The 7 Majors challenge is a route between France and Italy that conquers the seven mountain giants of the Southern Alps: Vars, Izoard, Agnel, Sampeyre, Fauniera, Lombarde, and Bonette. Towering over 2,000 metres (6,560 ft), cycling legends have been written on their slopes. Each of the seven passes is demanding and different: one winds through pastures whilst the next twists and turns through rocky passes. They’re all equally dreamlike.
Over the years, the 7 Majors have become a ‘holy grail’ that many cyclists add to their bucket lists.
The route includes nearly 11,000 metres (36,000 ft) of elevation gain over 360 kilometres (223 mi). The most experienced cyclists have finished in under 24 hours! I suggest dividing the ride into three more digestible stages, starting from the small town of Barcelonnette. The first stage sets the tone with 154 kilometres (95.7 mi) and 4,000 metres (13,120 ft) of climbing. This route is demanding – you need to be a well-trained and passionate cyclist.
To reach Barcelonnette, catch the bus from Marseille Saint-Charles, Aix Arbois and Gap train stations.
This route is only possible in summer as most of the passes are covered in snow and closed to traffic until the end of June.
If you choose to set off from another starting point, I recommend riding clockwise, as proposed here. It’s best to climb the Sampeyre and Fauniera passes by their northern slopes as the southern slopes are in better condition for the descent. You still need to remain really vigilant on these passes as potholes, stones and poor road conditions are common. These are minor roads that aren’t prioritised for maintenance.
As for accommodation, you don’t have heaps of options, but you’ll find somewhere to stay at the end of each stage. I suggest spending the first night at the top of the Agnel pass on the border between France and Italy, and the second in a small Italian village on the plain. Don't forget to book!
Good luck! :)
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: September 11, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
I suggest you start this adventure in Barcelonnette, which allows you to warm up for about twenty kilometers to the sound of the lapping of the Ubaye before climbing your first pass, that of Vars.
On leaving Jausiers, around kilometer 9, the valley narrows and the Ubaye becomes tumultuous. Around km 14…
On the program for this second day, the Sampeyre and Fauniera passes. Two ruthless passes on imperfect or even non-existent roads that climb through the forest amidst wildflowers and marmots.
Around the thirtieth kilometer, you begin the ascent of Sampeyre under significant vegetation cover. The tone…
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The portion between Demonte and the foot of the Col de la Lombarde offers you a small transition phase before tackling the sixth of the 7 Majors.
In the first kilometers of the Lombarde, the hairpins are linked one after the other before the road finds a more linear profile. On the first half you progress…
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