44|5’s Signature Tour in Southern France’s Massif Central
8 Days / 7 Nights
Cycling the Hidden Cévennes
For this cycling tour, our signature HighRoad goes off the beaten path with an all-inclusive week in southern France’s Cévennes mountains. This is the real France Profonde (deep France) and only real explorers are familiar with this area and its hidden roads. For those prepared to climb 1,500+ meter cols, roll across starkly beautiful plateaus and descend through deep river gorges, this bike tour is for you!
And you don’t have to be a hardened explorer off the bike, as each night’s accommodations have been carefully chosen to provide a high quality and comfortable retreat where we will refuel our bodies with an abundance of delicious local food.
Our HighRoad Cévennes tour starts at the bottom of the Gorges du Tarn, one of the most beautiful gorges in Europe. From here we head east, entering an area of the region dominated by large granite massifs – two of which we’ll climb (Mt. Aigoual and Mt. Lozère). After dipping into the wild, forgotten Ardèche department, we track south on the Queen Stage of the tour, climbing several cols, including our 2nd ascent of Lozère and le Tour de France climb of Perjuret. Our tour finishes back where we started, with a gourmet celebratory dinner and perhaps a chat about where you’ll be riding next time you visit!
- Double occupancy: €2975
- Single supplement: €425
- Deposit: €500 per person
Accommodation and Dining
- 7 nights accommodation
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
- Energy bars, gels, snacks and water on your ride
- Pick up and drop off in Montpellier
- Gratuities for hotel and restaurant staff
- All baggage transport
- Owner-operator guides to see to your needs
- Maps of each day’s route for every cyclist
- Support van that will be on the road with you, offering assistance, encouragement, and food and drinks.
- 44|5 Cycling Tours jersey
- Transportation to France
- Alcohol outside dinner
- Hotels before and after your tour
- Personal expenses, such as mini-bar, telephone or souvenir purchases
Transfer to Hotel
We will pick you up at Montpellier airport in the morning and transport you north to our hotel on the banks of the Tarn River. During the afternoon, you’ll have time to freshen up, fuel up and ensure your equipment is in top working condition.
If time permits, we will take a short warm-up spin through the gorge. Finally, we’ll all settle in to get to know each other better and review the upcoming week over a satisfying welcome dinner.
Ride: Millau to Cocurès. Approximately 80 km and 1050 m of ascent
We ease into our first day on the bike with an unforgettable ride up the amazing Gorges du Tarn. This deep canyon is beautiful on its own, but quaint villages, medieval bridges and the many castles that line the entire route combine to make this one of the most enjoyable bike rides in France. Still, you’ll work today, and you will be happy you did when you see the food that is placed in front of you at dinner!
The first part of our ride today traces Stage 14 of the 2015 Tour de France.
Cocurès to Cocurès. Approximately 117 km and 1800 m of ascent
Now that you’re warmed up we’ll climb some cols! Today’s loop leaves straight from our hotel, traveling south through Florac before the wonderful, hidden ‘backdoor’ to our first big climb of the tour – Mont Aigoual. At 1567 meters, this is the highest we will climb this week, but it will be well worth the effort. From the top, on a clear day, you can see the Mediterranean Sea, the Pyrenees and even the Alps.
Our descent brings us to the pretty valley town of Meyrueis, where we take a deep breath before climbing up to the Causse Méjean. One of 7 ‘Grands Causses’ (high limestone plateaus) in the Massif Central, this steppe-like plateau is home to a herd of the last truly wild horses in the world – Przewalski’s horse.
Cocurés to La Garde-Guérin. Approximately 80 km and 1851 m of ascent
This morning we follow the Tarn River upstream to Le Pont Montvert, tracing Robert Louis Stevenson’s 19th century voyage in reverse. Look around and you’ll see the terraced fields where Stevenson and Modestine spent a restless night before their walk down the Tarn River to Florac.
Today’s climb, the Col du Pré de la Dame, begins in Génolhac, and offers both hairpins and fantastic views all the way to Mont Ventoux. Your reward is an equally amazing descent down the other side of the highest mountain in the Cévennes, Mont Lozère, passing forgotten hamlets, pristine pastureland and hilltop castles. Then, a little further up the road, our baronial mansion will be waiting for us.
La Garde-Guérin to La Garde-Guérin. Approximately 75 km and 1250 m of ascent
With your first ascent of mighty Mt. Lozère behind you, but perhaps still present in your muscle memory, we’ll take it a little easier today both in terms of mileage and climbing.
Our route winds through three departments, the Ardèche, the Gard and the Lozère, and offers the shade of immense pine-wood forests, the freshness of small river valleys and some of the best country roads we’ve been on yet. This is your chance to recover and conserve energy for tomorrow, while reveling in the solitude and unadulterated beauty of the region. Back at the hotel, you’ll appreciate an afternoon of rest and relaxation, followed by another delicious dinner.
La Garde-Guérin to Meyrueis. Approximately 121km and 2134 m of ascent
Be sure to fuel up at breakfast this morning because we have our longest day on the bike today.
We’re heading back up Mt. Lozère today; this time over the Col de Finiels (1541m). While it’s an easier climb than two days ago, the views are no less spectacular. Our route will then take us up the Col de Perjuret (1031m), made famous by Roger Rivière, who in the 1960 Tour de France overshot a curve and tumbled into a ravine, effectively ending his career. We’ll pay homage at his monument on the way up, and vow not to repeat his mistake on the way down the other side; a much more forgiving descent of 15 km, ending at our chateau-hotel for the night.
Meyrueis- to Millau. Approximately 70 km and 715 m of ascent
We’re back in deep gorge country, and today you’ll be treated to one of the prettiest, the Gorges de la Jonte. Our 25-km ramble down the gorge will take us past its impressive 450m high sheer rock faces. While you’re looking up to admire the sights, you may get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the several hundred vultures who make their homes among the cliffs.
Our climb out of the gorge takes us to the top of another one of the Cévennes’ impressive limestone plateaus, the Causse Noir. Sparsely populated and often wind swept, we’ll ride its gentle roads to our final hotel, and celebrate the end of a truly amazing adventure tonight over dinner.
Transfer to Montpellier
Today we drive you back to Montpellier for your connection home or your local hotel if you are staying in France.
Accommodation for High Road Cévennes ranges from eco-friendly 2-star to baronial 4-star. All our hotels have fantastic gourmet restaurants featuring fresh, locally-sourced produce, wifi and comfortable common areas where you can put your feet up and relax in comfort after a good day on the road.
Grand Hotel de la Muse, Le Rozier
For a fitting way to start and end our tour, we have chosen the Hotel de la Muse, a landmark establishment in the region. Originally erected in the early 1900’s by the Touring Club of France, its privileged position at the confluence of the Gorges du Tarn and Gorges de la Jonte make it an ideal base for exploration. Take advantage of your rest hours by taking a dip in the outdoor pool, or the cool, inviting waters of the Tarn River.
La Lozerette, Cocurès
This charming, eco-friendly hotel has been in the same family for three generations. It is an ideal base for cycling, nestled on the edge of an authentic Cévenol village in the lovely upper Tarn valley. When we aren’t out on the bike we’ll be treated to gourmet meals that highlight the flavors of the local mountains.
La Régordane, La Guarde-Guérin
Dramatically perched on a high plateau overlooking the Chassezac Canyon, this 400 yr. old ex-baronial residence provides you a warm welcome. La Regordane (named after an ancient pilgrimage route) is situated in the fortified village of La Garde-Guérin and listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Chateau d’Ayres, Meyrueis
Hidden on a quiet hillside behind Meyrueis, this 12th century Benedictine monastery provides an ideal spot to contemplate the history, culture and jaw-dropping beauty of the region. While an 18th century addition enlarged the space, and 21st century comforts have replaced monastic vows, dining in the original “refectory” or walking the 15-acre grounds continues to be inspiring.
Non-riding spouses and friends will enjoy its central location from which to discover the best sites and activities in Provence. The farmhouse is located near Carpentras, with its famous market and fine selection of restaurants.
At 1567 meters, is the highest we will ascend on our tour. We take one of the lesser-used, quieter northern routes to climb this massif, but all the many ascents end at the same place – the meteorological observatory (the last mountain weather station in France manned year round) with a panoramic view that will help you forget the effort it took to reach it.
This is our local version of Alpe d’Huez and one of our favorite climbs anywhere. The road has 12 named hairpins and kilometer markers with elevation and gradient noted. There are some outstanding views on the way, so you have some great excuses for stopping, if you want!
The Col de Perjuret is today a serene climb that is a joy to climb. In 1960, however, it was a hotly contested part of the Tour de France, where Roger Rivière, a French favorite for the overall win, fell on the descent and ended his career. There is a monument to him on our way up.
The Col de Perjuret has been climbed 2 times in the Tour de France.
Once you’ve made your way out of the Sault valley you start into the forested flanks of the mountain. This isn’t like the forest on the Bédoin side. It’s actually quite manageable with gradients between 4-7%. Also, at this point you’ll notice that the pavement is in great shape for both the climb and descent, as the road was entirely resurfaced in 2013.
After 12 kms, you can really start to pick up steam as you reach a false flat that runs for 7 kms and rarely tops 3% all the way up to Chalet Reynard. The roads from Sault and Bédoin meet at the Chalet, so once again you find yourself facing the same tough 6 kms climb to the summit as described in the Bédoin route above.
Our 2nd climb of Mont Lozère, is a joy to ride. At 10 kilometers, it is not a short climb, but with an elevation gain of only 472 meters, it is a most enjoyable morning ascent. Once past the ski station near the top, the view opens up and the descent down the southern flank is filled with great vistas.
Apart from these major climbs, you’ll be ascending numerous smaller passes, like the Col des Tribes (1131 m), Col du Sapet (1080 m) and Col des Faisses (1026 m), as well as a beautiful piece of gorge road featured in the 2015 edition of the Tour de France (Stage 14).