An iPhone clip from Jason, one or our 2017 tour riders.
Grand Depart -Saturday May 26th , 2018 (10 days).
1,450 kilometers, three countries, seven mighty river valleys, countless chateaux, vineyards, limestone gorges, The Pyrenees, two national parks and a finishing celebration with some tapas on the Med.
We like to think of this trip as our finest long tour. It is a warm, traffic friendly and hillier version of the Lands End -J’Groats, with spades of cultural highlights………and better cuisine we think!
“Le Grand Depart” Saturday, May 26th, 2018.
This is the 9th edition of our epic 1450km route which starts Saturday 11am from Roehampton Gate in Richmond Park, with an easy ride through the North and South Downs to Portsmouth and a cabin on the overnight St Malo ferry for a stretch, shower, meal and sleep. Next morning we start from Brittany’s Atlantic beaches and follow quiet back roads as we ride for the next 2 days into the splendid Loire region of Western France. From here we snake past famous vineyards and chateaux, again using low traffic routes into the deep heart of France. Days 5 and 6 involve crossing the mighty Vienne, Dordogne and Lot river valleys regions along a stunning rural route, before dropping into the warmer pan-tiled south west regions of the Aveyron, Tarn and Garonne. We then sweep through limestone gorges and ancient villages before our first graded climb, a magnificent traverse of the Montagne Noire, just north of the medieval city of Carcassonne. Our final French day involves a gentle roll out across our final flat, before following this years ‘Tour’ route up ‘Le Gorge De St George’ into the mighty Pyrenees for our longest climb, through the small ski station of Formegueras, to the Spanish border. Our penultimate day starts with a short climb from the Spanish border town of Puigcerdu with a spectacular Cat 1 climb to La Molina, and a descent through a gorgeous Catalan national park to our final hotel in the Catalan town of Vic, a 4 star former monastery. The final morning takes us through one final national park and one small climb before descending to the coast at Arenys where we have a final shower and lunch and spa, before a 30min transfer to Barcelona airport or your hotel in town. Ride days will average 145kms with the option to jump in a support vehicle at any stage should you need a break, and lunch stops arranged in pretty villages or scenic picnic spots enroute. Ride profiles are gently rolling/easy, until we hit the mountains in the south with 2 days of climbing. Accommodation throughout France is in 2/3 star profiled hotels , all comfortable and clean, with secure bike storage, and 4 star in Spain. Breakfast and a delicious 3 course carb loaded meal at the end of each day are included. The airport is 35-40 mins away, with regular scheduled flights back to the UK for those who need to make work on Tuesday morning. The trip has full tour style support with ride guides and vehicle support for bikes and spares out on the course each day, covering all speeds and abilities. Mechanical support, sports nutrition and plenty of advice is on hand to keep bikes and bodies in tune. For more experienced riders taking on a big sportive or trying to get to optimum weight for the race season this trip allows you to get some quality miles in those wintered legs
Stage 1 – 127km – The Surrey and Hampshire ‘Downs’
Starting in the famous cycling haven of Richmond Park, London, we ride to the Brittany Ferry Terminal, Portsmouth, through the North and South Downs. We take an overnight Brittany ferry with cabin, evening meal and breakfast. This is a gentle first day roll-out through The Downs into Surrey and Hampshire starting at lunchtime in Richmond Park. We will be followed by our support vehicles which will meet us at the Ferry Terminal carrying warmer clothing, before loading our bikes up, boarding the overnight ferry for a shower , change and dinner, as we ease out across the channel. Accommodation is large bunks in 4 person cabins, with a small ensuite shower and loo. The ferry travels slowly overnight to allow everyone a good sleep.
St Malo, Brittany, to St Quentin Les Anges , Brittany, via Combourg, and a fantastic lunch stop in the shadow of Vitre’s magnificent castle, a world heritage site. We have our breakfast at 7.30am on the Ferry and arrive in St Malo at 8am. We disembark by cycle in St Malo and meet up outside the docks with our support vehicles. We start out along a short section of main road for 6kms before veering left on to quiet D roads enroute to Vitre, our first stop of the day. We then head south again along quiet rural roads tour through Craon, to our overnight at our small hotel in St Quentin. This is an easy day on flat, quiet, good quality roads, usually with a following wind!
St Quentin to Richelieu via La Poueze, Les Pont-de-ce, Gennes and Saumur.
This is a beautiful if easy days riding on flat terrain, dropping down into the Loire valley at Chalonnes, with a great riverside lunch-stop option on the south bank of the Loire. The route then follows a stunning cycle tour route along the river to historic Saumur, home of the French Cavalry and Sancere white wine. We are deep into Chateaux country at this point with historical interest abound! We join the river Vienne at its confluence with the Loire and finish at the stunning Richelieu, home of the famous French Bishop.
Stage 4 – 163km- The Vienne river valley
Richelieu to Chalonnes, via Bonneuil, Lussac-les-Chateaux and L’Isle Jourdain. The first of 3 rolling stages made easier by low gradient Roman roads and beautiful riverside scenery following the Vienne river south towards medieval Confelons in the centre of France. We start at 9.00am . Lunch is served riverside to make up time at a prearranged picnic spot. The afternoon is primarily following a long Roman road over open arable farmland until we re-join the Vienne valley at lussac and sweep through a couple of pretty valleys into Medieval Confolons and finish in the pretty hillside town of St Junien.
Stage 5 – 180km – Haute Vienne and Dordogne
St Junien to Beaulieu via Chalus, St Yrieux and Brive. This stage shows rural France at its best, winding through pretty fields and ‘horse country’, through castellated villages and small fortified towns . The morning is fairly gentle with an outdoor lunch in Chateau de Chalus. We then roll-out into the magnificent Dordogne region in the afternoon, riding through the beautiful town centre of Brive and our first climb of the trip, albeit only 5kms of 7.5% avge gradient, and a final coffee stop at Collonges la-Rouge ( a unique ‘Red Stone’ village) , one final set of sweeping switchbacks, and a fast descent into Beaulieu Sur Dordogne. We stay in a stunning waterside hotel on a large sweeping bend on the river and watch the trout rise and boats slide gently past. The 12th century church is really worth checking out.
Stage 6 – 163km – The lot, Aveyron and Tarn
Beaulieu to Gaillac via Figeac, Villefranche De Rouergue and Cordes Sur Ciel. Rolling is the word today as we traverse three mighty river valleys as we progress into the true south west of France. We first climb out of the Dordogne into the Lot region, using small switchback roads we stop for lunch at the ‘Lot’ riverside town of Figeac. The afternoon is spent twisting through further river valleys into the ancient Tarn region, passing under 12th century citadels to the pretty village of Laguepie and final sharp climb on to the Gaillac plain and a night in a room with a view in the 12th century tower in Cordes Sur Ciel ( Cordes in the sky).
Stage 7 – 139km – Black Mountain National Park
Cordes to Carcassonne, via Lautrec, Labruguiere and Mas Cabardes. We have a gentle morning roll-out g the wine capitol of Gaillac followed by a gentle descent through a series of fortified villages, to the bustling Languedoc town of Castres. We ride through Castres mid-morning, into the beautiful Montagne Noire National Park and our first category 2 climb of the trip, 12kms to Font Romeo. We summit by a large reservoir and take a picnic lunch in the forest, before a fast descent to Carcassonne, staying and dining in the shadow of its mighty castle. There is an option to fly home at this stage as there is a direct Stanstead flight for those short on holiday, with a £200 discount.
Stage 8 – 132km : Cathar Country and The Pyrenees
Carcassonne to Les Angles via Limoux, and Axat.
Our first day in the mighty Pyrenees takes us through the famous Blanquette sparkling wine area of Limoux into the Aude river gorge. We then start our first gentle climb following the river for 15kms up the spectacular Gorge de St George, past a ruined Cathar castle and alpine meadows. The climb then ramps up into a series of switch backs as we ascend our second category 2 climb to the small ski resort of Formigueras, and our traditional mountain hotel.
Stage 9 – 130km The Catalan Pyrenees
Cerdagne to Vic via Puigcerdu, Ripoli and Pantano. We start our second mountain day with a steady 3-5% climb to the border town of Bourg Madame where we grab a quick coffee before entering our main climb of the day to the Catalan ski resort of La Molina, a stunning climb averaging 6% gradient, offering fantastic vistas of the Pyrenees to the west. This is followed by a great descent to Castell for lunch. The route then twists through rustic mountain roads on good surfaces and through small hill villages as the mountain pines give way to the olive groves of the National Park and we finally reach the Spanish plains and our final overnight stop in the medieval Catalan town of Vic, where we stay in a 4 star hotel recently converted from a monastery.
click to enlarge
Stage 10- 85km- Parc Naturel Del Montgenyo.
Our final day on Monday involves an easy morning rollout through the National Park De MontGeny before entering our final climb of the trip, a 10km grind on good surfaces to a 1125m summit . We then have a massive 55km descent through the National Park De Mont Norge to the coastal plain. We finish at a top spa on the beach at Arenys Del Mar for a shower, Spa visit, late lunch, pack-up and early evening transfer to Barcelona airport, 30mins away.
Prices:£2650.00, or £1895.00 for the first 7 stages only. The price includes outbound overnight ferry with a shared cabin with an en-suite , all en-route ride support, hand picked accommodation, two meals a day, sports nutrition and one of our summer ride shirts. Single room supplements are available at approx. £350. Unlike many other tour companies we have one member of staff for every 4 riders, ensuring we keep on top of your needs and are at hand throughout the ride. Our hotels are mostly small, hand picked and are reassessed each year for our cycling needs. The trip runs with a minimum group of 8 confirmed riders.
Fitness requirement. 2-3.
Riders need to be able to start the trip capable of riding 100m/165km on at least 3 consecutive days, without discomfort, to get the most out of the experience. We do offer assistance in our vehicles for those concerned about fitness/dropping behind. The route gets tougher in term of climbing from days 5 to 9, so we shorten distance on these days accordingly.
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