Cycling the Massif Central Mountains. Try something different for your Cycling Holidays in France

Cycling the Massif Central Mountains. Try something different for your Cycling Holidays in France

Cycling the Massif Central mountains offers cyclists some of the most challenging terrain for their cycling holidays in France. These volcanic mountains are very different in character and structure from those in the Alps or Pyrenees. In spring and summer they are clothed in green changing to the dramatic reds and golds of autumn.  The Massif Central mountains are more rolling and less severe than other mountain ranges of France.  This gives the cyclist a slightly different cycling experience. We organise day trips to the mountains which are an easy drive from our base in the Corrèze.

There is something here for all abilities. Try a gentle climb up from the stunning walled mountain town of Salers to the Col De Neronne (1242m).  Alternatively you can ride the challenging route up to Pas de Peyrol (1588m) whose last few kilometres average 12 to 15%. The Peyrol has featured recently in the 2011 and 2016 Tour de France and is a perfect challenge for adventurous cyclists.  Salers is classified as a ‘plus beau village de France’ – a most beautiful village. So it is worth visiting just to see this stunning medieval town!

If you want a real challenge there is the little-known Col Du Perthus which is accessed from the lovely little village of Mandailles-St-Julien. The village sits at the head of the Valley De La Jordanne on the route to the Peyrol from the south. After a strong coffee in Mandailles you will be ready for the relatively short but punchy 5km climb. It never seems to go below 10% and sometimes reaches 14-15%. This climb was used in the 2016 Tour de France and seemed to provide as big a challenge to many of the riders as did some of the longer classic climbs in the Alps. The feature picture for this Blog was taken when we took a group to watch this very stage. We could see the pain on the riders faces as they passed, the climb splitting the field wide open.

One of our favourite circuits for your Bike Tour in France includes the ascent of the Peyrol known as Puy Mary. It starts in Velzic in the Jordanne valley which is about a 75-minute drive from our base. Starting at an altitude of 700m, the D17 majestically winds its way up the beautiful valley at a gentle gradient until Mandailles. This is where the true climb begins up to the Peyrol. The first half of the climb is easily the hardest with the grade reaching 7-10%. Then as you emerge from the tree line at the 5.5km point it gets a little easier and you get the spectacular views of the climb and surrounding mountains.

From the top, the 360-degree views are worth a stop and a well-deserved drink before the steep descent and gentle climb across to the Col De Neronne (1242m). There follows a gentle ride down to Salers on the D37 which clings to the side of the long U-shaped valley. After lunch and refreshments in one of Salers many lovely restaurants the route heads back south via the Col St-George and the Col De Legal (1229m). The day finishes with a breath-taking descent back to the crew bus for tea and cake.  If you drive here on your own, make sure you have something tasty in the car waiting for you. The idea of cake can keep you going during the last climbs of the day!  The distance of the circuit is 80km and the vertical ascent is approximately 1550m.

There are more of our favourite circuits in this part of the Cantal which we will cover in future posts, so stay tuned for more ideas of great rides in this area.

James Parry, Chef de Cyclisme, Corrèze Cycling Holidays

Why should you choose Corrèze and Massif Central for Your Cycling Holiday in France?

Why should you choose Corrèze and Massif Central for Your Cycling Holiday in France?

 

Well the answer to this question is really, why you wouldn’t want to come here? Fabulous breath-taking scenery and with smoothly surfaced traffic free roads it is a cyclist’s nirvana. Then when you consider that this is FRANCE with it’s fabulous food culture, markets crammed with fresh local produce and sleepy villages with old men playing petanque under shady trees, there really seems no reason not to come here.

You have already done all the classic climbs of the Alps and the Pyrenees and written your name in the road alongside the legends. You have sweated through lavender scented air to the summit of Mount Ventoux and paid tribute at Toms memorial. So, what is next? Well if you are a Tour de France hound then there remains the classic Tour climbs of Puy Mary and Super Lioran in the Massif Central mountains.

You have no intention of sweating up the long climbs of the Tour in the Alps and Pyrenees. Having cycled regularly in the UK, you are fed up of road traffic and unsympathetic drivers. You are looking for something relaxing with some technical climbs that are a little challenging but not too long. Then the Upper Dordogne Valley gorges in the Massif Central will be perfect for you.

You are a couple, with one partner a mad keen cyclist and the other less confident. What you need to find is somewhere where you can both enjoy the cycling and ideally remain together as a couple by the end of the holiday. A guided cycling holiday with someone who really knows the local area would be ideal. A long day cycling with coffee stops and lunch on the side of a beautiful medieval quay on the Dordogne river – lovely. The help of a backup bus to get one of you back up the last climb of the day would be perfect. A cycling base with beautiful facilities where the less keen cyclist could pass a day by the pool whilst the ‘Keenie’ has an epic day out with other likeminded cyclists would be Nirvana. Corrèze in the Massif central can offer you all this.

If your answer to any of the descriptions above is yes, you should certainly choose Corrèze and the Massif Central for your holiday. We look forward to welcoming you here!

 

 

The Rise of the Cycling Holiday

The Rise of the Cycling Holiday

In the last few years there has been an explosion of public interest in Cycling. With the advent of the MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra), the roads are now filling with brightly covered people enjoying the exhilaration and freedom that this sport brings.

The Tour de France was brought to London in 2007 by Mayor Ken Livingstone, whose aim was to make London a first class cycling city. Hosting the first stage of the legendary race, the ‘Grand depart’ would raise the profile of cycling in London and increase the city’s profile as a venue for major sporting events.

Since then Britain has gone on to huge successes in Cycling with Team Sky having the first ever British winner of the Tour de France in 2012. Britain has dominated the podium in Paris ever since. You can now watch full coverage of the tour on UK TV whereas previously coverage had been limited to a 30-minute slot on Channel 4. It was seeing the legendary Miguel Indurain powering up a mountainside which got us hooked on the Tour and road cycling back in the 90s. This was also the root of our eventual move to set up our own cycling holiday company in France in 2010.

Road Cycling has enjoyed a huge rise in popularity because of all this, with Bike Shops, Cycling Cafes and mobile bike mechanics enjoying a boom. As the roads have become choc a bloc with mini pelotons of cyclists at the weekends, there has been a natural move for riders to look for cycling vacations further afield. And where better than on the hallowed turf of France, as well as in Spain, home to the Vuelta and Italy – the Giro. Here keen amateur cyclists can follow in the footsteps of their tour heroes, or just enjoy an active holiday.

The mountain ranges of France offer unparalleled opportunities for climbing and descending, which cannot really be rivalled in the UK. Indeed, the major climb of the 2012 Olympic Road Cycling Race was Box Hill, a short switchback of approximately 4.3km. I myself have gone up it on a hybrid mountain bike towing a tag along child bike on the back, following husband James on his Road bike.

Following the rise in interest for cycling holidays especially in France, small companies have started to pop up in the Alps, Pyrenees and Massif Central of France offering tours and fixed base holidays. Now you can find bike holidays to suit all levels of cyclists from pedalling along the footpaths of the Loire to intensive training camps in the Alps taking in all the classic climbs of the Tour.

Increasingly as the Alps and Pyrenees get more crowded, cycling holidays in lesser known areas such as Corrèze and the Massif Central are becoming more popular. Here you can find near empty roads in pristine condition which are a cycling connoisseurs delight. The terrain can be challenging also, with the steep gorges of the Upper Dordogne Valley providing classic switchback climbs of around 8 to 10km. The mountains of the Massif Central have been the backdrop for several classic Tour climbs, such as the Puy Mary and Super Lioran and are a ‘must cycle’ for any keen enthusiast.

Samantha Parry