3 days cycling, 587km
Less obvious stages maybe, but seriously fun cycling and not to be overlooked
These three stages, in some of the most remote parts of the Massif Central, will make great tourist cycling for those eager to acquaint themselves with new areas of France, and will also provide some of the most memorable stages of the three weeks. You wouldn’t make it to these places on your own – and that’s why we love the Tour.
From your first kilometres on the Beaujolais ‘Route des Vins’ to your arrival in Albi, the ‘most sporting city in France’ and home to the largest brick building in the world (!), this will be non-stop cycling joy:
Quiet roads, lovely villages, chateau views, gastronomy and buckets of wine; these perfectly tarmacked roads and the countryside they pass through will leave you smiling from beginning to end.
Fri 5th July: Arrival to Chalon sur Saone hotel
Tue 9th July: Depart from Albi hotel
Fri 5th July – Arrival to Chalon sur Saone
Sat 6th July. Stage 8: Maçon – Saint-Étienne: 199km
This will be a decidedly bumpy day, with 3,800 metres of ascent, and five categorised climbs, though never more than 6km of uphill in one go. We’ll warm up our legs with a gentle climb out of the Saône valley, through Beaujolais vineyards and forested valleys, before tackling the Col de la Croix Montmain and then swooping down into the Azergues valley. For every up, there must be down and we’ll be rewarded with some spectacular (and not too technical) descents: cycling joy, TDF style! The second half of the day will take us through an enchanting landscape of winding lanes, wooded climbs and spectacular views, before we descend to Saint-Étienne, home of bike wheel manufacturer Mavic.
Sun 7th July. Stage 9: Saint-Étienne – Brioude: 170km
This is another hilly stage, with barely a kilometre of flat road, through the Auvergne region which, with its ancient stone farmhouses, open pastures and glorious pine forests, will feel like we’ve gone back in time to another world. The main challenge will come a couple of hours into the day, in the shape of the Mur d’Aurec sur Loire, a 3km climb with a leg-busting average of 11%: this is proper mountain climbing! The worst (best?) is over at that point, though the road carries on up and down all the way to the final descent into Brioude, Romain Bardet’s birthplace (a stage to watch a week later when pressure on the poor French man will be at fever pitch).
Mon 8th July. Stage 10: Saint-Flour – Albi: 218km
This stage ends 700m lower than it begins, but don’t be fooled – there’s still plenty of climbing involved and plenty of kilometres to spread it over. We’ll start the day exploring the ancient volcanic region of Cantal (famous for its cheese and associated calorific delights), before a long descent from the plateau (woohoo!). The relatively fast kilometres of the first 100km will be countered by a more measured afteroon, when the route takes us through the Gorges de la Truyère (spectacular rock formations and the cool breeze of a rock-shaded road) and then up onto the lofty Aubrac Plateau. The quiet, narrow roads of the Massif Central will open out as we descend towards Albi: It’s a gently descending last 30km with our destination visible in the distance, and although you’ll be pedalling the whole way, you won’t have to work too hard for these last, heroic kilometres.
Tue 9th July – Depart from Albi
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Emily, Lead Cyclist says, “These are pretty tough stages: the first has 3800m of climbing and they’re all kilometre heavy… so you’ll definitely need to train! But we’ll support you all the way and it really will be worth every last bit of effort.”
Sarah, Event Organiser says, “If you’d like a proper challenge but don’t want to take on the big mountains – or if big, long climbs just aren’t for you, then this is the perfect Loop. It’s still tough and it’s still hill-heavy, but they come in more manageable chunks and the destination is a complete treat.”
Andy, Alumni Cyclist says “I’ve always been a fan of the Tour but I honestly never thought I’d get to cycle some of it until a friend talked me into Le Loop. If you’re in any doubt at all, take the plunge – it was at least as hard as I expected (very hard!) but I never felt bad for being slow and the support from staff and other cyclists was incredible.”
Included in all Loops
- Accommodation (Mostly twin share. Single supplements are available to buy in January)
- Food (3 meals and the best feedstops you’ve ever seen)
- Fully signed route, the stuff of legend
- Mechanical, medical and moral support
- Luggage Transfers
- Coach transfers to the next stage start where applicable
Not included in all Loops
- Travel to and from France (but we’ll give you advice on the best travel routes)
- Bike Transport (£30 each way if you want us to drive your bike there and back)
- Evening massage (£10 per massage)
- Beer/wine/dinner drinks!