LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - July 17, 2012) - It's been over 100 years since 21 exhausted cyclists crossed the finish line during the first Tour de France and since then the event has gone from strength to strength. The 2,161 mile race now draws around 200 of the world's top riders from the US, Russia, Italy, Belgium and beyond.
The course changes every year with the pack careening through quaint villages, sprawling cities and nerve-wracking mountain passes against the stunning backdrop of some of France's most iconic landmarks. The race ends in Paris amidst crowds of cheering spectators, who gather to see which rider will earn the right to wear the legendary yellow jersey.
If cycling fans aren't taking advantage of cheap flights to Grenoble to watch the race, they are gathering en force for the Marmotte amateur event. This one day sportive is widely-regarded as the most gruelling of its kind with riders tackling the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and finishing up on one of the most famous climbs on the Tour de France, the Alpe d'Huez. Enthusiasts have been known to train for the entire year in preparation for the 108 mile race. For those people whose idea of a holiday is challenging themselves with a punishing exercise event, the Marmotte might be just the ticket.
A more leisurely pursuit
Not all cyclists are looking for hi-octane action. Some are just looking for the most spectacular scenery they can explore on two wheels and they might just find it at Innsbruck. Nestled in the heart of the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. With the magnificent peaks of Patscherkofel and Nordkette, it's easy to see why. Without the cover of snow, roads and cycling trails punctuate the jaw-dropping scenery in every direction. There is a huge range of routes to cater for different difficulty levels. The climb to Hinterhorn Alm is a highlight with riders rewarded at the top with a selection of local delicacies.
Monarch flights to Innsbruck and Grenoble cost as little as £34 from Manchester, so there'll be plenty of budget left to spend on bike hire. Find out about the array of family-friendly activities available in the French and Austrian Alps by visiting the destination guides at www.monarch.co.uk.