Covering 15% of France, the Massif Central is an elevated region in Southern France consisting of craggy mountains and extensive plateaus, separated from the Alps by the Rhone valley. Often visited by the Tour de France, it is the perfect playground and location for a Raid challenge for you and your bike!
The Raid Cyclotouriste du Massif Central is another FFCT official route organised by the cycle club in Mazamet and, like with all Raids, you have a route card that needs to get stamped at various points on the journey, before youll receive a finishers certificate and medal upon successful completion. However, we got a little excited by the opportunities for excellent cycling in this part of France, so have enhanced the official route with some cheeky extras that showcase the best riding of the area and make it a similar challenge to the other raids (Pyrenean, Alpine, Corsica and Dolomites).
You will fall in love with the rural wilderness of these regions, the historic villages of the Cantal, the barren moorland of Mt Lozre, the deep limestone gorges and chestnut forests of the Cvennes, the vast view over Provence from le Mont Aigoual and the arid mountains of the Haut-Languedoc. Add to that the challenge of the short but sharp gradients, the fact that you travel just over 900km in 6 days and tuck 16,900m of ascent under your belt and this is a Raid to be reckoned with.
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Day 0: Travel Day
We offer included airport transfers from Geneva Airport to the start hotel in Roanne (approx 2hr 45min). Full travel advice (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.
Day 1: Roanne to Issoire (163km with 2900m of ascent)
With the sun on your back you start your Raid heading up the Col du Bouchet (752m) and the Col des Essarts (918m) taking you to the base of the Monts du Forez, a high ridge marking the edge of the Loire valley. First ascending the Col de la Loge (1253m) you then head down and back up (!) the challenging Col du Bal (1390m), the highest pass on the ride. Your reward is a great lunch and view stop at the top. Collect your first tampon in St-Dier-dAuvergne before undulating the final 30km through rural France at its best. Your 3* hotel with outdoor heated pool is found in the town of Issoire. [Route profile]
Day 2: Issoire to Salers (169km with 3100m of ascent)
Today you traverse the Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans dAuvergne, a landscape of lush meadows and volcanoes. 50km of climbing through gorges, open pastures, ancient forests and past historic walled cities leads you to open moorland and the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert (1426m). The Puy de Sancy (1885m) dominates the horizon and you head around it (there is no road up or wed be on it!). Recharge with a coffee in the spa town of Le Mont-Dore before heading south over numerous short climbs including La Stle (1245m) and the Col de la Besseyre (1042m). This is a stunning ride on a good road with hardly any traffic cows outnumber people in this part of the world! Your destination is Salers, famous for its cheese production. [Route profile]
Day 3: Salers to Aumont-Aubrac (143km and 3200m of ascent)
The Puy Mary, the Volcano of Cantal, dominates the ride today. You will have seen this area showcased by the TdF it offers stunning scenery but also some infamous gradients. Leaving Salers behind you, you head for the Pas de Peyrol (1598). Ask a child to draw a volcano and the gradients on paper are probably not far off the reality of this climb! Cranking up to 14% in the final few km, this climb is a memorable one. Continuing on the exact 2016 Stage 5 TdF route, you head over the Col du Perthus (1589m) and up to the Col de Cre (1300m). After a quick stop in Murat you then take on the Col de Prat de Bouc (1396m) before turning your back on the volcanoes and heading for the deep Gorges de la Truyere and on to your destination in the mountain town of Aumont-Aubrac. [Route profile]
Day 4: Aumont-Aubrac to Meyrueis (162km with 2900m ascent)
Pleasant undulations take you to the town of Mende this morning, from where you take on the Cote de La Croix-Neuve (1091m); a climb dedicated to Laurent Jalabert. It is short (3km), but exceptionally steep (lots of 12-16%). The suffering is soon over and the Col de la Loubire (1188m) is a hidden treasure. Next up is the Col de Finiels (1541m) of Mont Lozre. It is a bleak landscape strewn with granite boulders but leads you into the Cvennes, a region renknowned for its beauty. After a riverside lunch in Le Post de Montvert, head into the Gorges du Tarn for 40km before climbing over the limestone plateau of Median. A breathtaking descent takes you into the Gorges de la Jonte and your destination; the market town of Meyrueis. [Route profile]
Day 5: Meyrueis to Lodve (140km with 2400m of ascent)
First up today is the mighty Mont Aigoual (1567m) a fantastic climb through chestnut, beech & pine forests, from which you emerge to a stunning view of the Med to the South and Provence to the East. Enjoy the descent to Treves before undulating across barren plateau and deep gorges, the highlight being the Cirque de Navacelles. Reach it by a road that weaves into the valley and back up the other side, clinging to the sheer cliff face. Your destination is the vibrant town of Lodve. [Route profile]
Day 6: Lodve to Castres (138km with 2400m ascent)
The mountains of Haute Languadoc are a hidden treasure of the Massif Central. Expect great tarmac, quiet roads, well-graded climbs, vineyards, sheep/goats, and a great climate! A comfortable night in Lodve prepares you for the Col de la Baraque de Bral (610m) before a thrilling descent to St. Gervais-sur- Mare in time for coffee. Then its onwards and upwards for the stunning climb up the Col de lEspinouse (1166m). From here you descend (mostly!) to Castres through beautiful rural France! Your Raid Challenge is complete and a celebration is now in order! [Route Profile]
Day 7: Travel back
All good cycling holidays come to an end. Pack up your box before our included transfers drop you back at Toulouse Airport (transfer of approx 1hr 30min). Full travel advice (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.
- A stunning & varied Raid through the Massif Central, a host of linked mountain ranges in Southern France
- 6 days on the bike, averaging 153km and 2500- 3000m climbing per day
- Volcanoes of the Auvergne, mountains of the Haut-Languedoc & the Cvennes National Park with its impressive limestone gorges, plus TdF climbs such as Pas de Peyrol (1589m) with its savage final kilometres (13% and 12%!)
- Official Raid (including registration plus certificate & medal for successful finishers) but with some added Marmot extras!
- All evening meals and wine included
- Experienced and passionate service from Marmot Tours with two customised support vans driven by attentive, proactive and fun guides