102 circuit or a 130 km (approximately) route visiting Col de la Core (1395 m), Col de Latrape (1110 m) and Col d' Agnes (1570 m).
Day 2 is a 95 km route with a stop at the memorial to Fabio Casartelli, near the bottom of the Col de Portet d'Aspet (1069 m)." LP: Cycling France, pages 518.

Col de la Core         1395 m  profile-E  profile-W
Col de Latrape         1110 m  profile-E  profile-W
Col d'Agnes            1570 m  profile-N  profile-S
Col de Portet d'Aspet  1069 m  profile-E  profile-W

Organized "with the support of the town of St. Girons."

Route Maps and overall profiles from the 2000 event

Eric Fergusson, January 2004
(updated most recently - December 2010)







Trento Bike Pages, France
Les Randonnees Permanentes (FFCT)

BIG: Brevet International du Cyclogrimpeur or here?
Brevet Randonneur des Pyrénées Centrales
Club des Cent Cols
OCD Cycloclimbing
Bienvenue sur le site du Mont Ventoux
Confrérie des Fêlés du Granc Colombier
Cyclo-climbing links page

XXAlps Extreme (results 2005 - UMCA)
Jean-Marc LEFEVRE photos


Broken Links:

Story: Adrian Spencer: Two Lumpy "Holidays" en France (1998) [gone: was here and here - cached here]
Story: Robert Enestedt & Mikael Przysuski: Raid Pyreneen 2002
Photos: uncredited: 2002 Raid Pyrénéan
Story: Julie Robinson - Raid Alpine 2003 (Thonon-Antibes) [gone: was here]
Story: Graeme Fife - A Raid Pyerneen Diary (2005)
Story: Stephen McNally - RAID Pyrenean 2006
Film:  wormauld - raid pyreneen (2007?)(YouTube 7:28)


Story: Francis Cooke - Raid Alpine: Thonon-Trieste 1995      [discontinued?]


Marmotte photos: Fons Rademakers - Photos 2001
Story: Mikael Przysuski - La Marmotte 2004
Films, Photos - Mike? - The Trilogy - VOL.3 La Marmotte (2007?) elsewhere?


Photos/story: jeanpba - Riding BRA in Grenoble (2001)
Info site: Le 44ème Brevet de Randonneur des Alpes - BRA 2007


Article: Jean-Paul Cazes - Mémorial Fabio Casartelli ~ 11ème édition (2007)