The Alps Divide ULTRA is a self-supported, single-stage, mixed-terrain bikepacking challenge, weaving along the Western Alps, from the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Geneva.
DISTANCE: 1000 KM
POSITIVE ELEVATION: 32,000 M
START DATE: 7th September 2024
START LOCATION: Menton, France
FINISH LOCATION: Thonon les Bains, Lake Geneva
COUNTRIES: France, Italy & Switzerland
THE GOAL: Have a great adventure & stay ahead of the cut-offs!
What To Expect
We spent three years piecing together a route that showcases many of the amazing diverse landscapes the Alps has to offer, whilst taking you on paths less travelled. Spectacular and remote scenery, showing you places we hope you haven't been before.
Be rest assured, that the few hike-a-bike sections, are all well worth the effort. Nothing has been included just for the sake of it or to make the route harder. However, climbing 32,000 m of ascent, whilst staying ahead of checkpoint cutoffs, will be no mean feat! A beautiful but tough adventure awaits you.
How To Register
We have reached capacity. If you would like us to contact you when a place becomes available, please add your name and email to the waitlist by clicking the button below.
Please note that this event is limited to 100 places and can be ridden SOLO or as a PAIR.
The ULTRA Manual
The Alps Divide ULTRA is a personal challenge as well as a collective adventure, based on a love for bikepacking, discovery and self-sufficiency.
The objective is to complete the official route, with total autonomy, within the given timeframe. However, not to the detriment of your personal welfare, safety and overall enjoyment.
We have designed a diverse route, that will challenge you both physically and mentally. It will require you to have the ability to cycle for extended periods every day, but also the knowledge and experience of being self-reliant in a mountain environment.
The Alps Divide ULTRA is not a race. There is no prize money to be won.
You can register to ride SOLO or as a PAIR. If you want to ride as a pair, please both register individually and click pair when requested. The event has a limited number of places available and will be based on a first-come, first-served, basis. Riders must be 18+ years of age before the start.
Registration is a 2-step application process.
From the 22nd October, you will be able to register with a short application form. Once we receive your ‘Step 1 Application’ we will review it and then get back to you. The form includes a couple of questions about your previous bikepacking and ultra experience, but this is not a selection process. We will not be excluding anyone from entering based on lack of experience. However, if you are new to ultras, we may just ask a few more questions before step 2 of your application process. This is just so we can be sure you know what you are letting yourself in for, and offer advice, information and support for preparing for Alps Divide if you would like it.
We will send you a link to step 2, which will ask for some additional information and allow you to pay the registration fee. Only once you have paid, is your place in the Alps Divide secure.
You will also need to upload the following list of documents into your registration account, without these documents you will not be able to participate. However, this can be uploaded anytime before the 7th of August 2024.
- A medical certificate that proves you’re in good health and able to take part in the Alps Divide Ultra.
- A copy of your valid liability, death, accident and health insurance valid during the event that covers emergency extraction and repatriation insurance.
- A signed copy of the “Riders Agreement”. A liability waiver, acknowledging that by entering the Alps Divide Ultra you are aware that Alps Divide (SISU Adventures) won’t provide any kind of insurance for the event and will not be held liable for any damage whatsoever that may occur directly and/or indirectly to you or other parties. The Rider Agreement also gives Alps Divide (SISU Adventures) permission to use photo, video and sound recordings taken during the event.
The entry fee is 300 € for SOLO riders and 600 € for PAIRS (paid individually as 2 x 300 €).
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE FEE:
- GPX route files
- Tracker rental & online tracking map
- Official Alps Divide cap
- Brevet Card
- Small bag transfer to the finish line
- Bike box/bag transfer to the finish line
- Finish line Party
- Checkpoints manned 24 hours/day with volunteers
- Professional photographers on the route
- Pre printed tags for your bags
- Plus some additional surprises
This section will continue to be updated over the coming months as more information becomes available.
Registration will take place on Friday the 6th of September 2024. Time and place are still to be confirmed.
The Alps Divide Ultra will start at 8 am on Saturday the 7th of September 2024. The start location is the Grand Parking, 9 Quai Gordon Bennet, 06500 Menton (Coordinates: 43.78141, 7.51238). Please arrive at least 30 minutes before the start.
FINISH LINE LOCATION
The exact finish line location is still to be determined and will be updated here in due course.
The “provisional” route file finishes at Saint-Gringolph. The Ultra will NOT finish here due to the lack of accommodation for the number of riders. Anticipate an additional 10-20km to get to the finish line from this point.
THE CLOSING PARTY
The party will be from 6 pm, on Saturday the 14th of September 2024. It’ll be an opportunity to relax, exchange stories from the road and catch up with new friends.
We would love to see as many finishers of the route as possible, so we have made the cut-off time to be an “Official Finisher” of the Alps Divide Ultra, 8 pm Sunday the 15th September 2024, rather than the evening of the party. This gives you 8 days and 12 hours to finish the route, which means you will be required to cover at least 117 km and 3,700 metres per day to be an official finisher.
If you are not going to make the finish line cut-off time, please feel free to continue the route on your own, but please be aware that no further services or assistance will be available should you require it and that the Alps Divide team will no longer be at the finish to greet you.
There will be mandatory checkpoints along the route, where a stamp on your brevet card will be placed to confirm your arrival. The locations and cut-off times of the checkpoints will be updated here in due course.
The checkpoints will be open 24 hours, but please do take care to consider others when arriving outside normal daytime hours. Also, events such as this are only possible thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of our wonderful volunteers. No matter how tired you are, please be nice to them, they have given up their time and sleep to support you on this adventure.
If you reach a checkpoint after the cut-off time you will be out of the official riders’ list. You can continue and self-validate using a recognisable photograph at the checkpoint locations. However, please be aware that no further services or assistance will be available should you require them.
The route crosses serious, mountainous terrain. Registering for the ULTRA should not be taken lightly, it is a significant undertaking that will require a high level of fitness, extensive preparation and carefully selected equipment.
As much as we have tried to create as “ridable” route as possible, the going will be tough. The terrain will vary from smooth tarmac to unrideably steep footpaths. If you are looking for an event where you will ride your bike 100% of the time, then Alps Divide is not for you. However, rest assured that the few hike-a-bike sections you will encounter, are all well worth the effort for the views and to take you to quiet hidden valleys away from the crowds. Nothing has been included just for the sake of it, or to make the route harder.
The majority of the route is on gravel tracks, quiet paved lanes and single-track. However, in order to link up some of the remote sections, you will occasionally be on busier roads. Whether it’s day or night, you will be sharing these roads with vehicles, please take the upmost of care and make sure you can be seen.
There are small sections of the route where you will be on narrow trails/footpaths with consequential terrain around you. You need to stay vigilant and focused.
There is one particularly narrow section 9.5 kms into Section 2, which is mandatory for you to GET OFF YOUR BIKE and walk across. It is a very short 3m long section, with a wire cable attached for you to hold onto if needed. You are free to get back on your bike after this, but please note the following 1.5 km descent stays relatively narrow with exposed, consequential terrain to your left. It is an absolutely stunning piece of trail, but you need to be good with heights. If you arrive to this section in darkness, we STRONGLY recommend you walk the 1.5 km descent. If you suffer from vertigo, or have some concerns about this section, then please note we have included a road alternative, open to all riders, to bypass this narrow single track. (Route File – Section 2 Alternative).
There is no scarcity of resources along this route. You will find water fountains in nearly every village. There are bakeries and small supermarkets in most larger villages, and plenty of bike shops and hotels in towns along the way. Despite resupply being abundant along the route, it is worth noting that you may find opening hours of shops and restaurants to be quite limited, so please plan accordingly. You will also pass a number of mountain refuges on some of the more remote trails (check closing dates so you’re not left disappointed).
In September the weather should be good, and often regarded as the best month for exploring the mountains, with average temperatures between 8 and 22 degrees celsius. However, weather in the Alps can be serious. In September you’ll need to be prepared for anything. Ranging from: Soaring heat and avoiding the risk of dehydration. Thunderstorms, resulting in lighting strikes, hail, flash floods and landslides. Through to cold fronts bringing snow, below freezing overnight temperatures at altitude and the risk of hypothermia.
The route spends a lot of time going up to altitudes between 2000m – 3000m. Bad weather at these heights can be very serious! You really don’t want to be stuck on a ridge line or mountain pass in a big storm, so please monitor the weather carefully and make sensible decisions, knowing that the weather in the valley floor can have no correlation to isolated weather that might be happening on a 3000m mountain pass.
If you are lucky, you may encounter some of the spectacular wildlife the Alps has to offer. Bearded vultures Golden Eagles, Ibex, Chamoix, Deer and Marmots will all be watching you from afar, even if you haven’t spotted them yet. Several packs of Wolves and wild Boar also call parts of the route home, but your chances of encountering them is very unlikely. However, it’s worth being vigilant at night for wild boar or deer crossing your path when your descending, so they don’t become obstacles.
Patou, the Pyrenees mountain dog, probably represent the most dangerous animal you may encounter along the route. They are large dogs, with a thick white coat, and are bred to guard and protect sheep. It is important to know how to deal with them to be safe.
- If there is a flock of sheep up ahead, then you might find the Patou will come towards you barking furiously.
- They may come quite close (5 to 10 metres), they are just working out if you are a potential threat to the flock.
- Stop, get off your bike and stay calm, and speak calmly to the dog.
- Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog.
- Don’t do anything that could seem like a threat.
- Don’t shout, don’t wave your arms or throw stones.
- If the terrain allows, try and give the flock a wide berth.
- Move slowly away from the dog and the flock. If the dog starts barking again, stop again!
- The dog may take a several minutes to decide that you are not a threat, but It will gradually calm down and may then wander back towards the flock.
MANDATORY EQUIPMENT LIST
Riders are responsible for their set up and equipment. However, there is a mandatory equipment list for all riders taking part in the Alps Divide Ultra. This is so we can be sure you have at the very minimum the essential equipment needed for heading out into remote mountainous areas.
- Front light and back light
- Reflective vest – to be worn on the road at night or in poor visibility (French Law)
- Mobile phone
- Basic first aid kit – this includes bandages, antiseptic/sterile wipes, medication
- Suitable sleeping system – to be comfortable at altitude in September, where temperatures could fall below freezing
- Down jacket or synthetic equivalent – something warm if you get stuck in cold/wet weather.
- Waterproof jacket
- Emergency foil survival blanket
- Gloves – for weather protection rather than cycling specific. You should have two pairs, one waterproof and one warm.
The question we get asked the most! There is no clear-cut answer here, as the perfect bike does not exist. Whatever bike you choose to ride there will be times during the event you wish you chose something different.
We have ridden the route a good number of times, on both gravel bikes and mountain bikes, and even between us the organisers we have very different opinions on what we would choose if we were to take part in the event.
There are plenty of paved mountain roads and fast-rolling gravel, where you want a fast and light setup. However, there is also plenty of rough terrain, with many long rocky descents, where you will be very grateful for the extra comfort of a mountain bike and suspension, but it is not essential. There are also a few sections of the route where you will be hiking, regardless of your bike choice.
Whether you choose to ride a hardtail maintain bike or a gravel bike, have front suspension or no suspension, is completely down to how much comfort you need, your bike handling skills and what bike you have available to you.
One thing is for sure, we would recommend very low gearing, definitely less than 1:1, as the climbing is very steep in places and the climbs are long! We also recommend tyres that are at least 50mm / 2.0” wide.
Only time will tell what the majority of riders will choose!
GETTING TO THE START
Whether you arrive by car, rail, air or by bike, you will find Menton relatively straightforward to get to.
By train through France, you can take the high-speed TGV train to Marseille, before swapping to regional trains that will take you to Menton. Or you could arrive via Ventimiglia in Italy.
If you are arriving by air, then you will fly into Nice Airport. From there the regional TER trains depart from Nice-St Augustin Station frequently throughout the day. You can either walk to the station or catch one of the trams from either terminal for free. The train is a cheap and easy option but will take approx 1 – 1.5 hours as it is not direct.
You can also cycle from Nice Airport to Menton! A stunning 55km road route along the Côte d’Azur. We will add a Komoot route file here in due course.
GETTING FROM THE FINISH
If you are looking to fly home, then Geneva airport will be the closest airport.
As soon as the exact location for the finish line has been confirmed, we will update this page to provide travel logistics of how best to travel to the airport via train, taxi or bike, or to travel to other destinations by train etc.
TRAIN TRAVEL WITH A BIKE IN FRANCE
All SNCF trains allow you to travel with your bike. However, the acceptance rules vary depending on the type of train.
YOUR BIKE ON THE TGV (HIGH SPEED LINE)
On board TGV INOUI and INTERCITÉS trains, you have two solutions:
Option A: If your bike is NOT dismantled, you will need to reserve a place for your bike, for a fee of 10€, when purchasing your ticket. There are a limited number of these places available.
Option B: If your bike IS dismantled and placed in a bag/cover/bike box, with dimensions under 120X90cm, then your bike can travel for free (counted as luggage), does not need reserving and there is no limitation on spaces available. Please note, that from our experience if you arrive with your bike in a cardboard bike box, then you are likely to be turned away, as they are usually larger than the maximum dimensions.
If you are trying to opt for option A, and your search does not show any results, then either an unassembled bicycle cannot be taken on that particular train or there are no more spaces available. You will then need to resort to option B and modify your search criteria by adding “+ a bike” and choosing the “dismantled bike under cover” solution.
YOUR BIKE ON BOARD TER TRAINS (REGIONAL)
On board TER trains: your bike travels free of charge, suspended or placed in a space provided for this purpose. These locations are accessible subject to availability and cannot be reserved. You also have the option of travelling with your dismantled bike in a bag/cover/bike box no bigger than 120X90cm.
YOUR BIKE ON OUIGO TRAINS
On board OUIGO trains: your bike must be folded or dismantled and stored in a bag/cover/bike box no bigger than 120X90cm. It is compulsory to book an “Additional baggage” option, at the price of 5€, when purchasing your ticket.
BIKE BOX/BAG TRANSFER
Included in the registration fee is a bike box/bag transfer service from the start line in Menton to the finish line in Evians-les-Bains. You will be able to drop off your box/bag with us during registration on the 6th of September 2024, or before 7.30 a.m. at the start line, on the morning of the 7th of September 2024. Your bike box/bag should be empty, as we me need need to fold down cardboard boxes and soft bags.
SMALL PERSONAL BAG TRANSFER
Included in the registration fee is the option to leave a small bag with us (max 30 litres), for transport to the finish line. You will be able to drop it with us in the morning of the 7th of September 2024, just before the start. You will need to make your way to the finish line to pick up your belongings. Nothing will be left in the start town of Menton. Please do not leave any valuable items in this bag, to avoid any risk of lost items. It is meant just for a change of clothes and a few extra belongings to freshen up with when you arrive at the finish.
If you are forced to scratch from the event, and arrive at the finish by other means, please note your small bag and bike bag/box will only be available at the finish line from 6 pm on Wednesday 11th of September. The exact location still to be confirmed.
A few rules to preserve the spirit and values of bikepacking events.
RULE #1 – RIDE RESPONSIBLY & SAFELY
You will be riding on roads with public traffic, respect other vehicles and always comply with local laws. On public roads helmets are mandatory, and at night or in poor visibility the use of front and rear lights, and high-visibility vests are a legal requirement. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Make sure you sleep enough, sleep deprivation can be dangerous.
RULE #2 – HONESTY AND INTEGRITY
You must travel by your own human power (e-bikes are not allowed). Drafting is not allowed unless you participate as a pair. Side-by-side riding is allowed temporarily. We don’t want to discourage riders from sharing portions of the route with each other, meeting riders along the way is one of the best bits about events like this, but just keep in the back of your mind the spirit and integrity of riding self-supported.
RULE #3 – BE SELF-SUFFICIENT
Food, drink and belongings must be carried by you or acquired unplanned en route. Booking accommodation before the event starts is not allowed. You are not allowed to receive third-party support or private resupply, you can only use commercial services available to all participants. However, unexpected and unrequested help en route, “Trail Magic”, is allowed. as these are often the most memorable moments of these events. The pair is considered as a solo entity, they can share all the resources between them, but external assistance is still not allowed.
RULE #4 – CODE OF HONOR
A fair and safe event relies on honourable riders. If you see a fellow rider injured or in danger, your priority is to help them. Likewise, if you’re in danger please ask for help.
RULE #5 – STICK TO THE ROUTE
You must follow the official route we have given you. If the route is blocked by something unexpected (landslide, fallen trees etc – please take photographic evidence), you may leave the track, but you must return to it as soon as possible. Intentional shortcuts will impose time penalties.
You may also leave the route temporarily (to eat, rest, etc.), but you must return to the same point where you left off to continue the ride. In the event of a medical or mechanical emergency, use whatever transportation you need to get help, but return to the same point on the GPX file to continue your ride.
RULE #6 – INSURANCE & LIABILITY
You must sign and agree with the “Rider Agreement” and be older than 18 years at the start of the event.
You must have valid liability, death, accident and medical insurance for the duration of the event. Alps Divide (SISU Adventures) will not provide any kind of insurance or emergency rescue. Alps Divide (SISU Adventures) will not be responsible for any direct or indirect damage that may occur to you or other parties. All responsibility lies with you.
RULE #7 – LEAVE NO TRACE
Respect the environment and local communities you will be travelling through. You will be crossing some fragile ecosystems, please respect both the flora and fauna and leave nature unchanged.
RULE #8 – MANDATORY EQUIPMENT
We will provide a list of mandatory equipment that you must carry at all times during the event.
RULE #9 – RESPECT
Please respect other mountain users. Particularly hikers on single-track trails. They have priority, slow down or stop to let them pass.
Please respect staff & volunteers. Alps Divide is only possible thanks to volunteers giving up their time, and sleep, to support you on this adventure. So please be kind.
RULE #10 – TRACKER
Your ride will be validated by the tracker file. Riders are responsible for their tracking device being turned on and having enough battery. Turning off your tracker or long periods of inactivity could impose penalties. Check the tracker regularly.
The above rules will be predominantly self-certified. The event is based on trust that your completed ride has been ridden in good faith and rule compliance. However, if that trust is found to be broken, the event directors can impose penalties or disqualification. The event director’s decision is final.
Talk to us. If you are unsure about something and don’t know what to do, just ask.
If you end up in a situation where, for one reason or another, you decide to leave the event, “scratch”, please inform us immediately via a WhatsApp message or email. Please include as much information as possible regarding the circumstances of your withdrawal from the event, including your full name and cap number.
The phone number and email for this purpose will be listed here in due course and will be written on your brevet card.
All riders are welcome to celebrate with us at the event closing party, regardless of how you get there, but please note that finding a way to the finish line of the event is your responsibility and transportation in case of scratching is not included in the registration fee.
We understand that sometimes life doesn’t pan out quite as you had planed, and something might arise that means you might no longer be able to participate in the event. So we have tried to create a refund policy that is as flexible as it can be, considering the work and the expenses we encounter many months in advance during the event organisation.
- Before the 1st of March 2024: 75% refund
- Before the 1st of May 2024: 50% refund
- Before the 1st of July 2024: 25% refund
- From the 1st of July 2024: 0% refund
If the event is cancelled as a result of COVID-19 local restrictions, natural disasters, war, strike, legal interventions, major accidents during the event, pandemics, lockdowns or other unforeseen causes, Alps Divide (SISU Adventures) will reschedule the event. If this happens, you will be able to chose between two options: Firstly, to keep the place for the new rescheduled date; Secondly, for a limited time, a refund of 50% of the entry fee. Once the event has begun, no refund will be offered if it is cancelled, postponed or rerouted. In case of adverse weather or risky conditions the track might be partially rerouted. No refunds will be offered in this case.
We will scout the route one final time nearer the event, and update you if any changes need to be made for unforeseen issues or closures.