The ‘Les 3 Ballons’ is a cyclo-sportive event that takes place in the north-east of France and takes its name from the three Vosges passes that are covered during the race: the Ballon de Servance, the highest point in the Haute-Saône; the Grand Ballon, the highest peak in the Vosges massif; and finally, the famous Ballon d'Alsace.
The route of this event of about 200 kilometres (124 mi) varies every year, but it always passes by these three summits. Rather than a race, I propose an adventure. Rather than trying to break records, I invite you to take the time to admire the landscapes offered by the Vosges massif. Rather than a day without a break, take three days to enjoy the lakes, the forests, the heritage of the region and the local produce. But don't be fooled: even in three days, the route remains challenging. The stages vary from 68 to 80 kilometres (42 – 52 mi), with a difference in altitude of 1,500 to 1,700 metres (4,920 – 5,580 ft). The road is in very good condition thanks to the frequent visits of the Tour de France.
From Champagney, a long false flat leads to the foot of the mountain. The first pass you climb is the Ballon de Servance, which represents more than 900 metres (2,950 ft) of elevation gain. A long descent takes you back to the valley before climbing up to the Oderen pass, which is a mere formality compared to the Ballon de Servance. This first stage ends at the Kruth-Wildenstein lake.
The second stage offers remarkable landscapes thanks to around 20 kilometres (12.5 mi) on the route des crêtes, at an altitude of 1,200 metres (3,940 ft). This road, which winds between Franche-Comté and Alsace, offers numerous viewpoints of the surrounding valleys. The descent of the Grand Ballon allows you to reach the town of Masevaux via the Hundsruck pass.
I'll save the best for last, as the final stage includes the Ballon d'Alsace at an altitude of 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) and the fearsome Planche-des-Belles-Filles climb, with slopes steeper than 25%! Between these two summits, rest at the Malsaucy pond or at the Champagney basin.
I recommend doing this route between March and October. The temperatures then are mild and you won’t find snow at the passes.
You could start this adventure from any of the surrounding towns, but Champagney is the closest village to the mountain with several daily trains from Belfort, Epinal and Vesoul. From Belfort-Ville and Vesoul, a train stops at Champagney every 30 minutes in the morning and evening, and every two hours during the day. From Epinal, only four trains a day serve Champagney. These TER trains normally allow you to take your bike without a special reservation, but check when you book your ticket.
To get back from the last stage at La Planche-des-Belles-Filles, it’s easy to get to Champagney, a few kilometres downhill, and then take a train.
This first stage leaves from Champagney, where you can easily find bakeries and a mini-market to buy provisions for the day. This Tour of nearly 70 kilometers offers two climbs: the Ballon de Servance and the Col d'Oderen, for a total elevation gain of 1,500 meters and 1,200 meters of descent.The ascent of the Ballon de Servance stretches over …
From Lake Kruth-Wildenstein to Masevaux, 67 kilometers of small mountain roads await you, with more than 1,600 meters of elevation gain. Most of these roads are frequently used by the Tour de France and are therefore in very good condition.After 2 kilometers of flat terrain to warm up to an altitude of 570 meters, the Col du Bramont takes …
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This third and final stage is the most difficult: hardly surprising when you know that the Ballon d'Alsace and the Planche-des-Belles-Filles are on the program!After ten kilometers of a 2% false flat, it's time for the ascent of the Ballon d'Alsace. For more than 7 kilometers, false flats and climbs of more than 15% follow one another up to …