ToughNot for nothing the NTFU said this is the world's toughest ride. Cycling in the Pyrenees and Alps is difficult, but especially the continuous lengthy climbs, day in day out, are very hard on a human body, both physically and mentally. The total ascent is almost 70 K. In comparison, the well known Liège-Bastogne-Liège is 3K and the Tour de France 20 K in altitude gain. It's recommended to have a few years of experience in cycling mountainous areas. As the major cols don't open up before June 1 there's enough time to get trained in spring.
We think that the 100 cols tour can be done by any healthy and fit cyclist, provided they take enough time. In some cases it's recommended to get a physical examination prior to the ride in a specialized sports centre.
You don't have to be an excellent climber, many of them did not finish.. The first requirement is a tremendous power of endurance, because it will be hard every day.
Those who have finished the ride mostly used 20 to 40 days to complete the tour, often divided over several years. Participants were beween 16 and 72 years old. We do not allow younger children to take part of the 100 cols.
Both men and women have succeeded. Until now more than 125 women participated, more than 25% succeeded.
You will need at least a 42x28 drive chain to survive the Alps and Pyrenees. Do not mount small sprockets like 11..13, because you will need the bigger ones.
If you are not an excellent climber, you better mount a triple drive chain or a compact.
The Hundred Cols Tour is not only very demanding for the rider, but also for the bicycle. A well banced bike of light, strong tubes is necessary. One needs strong material to withstand the enormous power that is applied in the long ascents. Brakes and ballhead have a hard time, pay attention to these parts. Keep in mind that many parts do wear significantly during the 4000 km. If you ride the tour in one time, use as much new parts as possible. Especially tires, brake pads, chain and chainwheels, cables etc. will wear fast.
Most cyclists have done the ride without a sag wagon, and it was shown that 7 kg of luggage is manageable if you prefer staying in B&B's or hotels.
We do not recommend riding with a sag wagon, as it spoils much of the adventure. Sometimes this can be more troublesome than helpful (you forget to take the stuff you need on the bike).
Moreover, it's not easy to drive a sag wagon in mountainous areas for a long time.
The 100 Cols is an individual challenge. Many of our participants will ride alone, but some ride in groups of 2 or 3, and sometimes much more.
Please note that riding in groups can be very stressful, as many riders will be at the edge of their capabilities, and their irritation tolerance will be low. The bigger the group, the bigger the risc. It would not be the first time that a group explodes, and the riders do not have the enormous satisfaction that other riders will experience when completing the 100 cols.
You may prevent tension in the group by making clear arrangements about the organisation. Agreement about waiting for each other, the length of trips, the speed, and the care for weaker riders will prevent problems.
How long will it take?
We do not apply limitations on the completion of the 100 Cols. You may take as long as you wish, both in days, and also in years. You do not have to do the tour in one piece, nor in the given direction. You may start and stop whereever you want, as long as you ride the whole tour and can prove that with stamps.
Below is a graph that shows the distribution of the time riders needed.
By planning also take the openingdates of the cols into account. The major cols generally do not open before 1. june.
You may follow a detour when cols are closed due to weatherconditions. But this is only allowed in summertime, as defined in the table below.
||1 june - 1 october
||Puy Mary (Massif Central )
Pyrenees from Col d' Aubisque to Col d' Agnes
Alps from Col de la Bonette to Cormet de Roselend
||15 mai -1 october||Mont Ventoux
||1 mei -1 october||Grand Ballon (Vosges)|
||1 april -1 november||Other areas|
You'll have to find out where to stay every night, as there are not hotels in every village. There are enough campsites and if there aren't any, camping wild is allowed provided you check with the police. Unfortunately many hotels in France have closed over the last ten years because of tight law restrictions. So there is not too much hotel accommodation on some parts of the route. The itinerary shows information on the availablity of hostels, B&B's or hotels in a given location. Mostly you can find a 2-person bedroom for less then € 70.
You can also stay in a so-called "Chambres d' Hôte", which are B&B's. They are often indicated along the road. Generally breakfast is better than in hotels, but it's not always possible to have dinner here. Dinner is however available in special B&B's that are indicated as "Table d' Hôte", but dinner must be reserved in advance.
A list of accommodations along the route can be downloaded in XLS-format (Excel 2003) and XLSX-format (Excel 2007 a.l.)
Food is important. As you can't take all your food with you, you'll have to make a choice from French food. We recommend the heavier "Pains de Campagne" over the ordinary 'baguette' . You can get enough cold cuts for your bread in supermarkets (ham, cheese, marmelade). If you don't want to make your own sandwiches you can buy them in bars or boulangeries too.
We recommend the tins of rice-pudding sold as a dessert in many supermarkets. Most restaurants offer delicious food , but the portions may not be adequate for cyclists. You 'd better make clear you're a cyclist, so you may get a larger portion. Coffee and hot chocolate are available in most café-bars. Tea and "citron-pressé" are better choices in the south. You can take fruit juices in the water bottles. We recommend a minimum of 2 bottles, one filled with pure water, which may be needed in warmer areas like the Provence to keep your head cool.
Drinks are rather expensive in bars and cafés. It is cheaper to buy cooled drinks in supermarkets, boulangeries or gasstations.
Energy drinks are very suitable for the long climbs in the high mountains, but it is not recomended to drink it too much for too long. It is not only expensive, but you have to take a lot of powder with you, and your stomach may not take it after a few days.
Depending on the time of year, but even in summer time, you can encounter big temperature shifts. Expect winterly weather, like hail and snow storms, but also climbs in stifling heat at temperatures of up to 40 °C. A cap, gloves, but also a long collant and raincoat are a must! Never ride with a bare body, as it is a too high risk for sun burn or too much cooling off in descents. Sun protection is important too, especially for your nose and ears.
In the burning sun, a helmet will do more harm than benefit when climbing the cols, so make sure to store it safely on the bike. But it is not wise to ride with a bare head, so we recommend a white cap, which you can keep wet. White caps can be ordered at the secretariat (see pricelist). You will often need a raincoat during descents because of the rapid cooling of your body. In case of hot situations you should use a shirt with an easy to open zipper.
You may also want to order the special 100 Cols outfit. This is very suitable clothing of extremely high quality.
When cycling in the mountains for several weeks you will have to accept a lower level of personal hygiene. You can't take clean clothes with you for every day. Try to wash them often, make sure to pay attention to the bibshort, as your bottom is the most vulnerable part of your body when cycling.
The risk of severe crashes in the mountains is much bigger than in flatter courses. In descents you will need to take great caution, as you won't be the first participant that comes home in an ambulance. Especially rainy descents are very dangerous, as well as snow walls, as cattle is sheltering underneath. The manure in combination with melting snow often results in very slippery roads. Fog is dangerous too, take care for 'cattle on the loose'. We recommend wearing a good helmet. Some modern helmets do not ventilate enough. Pay attention to this when purchasing a helmet, as heat is among the biggest problems en route.
Another danger next to sun and cold are the pitch-dark tunnels. If you don't carry light, do carry a large rear reflector, as it is not uncommon that cyclists are hit by traffic inside tunnels. Also the road surface can be quite bad due to snowchains used in wintertime.
Unfortunately there are few French who speak any other language but French, although younger people tend to speak english nowadays. Who doesn't speak the language will have a major problem. Sign language and pointing will help, as well as a language gide. The experience is that after a few days it gets easier to order coffee and arrange a night's stay.
This tour is very special. If you want to be recognised as a successfull rider, you have to comply to rules in the controlbooklet. This means that you are required to get a dated stamp at the start and the end every time you ride a piece of the track (banks, post offices, railway stations) and have to get another stamp (not necessarily a dated stamp) in the required control places (village, city and sometimes on top of a col). If you take more than one year to finish, you will need to get both a finish stamp and a start stamp in the town where you get off the route. We are not being picky when checking the booklet, but are very consistent.
There is no limit to the number of years, but every year you have done a part of the tourr, you have to send in the booklet prior to November 1. Once finished, your name will be added to the 100-cols register.
Not a race
The 100 Cols is not a race and there is no such thing as a time record. Every participant gives her or his best and wins his or her own contest. We strongly advise to ride the cols at a safe speed, you are sure to be able to maintain until the top. Do not let others impose your speed.
We will not collaborate in records, and will not publish times taken by individual riders to complete the tour. Moreover it is hard to speak of a record, knowing the route changes every 2 years.The only records we recognize are these:
It is recommended to have a good travel insurance.
Make sure your insurance covers (medical) help in foreign countries and transport of you and your bike back home in case of accidents or emergency.