From Vienna, in Eastern Austria, to Nice, in the south of France, with three checkpoints located at the top of three legendary passes and a mandatory final 500 km-route through the Provence: this is the Three Peaks Bike Race. Between the checkpoints, the choice of route is yours, I plotted mine with komoot. The three iconic passes are the Großglockner in Austria, the Col de Sanetsch in Switzerland and Mont Ventoux in France.
After 4 days and 6 hours of racing through the Alps and taking in the stunning scenery, I finished just behind the winner Ulrich Bartholmoes.
In the end, the event stretched over 2,000 km with nearly 28,000 m of elevation gain. Truly, a demanding race that I finished in second place, after an average of 470 km per day.
The start is given in Vienna at 4 p.m. and the 130 riders set off. Carried out half day, half night, the first 350 kilometers are spent on quiet and bucolic country roads.
At daybreak, the big piece looms with the ascent of the Grossglockner at the top of which is the first Checkpoint. With an average slope of 8.5% and passages over 11% it is one of the most difficult passes in Europe. Once the switch has been made, I head for the Italian border.
I travel the Tyrol largely on cycle paths, to the city of Bolzano. At the end of these first 24 hours, I drove 600 km.
After a relatively flat section in Tyrol, I begin the ascent of the Fuorn pass in Merano. About halfway through, I cross the Swiss border and find myself in Grisons, one of the most beautiful regions of the country. The craggy alpine landscapes are breathtaking.I follow almost immediately with the ascent of the Albula pass, very demanding because it is steep. After a long descent in the dark, I take a little break with a portion of flat.
When the day breaks, I am in full ascension of the Oberalp. Fatigue is very present but it must be ignored because it is another big piece that awaits me after: the Furka Pass, made famous by Goldfinger.
Four passes in 300km, then, before taking a break on the flat towards Sion. This is where the climb begins to the second checkpoint, the Col du Sanetsch. I reach the top 48 hours after the start of the race. Over the past 24 hours, I have driven 444 km with 8,000 m of elevation gain.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
After descending the Sanetsch, I head towards Martigny. The litany of passes is not over since I have to climb the Forclaz to cross into France. When I arrive in Chamonix, night is falling.
It is in the dark that I go to Grenoble before launching my assault on the Hautes Alpes in the early morning. After the pass of Lus la Croix Haute, I head for Buis-les-Baronnies, a village from which I start to walk along the magnificent gorges of the Ouvèze.
The third 24 hour segment comes to an end as I get ready to climb the Ventoux.
It is very hot when I arrive in Malaucène, at the foot of the Ventoux, the summit of which is the third Checkpoint. Fortunately the climb is gentle and shaded on this side. From the Reynard chalet, the route is no longer free and I must follow the trail provided by the organization to reach Nice.
After the rapid descent of Bedouin, it is the ascent of the moderately steep but very long Perty pass that awaits me. No respite after the descent since it is the mountain of Lure that I must climb now. At about halfway I stop for a few hours to sleep. I resume the ascent at dawn and, on this splendid road, do not meet a living soul to the top.
If the immediate continuation of the course is devoid of col, the difference in height remains important. It is very hot in Provence, the succession of small bumps is difficult to manage.
The highlight of the show for these final kilometers is obviously the Verdon gorges. The imposed loop allows us to take full advantage of it. And the views from the lookouts are breathtaking. A final difficulty arises before reaching the finish: the Col de Saint-Barnabé.
Fortunately, it is an ascent that offers moderate percentages. Once you reach the top, there is mainly the descent before arriving at the Promenade des Anglais, which marks the end of this incredible adventure.