Les Grande Traversées du Vercors (GTV) is a mountain biking, hiking, or horse riding itinerary through the stunning Vercors National Park, just outside Grenoble. It is one of my favourite parts of France, a playground for outdoor adventure sports, yet relatively unknown to tourists, which means you don’t have to share the roads or trails with many, if any, other people.
I had wanted to do the 230km GTV loop for a while but didn’t have a mountain bike. But having recently purchased a Canyon 29er hardtail for the Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan later this month, I was now able to have a crack at the GTV.
The plan was to not beast ourselves, no stupid early starts or riding late in the evening, just leisurely mountain biking to enjoy the stunning scenery in a magical place. In addition, we could to do a proper test of the new bikes and all of the kit we will be taking to Kyrgyzstan. Loaded with 4 days of meals and snacks, cooking and camping equipment, we were completely self-sufficient and had no fixed mileage we needed to do each day.
We were quick to realise we had completely underestimated the terrain. The GTV is a set route and has its own guidebook, but I hadn’t really read it, I had just looked at the pretty pictures and plotted my route from the maps. I naively assumed it would be a ‘family friendly’ touring route. I was so wrong!!! We had anticipated we would leisurely cover about 80km on the first day. But no, we worked our buts off to manage just 55km in the 36 deg heat. With our heavily loaded bikes, hike-a-bike became a major proportion of the 3.5 days, and it turned into more of a training trip than a leisurely one. There were sections on day 3 that took both of us to shuttle bags and bikes separately up the steep mountain path and even lift one bike between us over steep sections of rock, covering less than a kilometre in an hour.
If you didn’t have heavily ladened bikes and were an experienced mountain biker rather than a roadie like me, I’m sure there would have been a lot less hike-a-bike than we encountered. So don’t let it put you off. Also, a lot of it was down to our expectations, we shouldn’t have assumed it would ALL be wide 4×4 tracks.
Despite being a little tougher than expected, it was still AMAZING! Blue skies every day, soaring golden eagles, deer, wild boar, hares, kilometre after kilometre of not seeing a single person, wild camping in magical spots, and just beautiful vistas all around.
I know I said it when I was last in the Vercors with my road bike… but you really must visit, it’s stunning!
Click on an image below to view the photo gallery.