Hired a bike for the first time, having brought my own bike before. It worked really well - at the end of each day handing the bike over for a clean and service, starting the next day with a shiny, perfectly running bike. And then, at the end of a hard week just handing it over - what a delight!
With an abundance of quiet and well-surfaced roads, spectacular and varied scenery, historic and untouched villages, the mountainous region of France between Nîmes, Rodez and Valence is waiting to be discovered by the discerning road cyclist. During this week you will encounter deep gorges, open moorland, meandering rivers, vineyards, limestone plateaus and ancient forest. This remote landscape was favoured by early Cro-Magnon man who sought refuge in the many caves. More recent humans built a network of sometimes gravity-defying roads to link their villages, which we take full advantage of, during this wonderful week of road cycling.
This Classic Cols style holiday is led by two exceptional guides in fully kitted out support vehicles. Riders can cycle at their own pace, stop when they like and make each day their own. In a group of around 20 this usually means we have 3 – 4 mini-groups with similar aspirations and fitness levels who tend to ride together. That way nobody feels held up, or as if they are holding others up.
In terms of gradients and amount of climbing this holiday is one of our easiest, but there are optional extras every day for those wanting a challenge. It is important to us that you book the correct road cycling holiday for you, so please download and read the Trip Notes for all you need to know about how this holiday works: food, accommodation, travel and so on…
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Departure Dates & Prices
We are pleased to offer some tempting discounts off trip costs (not including extras such as single rooms or bike hire):
- Book & pay your deposit more than 6 months in advance of your holiday for our 5% Early Bookers discount.
- Be rewarded for your loyalty by receiving a 10% discount from your 3rd Marmot trip onwards
- Get a group of 10+ people together for a 10% Group discount
Please note there is a maximum 10% discount on any holiday.
Day 0: Travel Day
We offer included airport transfers (a journey of 2hrs) at scheduled times during the day from Marseille airport (MRS) to our start hotel in the pretty market town of St-Jean-du-Gard.
Full travel advice (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.
Check-in, assemble bikes and share a hearty meal in preparation for the adventure ahead! Those of you on early flights may want to head out on your bikes, explore the town or go for a swim.
Day 1: St-Jean-du-Gard to Meyrueis via the Corniche des Cèvennes
We begin our journey on the road appropriately named the “Corniche des Cèvennes”. It snakes its way along a ridge linking picturesque ancient villages nestled between the forests of chestnuts & Mediterranean oaks. Rather than being one climb, it undulates over a series of cols to the high point of the Col de Solpérière (1010m). En route, there are several spectacular views of our “playground” for the rest of the week.
After climbing the best part of 50km, we enjoy a descent into the Tarnon valley, which we follow up to the Col de Perjuret (1030m) on the southern edge of the limestone plateau of the Causse Méjéan. Our destination is the picture-perfect village of Meyrueis, where we stay for 2 nights.
As always on a Marmot Tours Classic Cols holiday, there are options and those wanting a bit more can extend the ride by heading up to the Causse Méjéan (987m) and looping back via the Gorges de La Jonte.
Day 2: Ride from Meyrueis up Mont Aigoual
Today is all about Mont Aigoual (1567m). When the sky is clear, it is possible to see Mt Ventoux, the Pyrenees and even Mt Blanc way off in the Alps. Six roads climb to the weather station and cafe on the summit and today we try to experience as many of them as possible!
Starting down at 700m, we follow the river Jonte to its source via the Col de Perjuret (1030m). The scenery and flora are ever-changing as we move from limestone to granite and steadily gain altitude. The forest gives way to open moorland for the final push to the summit.
Here we descend to the Col de la Serreyrède (1299m), where you have to decide whether to return to Meyrueis via the Col de Montjardin (1005m) or head south over the Col du Minier (1264m) and back to the Col de la Serreyrède via the spectacular, quiet and narrow Mandagout climb.
Day 3: Meyrueis to Florac via the gorges of the Jonte & Tarn
The Parc naturel régional des Grands Causses exhibits limestone scenery at its best. The high, slightly arid plateaus are scarred by deep canyons, forged by turbulent rivers that meander their way below the sheer cliffs. Despite the geographical challenges, roads have been hewn out of the rocks to link the remote communities, and today we reap the benefits.
Today is less about climbing and more about the WOW factor. We start by following the river Jonte deeper into the gorge to Le Rozier, where it joins the river Tarn. Here you can start to climb up the Gorges du Tarn to Sainte-Enimie, or descend further to Millau (famous for the impressive viaduct) and climb back to Le Rozier over the Causse Noir – La Cade (836m)
Our destination is Florac, the capital of the Cévennes, which is undoubtedly worth an explore. If you feel that there has not been enough climbing today, then nipping back up to the Causse Méjéan and the Col de Pierre Plate (1016m) is another option.
Day 4: Florac to Les Vans via Mont Lozère
Climbing is back on the agenda today, as we continue up the river Tarn to the pretty village of Le Pont-de-Montvert. Here things get a bit more severe as you climb up through the ‘broom’ scrub moorland (with its glorious yellow bloom in May/June), to the bleak Col de Finiels (1541m) in the heart of Mont Lozère. Your effort is rewarded with another big view and a sweeping descent, past a ski station, to Le Bleymard.
A small climb over the Col de Tribes (1131m) takes you down to Villefort, which is dominated by a reservoir that is bisected by a railway viaduct! From here a small climb over the Col du Mas de l’Ayre (946m) takes you into the Ardèche and the large touristic town of Les Vans, where we spend two nights.
The optional extra today takes you back over Mont Lozère via the Col du Pré de la Dame (1474m) for some more spectacular views.
Day 5: Ride from Les Vans into the Ardèche
If the weather is good, then there are plenty of non-cycling activities to be enjoyed within walking distance of the hotel.
However, you are at the southern gateway to the Ardèche, a landscape of ridges and valleys, dotted with remote villages, so, not surprisingly, there is some excellent cycling to be done. We have opted for a spectacular route up a very narrow road that follows the river Borne to La Bastide-Puylaurent and back via St-Laurent-les-Bains and the Col du Chap del Bosc (1169m). This ride is genuinely remote!
Those wanting a bit more can venture further into the Massif de Prataubérat before rejoining the classic route at the Col de La Croix Blanche (890m).
Day 6: Les Vans to Pierrelatte via the Gorges de l'Ardèche
Thought by many to be the most spectacular canyon in France, the Gorges de l’Ardèche certainly make for an impressive grand finale! (Verdon Gorge is the other contender, where we also offer cycling holidays.)
The first 35km of our ride through rural France ‘at its best’ takes us to the entrance of the canyon at the Vallon-Pont-d’Arc. Here, those wanting to turn this into an epic ride can ride on a loop over the Plateau des Gras (425m) before plunging back into town.
The canyon road starts at the same level as the river and you get a great view of the iconic rock arch. It soon climbs up onto the plateau and meanders its way along the top of the precipitous cliffs. It is well worth detouring slightly at the viewpoints to look down at the groups of canoeists way below.
Descending to Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche, we continue through the orchards and vineyards of the Rhône Valley to our final hotel on the outskirts of Pierrelatte.
Day 7: Travel Day
All good things must come to an end. We offer transfers back to Marseille airport (MRS) in the morning (1hr 30min transfer).