I'm looking to do the climbs around Alsace Lorraine region at the end of April, anyone done these climbs? or have lived/stayed in the region around this time? I'm looking to see how the roads are really at that time of year, thanks
About 20 years ago I spent a year at University in Mulhouse (Haut Rhin, so the southern part of Alsace). It was not really a hot bed of cycling at the time, but on the occasions I borrowed a bike - Ballon d'Alsace, another time to ride into Switzerland enacting my own Steve McQueen great escape - I found the roads to be fine. They were a little dead in terms of surface but good condition in terms of potholes and the like. It will be warming up nicely, and the roads were never too busy, and those that were generally saw the drivers being fairly respectful. The Route Des Cretes which follows the spine of the Vosges is pretty and most of the traffic would take the more parallel main road between Mulhouse, Colmar (very pretty) and Strasbourg. There some proper chocolate box towns like Riquewihr and Munster (you'll smell it from a distance). To the south and west there is the Jura, now the hunting ground of Thibault Pinot. Some great wine AND beer in the area for post ride relaxation.
winters are cold and the summer months can be quite stifling, so April or May is a decent time to go weather wise. I can't comment too much on Lorraine I'm afraid.
We've had two cycling holidays in Alsace in the last three years and absolutely love it. We chose a base at the foot of the hills / mountains which gave us the choice of either climbs or flat valley riding.
It's a cyclist's paradise, good roads, not too much traffic off the main routes, polite drivers, and lots of fantastic medieval towns and villages. It's really quite different to the rest of France due to its unique history.
We were on a tandem so didn't want massive alpine sized climbs and the Vosges are perfect in that respect, big enough to be a challenge but not too big. On the other hand if you do want to max out the climbing it's easy enough to string a series of cols together. A lot of the climbs spend a lot of time in the forest though, certainly in the area north of Colmar, so if ever expanding views are your thing it might not be ideal.
Only downside in April might be the weather, could be a bit raw if you're unlucky. Snow should have pretty much gone off the tops by then.
cheers mate much appreciated! off to the region I'll go
I'd add a positive review to the comments above. I visit regularly and often take my bike, I did a week at the end of May last year with around 200 miles around the Munster Valley.
I won't duplicate but would echo the comment on weather, the winters are cold and the local ski fields try to stay open until Easter if possible so take some warm kit. It is easy to find long climbs, 7-9 miles for example, with pretty steady gradients and plenty of 4-5%. You can find steeper if you look. The Strava global heat map and Strava segment explore features will guide you to popular roads.
Roads are good and wide, most are not too busy and some are almost deserted. The Col de la Schlucht counts as a busy road through the mountains but I have never felt unsafe on it and others can be car free for miles at a time.
Overall it is a very beautiful region and wealthy due to proximity to Germany. Culture is based around restaurants and wine but it is easy to find cafes with terraces for a coffee or beer. Pubs and bars are not a big part of the going out culture there. As mentioned, Riquewihr is one of many postcard towns. Eguisheim is another but almost all of the towns on the 'wine route' have lovely medieval vistas.
Thanks again, I'm trying to do Simon Warrens 100 greatest climbs book, im on mountain 26 so would like to bump off the Vosges climbs next such as the Grand Ballon and the Schlucht, Firstplan etc etc, best central location? Cheers Sean
I stayed at a campsite near La Bresse both in June and the end of August. Straight out onto the climbs which I loved. Pretty traffic free and as others have said not ridiculously hard. Route des Cretes along the ridge is a great ride with cafes dotted along it. Nice n warm at that time but I like that.
Start of Sept in the Southern Vosges for a week and it started to get chilly and worse on the tops. I found there were less climbing routes compared to the central area.
Wouldn't hesitate to go again.
I stay in Munster when I'm there which has the Schlucht, Markstein, Firstplan, Wettstein, Grand (and petit) Ballon and more on the doorstep, no need to drive to start a ride. I plotted a route from Munster which included the Ballon d'Alsace (Eddy Merckx TdF direction) but that would be a long day in the saddle, over 100m however you slice it. I'm sure there would be other perfect bases though depending on which routes you fancy. Planche des Belles Filles is also well known from the TdF but that's way over on the other side, would need a drive first.
Most of the tourism for that area is on the Eastern side of the Vosges, North West and South West of Colmar. The wine route is a big deal regionally and it's all on that side. I don't think you could go too far wrong, just play around on mapmyride or ridewithgps to gauge distances including the climbs you want to hit.
A good intro to the terrain around the Munster Valley could be seen (if I could find it!) in a flyover of stage 9 of the 2014 and less so in stage 10. Hunt on Youtube, you might be able to find one. I'll see if I can see the Simon Warren list and if I'm off track I'll post again.
Yes, just seen Simon Warren's list. Munster would be central to the bulk of the climbs, La Bresse is a good shout as well. I think Ballon d'Alsace from the North is feasible with a long ride from either of those places, I would imagine that Planche des Belles Filles may need a drive first. Munster and Turckheim are the bigger towns in the Munster Valley, all the other villages, all the way up to Sondernach at the base of the Platzerwasel (been down that a few times) are fairly small. I think you'll love it wherever you are based.
Cheers I'll start booking flights forthwith!
My inlaws live in Remiremont, on the edge of the hills. Very pretty region but weather can be dreadful - generally cold and wet. A few years ago we had snow on may 7th... so april might be a bit early.
Stayed on an awesome eco campsite https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1945722-d6994788-Reviews-Campi... and you can cycle straight out the door. Did a big long loop to le grand ballon from there. Even managed to find a col with my family name (Hayes) which i was chuffed about.
food is pretty good and hearty too, my father in law promotes l'andouille du val d'ajol (a local sausage) so def give it a go. Some small local breweries have started too in the area so u can find decent recovery ales too (le Madelon is the local one to Remiremont and highly recommended).