Raid du Massif Central, Southern France

Massif Central

  • A stunning & varied Raid through the Massif Central; a host of linked mountain ranges in Southern France
  • 6 days on the bike, averaging 160km and 2500- 3000m climbing/day
  • Volcanoes of the Auvergne, mountains of the Haut Languedoc & the Cevennes 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 their 2 customised support vans driven by attentive and proactive guides who love a laugh.

Days on the bike

6 days


2017: £1220

Departure Dates



  • 27th May - 3rd Jun


  • 1st Jul - 8th Jul
  • 22nd Jul - 29th Jul



  • 23rd Jun - 30th Jun


  • 23rd Sep - 30th Sep


Covering 15% of France, the Massif Central is an elevated region in Southern France consisting of craggy mountains and extensive plateaux, separated from the Alps by the Rhone valley.  Oft visited by the Tour de France, for you and your bike, it is the perfect playground and location for a Raid Challenge!

The ‘Raid Cyclotouriste du Massif Central’ is another FFCT official route organised by the cycle club in Mazamet, so like all Raids you have a route card that needs to get stamped at various point on the journey, and a finishers certificate and medal. However, we got a little excited by the opportunities for excellent cycling in this part of France, so have embellished the official route with some ‘extras’  that don’t interfere with the ‘tampon’ stops but 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 Lozere, the deep limestone gorges and chestnut forests of the Cevennes, the vast view over Provence from le Mont- Aigoual and the arid mountains of the Haute Languedoc.   Add to that the challenge of the short but sharp gradients, the fact that you travel just shy of 1000km in 6 days and tuck 18,000m of ascent under your belt and this is a Raid to be reckoned with.  Bring it on!

For more information, check out our Trip Notes.


The Massif Central is stunning and I thought the roads and route were excellent. The main climbs were exciting challenges and many followed with probably some of the very best descents of any of the trips.

J Clapp



Day 0: Travel Day

We offer included airport transfers from Lyon Airport to the start hotel in Roanne (approx 1hr 45mins). Our pick up times are when we will be leaving the airport, all being well.  Please don’t book flights arriving later than suggested below (in brackets).  

May Departure:
Pick up:
Lyon Airport @ 12.00 and 18:00 (for flights arriving before 11:40 and 17:40 respectively). 

July Departures:
1st July Pick up:
 Lyon Airport @ 11:15, 15:10 and 19:00 (for flights arriving before 10:55, 14:50 and 18:40 respectively). 

22nd July Pick up: Lyon Airport @ 11:15 and 15:10 (for flights arriving before 10:55, and 14:50 respectively). 

Full travel advice (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.

Day 1: Roanne to Issoire (156km 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 Montes de 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 Béal (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-d’Auvergne before undulating the final 30 km through rural France ‘at its best’.  Your 3* hotel with outdoor heated pool is found in the town of Issoire.

Day 2: Issoire to Salers (169km with 3100m of ascent)

Today you traverse the ‘Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans d’Auvergne’; a landscape of lush meadows and volcanoes. 50kms of climbing though 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 we’d be on it!) Recharge with a sneaky coffee in the spa town of Le Mt Dore before heading south over numerous short climbs including La Stèle (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 it’s cheese production.

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 await you.

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 kms, 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 Cère (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.

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 Loubière (1188m) is a hidden treasure. Next up is the Col de Finiels (1541m) of Mont Lozère. It is a bleak landscape strewn with granite boulders but leads you into the Cévennes, 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.

Day 5: Meyreuis to Lodeve (140km with 2400m of ascent)

First up day 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 Lodève.

Day 6: Lodeve to Mazamet (132km 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!

First off you climb up to Montdardier (616m) onto a sparse baron plateau.  The River Vis has gouged a deep trench in your way so you have no choice but to descend and climb back up to St Thomas-Navacelles (581m). Coffee and a tampon in Lodève prepares you for the Col de la Baraque de Bral (610m) and the stunning climb up the Col de l’Espinouse (1166m). From here you descend (mostly!) to your 2* hotel in the centre of Mazamet. Your Raid Challenge is complete and a celebration is now in order!

Day 7: Travel back

All good things come to an end.  Pack up your box before our included transfers drop you back at Toulouse Airport (transfer of approx 1hr 30mins).  Our drop off times are when we will be arriving at the airport, all being well.  Please don’t book flights leaving earlier than suggested below (in brackets).  

Drop off: Toulouse Airport

AM: 08:20 (for flights leaving after 10:20)
PM: 13:40 (for flights leaving after 15:45)

Full travel advice (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.

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