Raid du Massif Central (Southern France)

Road Cycling Holidays in the Massif Central

  • A stunning and varied raid cycling challenge through the Massif Central region of Southern France
  • Six days on the bike, averaging 160km of distance and 2500 – 3000m of climbing per day
  • Cycle through the volcanoes of the Auvergne, the mountains of the Haut Languedoc, and the Cévennes National Park with its magnificent limestone gorges.
  • Conquer Tour de France climbs Mont Aigoual and Pas de Peyrol, with its savage final kms (13% and 12%!)
  • Official raid route, including registration, certificate, and medal for successful finishers, but with some added Marmot extras!
  • Experienced and passionate service from Marmot Tours with two customised support vans driven by attentive, fun, and proactive guides

Days on the bike

6 days

Your guys really exceeded our expectations!

John Lewis Venture Club


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. Frequently visited by the Tour de France, it is the perfect terrain and location for an epic raid cycling challenge! The ‘Raid Cyclotouriste du Massif Central’ is an official route from the Fédération Français de Cyclotourisme, administered by the cycling club in Mazamet. As with all raids, you have a route carnet to get stamped at various points on the journey, and you’ll receive a certificate and medal upon successful completion. However, we got a little excited by the opportunities for excellent road cycling in this part of France, so we’ve enhanced the official route with some cheeky extras that showcase the best riding of the area and make it a similar challenge to our other raids (Pyrenees, Alps, Corsica, and Dolomites).

You will fall in love with the rural wilderness of this region – the historic villages of the Cantal, the barren moorland of Mt Lozère, the deep limestone gorges and chestnut forests of the Cévennes, the vast view over Provence from 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.

However, fear not! You’ll have incomparable support from two expert (and fun!) Marmot guides with their customised vehicles. It’s their mission to help you conquer your goals, to have fun (it’s your holiday, after all!) and to send you home having had an unforgettable cycling experience.

You can find out more about the history and format of a raid in our blog here.

It is important to us that you book a holiday that’s right for you, so do 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

Single Room Supplement
7th Sep - 14th Sep
Single Room Sup. £380.00

We are pleased to offer some tempting discounts off the basic trip cost (not including extras such as single rooms or bike hire):

  • Book & pay your deposit more than 6 months in advance of the start of your holiday for our 5% early bookers discount
  • Get a group of 10+ people together for a 7.5% group discount and, as the group organiser, receive a £150 voucher for your next holiday
  • Be rewarded for your loyalty by receiving a 10% discount from your 3rd Marmot trip onwards

Please note that there is a maximum 10% discount on any holiday.



Day 0: Arrival 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

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 Béal (1390m), the highest pass on the ride. Your reward is a great lunch and viewing stop at the top. Collect your first carnet stamp in St-Dier-d’Auvergne before undulating the final 30kms through rural France at its best.  Your 3* hotel with outdoor heated pool is found in the town of Issoire.

163km with 2900m of ascent [ride profile]

Day 2: Issoire to Salers

Today you traverse the Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans d’Auvergne, 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 we’d be on it!).

Recharge with a coffee in the spa town of Le Mont-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 its cheese production.

170km with 3100m of ascent [ride profile]

Day 3: Salers to Aumont-Aubrac

The Puy Mary, the Volcano of Cantal, dominates the ride today. You’ll have seen this area showcased by the Tour de France – 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 kms, this climb is a memorable one. Continuing on the exact 2016 Stage 5 Tour de France 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 climb the Col de Prat de Bouc (1396m) before turning your back on the volcanoes and heading for the deep Gorges de la Truyere. Your destination is the mountain town of Aumont-Aubrac.

143km and 3200m of ascent [ride profile]

Day 4: Aumont-Aubrac to Meyrueis

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, with 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 that leads you into the Cévennes, a region renowned for its beauty. After a riverside lunch in Le Post de Montvert, we head into the stunning Gorges du Tarn for 40kms 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.

162km with 2900m ascent [ride profile]

Day 5: Meyrueis to Lodève

The first climb of 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 Mediterranean to the south and Provence to the east.

Enjoy the descent to Treves before undulating across barren plateaux and deep gorges, with the highlight being the Cirque de Navacelles. It is reached 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.

140km with 2400m of ascent [ride profile]

Day 6: Lodève to Castres

The mountains of Haut-Languedoc are a hidden treasure of the Massif Central – you can expect great tarmac, quiet roads, well-graded climbs, rural scenery, sheep, goats and vineyards!

We start today with the Col de la Baraque de Bral (610m) before a thrilling descent to St. Gervais-sur-Mare in time for coffee. Then it’s onwards and upwards for the stunning climb up the Col de l’Espinouse (1166m). From here you descend (mostly!) to Castres through beautiful rural France.

Your epic Raid Challenge is now complete and a celebration is in order!

138km with 2400m ascent [ride profile]

Day 7: Departure day

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.