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Base in central france?

heavymentalheavymental Posts: 2,020
edited July 2019 in Tour & expedition
Looking for a recommendation... We usually go stay in the Alps or the Pyrenees, rent a place for a week of riding 30-60 mile round trips in a nice town e.g Annecy, Bourg D'Oisan, Bagneres Du Luchon. The only time we ventured elsewhere was a week in Gerardmer in the Vosges which was unfortunately a wet week but also we weren't that inspired by the riding. Does anyone have a recommendation for a nice area to check out in the central area of France? I'm thinking it'd be nice to do some more rolling routes rather than slogging up cols but also have a nice base to go hang by the pool, eat in town etc.

Any great locations that you keep going back to or is that paradise I've imagined just a dream!?

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  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    Maybe it would be too far for you but Provence is a wonderful cycling area once you go inland from the coast. You could base yourself at Castellane for scenic rides by the Grand Canyon du Verdon to the west, the southern cols and gorges of the Alps to the north and really quiet and beautiful countryside by St Auban and the Col de Bleine.

    Another good option is northern Provence and the Drome. I really like Beaumes-de-Venise as a nice town and a good base for riding Ventoux and the Gorges de la Nesque. You can generally rely on warm sunny weather in Provence.

    It’s a shorter drive to the Ardeche on the western side of the Rhône. The gorge is worth seeing but busy and touristy. I prefer the northern Ardeche near Mt Mezenc and the Gerbier de Jonc. Spectacular hills, quiet twisty roads and landscape that reminds me of a sunny Scotland. The towns of St Agreve and Le Chaylard could make suitable bases.

    If you are thinking of more central France, the Dordogne and Lot areas provide relatively easier rides along rivers with plenty of off-bike interest for tourists and loads of attractive towns as a base. Further north, Burgundy is a shorter drive with rolling riding and plenty of places to visit. Limousin and the Massif Central are another couple of my favourites.

    Brittany is worth considering. And the Cathar fortress country north of the Pyrenees and west of Perpignan. Also the upper reaches of the Loire and the Tarn are well worth seeking out.

    I could go on and on! I love France and have ridden in pretty well every region of the country. I’ve enjoyed cycle holidays there twice a year for the past 30 years and crossed it north-south three times.
  • heavymentalheavymental Posts: 2,020
    Mercia Man wrote:
    If you are thinking of more central France, the Dordogne and Lot areas provide relatively easier rides along rivers with plenty of off-bike interest for tourists and loads of attractive towns as a base. Further north, Burgundy is a shorter drive with rolling riding and plenty of places to visit. Limousin and the Massif Central are another couple of my favourites.

    Thanks very much MM there's a few ideas there to go on. Have visited Provence and loved the region so will certainly make a note of your suggestions there but I think this time I'd like a bit more info on the above areas... the Massif Central in particular but anywhere further North than Alps/Provence (but not as far as Brittany) I'd be interested in. Can you expand on the above a little bit? Appreciate your thoughts as you've been there so much :)
  • durhamwaspdurhamwasp Posts: 1,239
    Jura?
    http://www.snookcycling.wordpress.com - Reports on Cingles du Mont Ventoux, Alpe D'Huez, Galibier, Izoard, Tourmalet, Paris-Roubaix Sportive & Tour of Flanders Sportive, Amstel Gold Xperience, Vosges, C2C, WOTR routes....
  • dabberdabber Posts: 1,739
    Mercia Man wrote:
    If you are thinking of more central France, the Dordogne and Lot areas provide relatively easier rides along rivers with plenty of off-bike interest for tourists and loads of attractive towns as a base. Further north, Burgundy is a shorter drive with rolling riding and plenty of places to visit. Limousin and the Massif Central are another couple of my favourites.

    Thanks very much MM there's a few ideas there to go on. Have visited Provence and loved the region so will certainly make a note of your suggestions there but I think this time I'd like a bit more info on the above areas... the Massif Central in particular but anywhere further North than Alps/Provence (but not as far as Brittany) I'd be interested in. Can you expand on the above a little bit? Appreciate your thoughts as you've been there so much :)

    I've got a house in the Lot (in the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park) and spend about a third of the year there, both during the high season and out of season. It's a beautiful area and the cycling is good. The valleys of the River Lot, Cele and Vers make for nice flattish riding. Coming out the the valleys the climbs are mainly Cat 3 and 4. Traffic is very light even in the high season although touristy villages like St Cirq Lapopie will be a bit busier but nothing excessive. Some areas out on the Causse you will not really encounter any traffic (perhaps the odd tractor) and very little sign of habitation.
    “You may think that; I couldn’t possibly comment!”

    Wilier Cento Uno SR/Wilier Mortirolo/Specialized Roubaix Comp/Calibre Bossnut
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    Mercia Man wrote:
    If you are thinking of more central France, the Dordogne and Lot areas provide relatively easier rides along rivers with plenty of off-bike interest for tourists and loads of attractive towns as a base. Further north, Burgundy is a shorter drive with rolling riding and plenty of places to visit. Limousin and the Massif Central are another couple of my favourites.

    Thanks very much MM there's a few ideas there to go on. Have visited Provence and loved the region so will certainly make a note of your suggestions there but I think this time I'd like a bit more info on the above areas... the Massif Central in particular but anywhere further North than Alps/Provence (but not as far as Brittany) I'd be interested in. Can you expand on the above a little bit? Appreciate your thoughts as you've been there so much :)

    The Lot is definitely worth considering. The most popular touristy area between Cahors and Figeac has plenty of off-bike interest such as St Cirq-Lapopie and the Grotte du Pech-Merle plus easy scenic riding along the Lot and Cele rivers. There are steepish but short climbs out of the river valleys into causse country - limestone plateaux offering easy rolling riding and expansive views.

    The Lot valley to the east of Figeac is another of my favourites. Entraygues is a nice little town and a good base for exploring the valleys and hills north to the Gorges de la Truyere and west to the lovely pilgrimage tourist village of Conques.

    A bit further north is the Dordogne, well loved by English tourists and expats. Generally easy riding along the Dordogne and Vezere rivers, lots of lovely golden stone villages and interesting places to visit such as prehistoric cave homes at La Roque St Christophe. The central area such as pretty Domme or the bigger town of Sarlat would make a good base. Hiring canoes for exploring the rivers is great fun.

    Further east is the Massif Central. I like the picturesque tourist village of Salers which offers a mix of rolling rides and a tough climb up the Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary mountain). Another base might be Murat, a pleasant town with access to the other side of Pas de Peyrol plus the climb up the Plomb du Cantal. This is mountain country so the weather is more unpredictable than the Lot/Dordogne area which is generally dry, sunny and not too hot. Further north in the Massif Central is the volcano national park region around the Puy de Dome (which unfortunately you can no longer cycle up). You could base yourself around Le Mont-Dore.

    Further north still is Burgundy which offers rolling rides in pleasant but not spectacular countryside, beautiful towns and villages and plenty of things to see such as chateaux. I've stayed several times at the cheap municipal campsite (with chalets) in the village of Cormatin, a short drive east off the A6 motorway at Tournus. As in the rest of France, you can get good maps and guides of cycle routes from tourist offices. Cormatin may be too quiet for some people but you have direct access to a disused railway line with a good tarmac surface which forms part of a huge circular cycle route including the longest (I think) cycle route tunnel in Europe. I get a bit bored with flat railway line cycle routes after a while but you can always peel off them and explore the rolling hills and forests.

    East of Burgundy, on the other side of the A6, is the Jura. It's an attractive area but the mountains mean the weather is more iffy. The northern part around Arbois offers a good mix of flatter rides, the southern part near St Claude offers proper mountain passes.

    So, on balance, the Lot and Dordogne have a lot to offer for a not too strenuous cycle holiday, with a good chance of sunny weather, plenty of accommodation choices and enough of interest to keep you occupied on and off the bike for more than just a couple of days.
  • heavymentalheavymental Posts: 2,020
    Thanks all, some great ideas here. Whilst this thread is running can you give any more tips on Provence? Stayed in Carpentras previously and rode Ventoux. Loved Bedoin too as a village but it’d be nice to have a few more ideas for reference.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    Just north of Ventoux is the small town of Buis-les-Baronnies. It’s handy for the Sault and Malaucene ascents of Ventoux and is a good base for exploring the quiet hills and mountains to the north and east.

    Heading further north you get into the Drome - like Provence but quieter. Crest and Die would make good bases. Die has direct access to the glorious Col de Rousset which leads to the high plateau of Vercors for scenic but not too strenuous cycling. There’s excellent peaceful riding south of Crest and Die such as the Pertuis Forest. Another potential base is Dieulefit or Bourdeaux in the hills south of Crest and Die.

    The other part of Provence I am really keen on is the Var region north of Cannes and Grasse. As I said earlier, the Grand Canyon of Verdon is one of the best sights in the world with fabulous cycling roads either side. Nearby Castellane is a lively base and offers rides into the southernmost Alps plus the little known country to the east - tiny lanes and some really steep climbs such as the Col de Buis (19 per cent gradient). Also the Lac de Saint Croix at the west end of the Grand Canyon offers all you want for a beach holiday.
  • pmannion9pmannion9 Posts: 258
    A guy on here has a house in Die and raves about cycling there.
    This is his blog and all the routes are on it .
    Looks great !!!

    https://unanglaisendiois.wordpress.com/
    2013 Kinesis Racelight TK3
    2011 Cannondale SuperSix
    2008 Specialized Allez Elite
  • sniper68sniper68 Posts: 2,910
    Gorges du Verdon.
    The Route des Cretes from Lac du Sainte a Croix is a favourite of mine.We were based in Aups but plan on staying in Castellaine or Palud sur Verdon.
    Jura,either French or Swiss side is also a favourite.A bit quieter than Provence but still has nice weather,good climbs and some very quiet roads.
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 7,643
    pmannion9 wrote:
    A guy on here has a house in Die and raves about cycling there.
    This is his blog and all the routes are on it .
    Looks great !!!

    https://unanglaisendiois.wordpress.com/
    Haha, thanks, that'll be me! :)

    Yes, massively varied riding available, though going up & down will get you big rewards of different terrains.
  • heavymentalheavymental Posts: 2,020
    Mercia Man wrote:
    Heading further north you get into the Drome - like Provence but quieter. Crest and Die would make good bases. Die has direct access to the glorious Col de Rousset which leads to the high plateau of Vercors for scenic but not too strenuous cycling. There’s excellent peaceful riding south of Crest and Die such as the Pertuis Forest. Another potential base is Dieulefit or Bourdeaux in the hills south of Crest and Die.

    Some feedback on the suggestions made here by Mercia Man and backed up by Brian in Die... We have just returned from a week staying in Crest and had a really great trip. Crest was a lovely place to stay; an interesting town with a medieval keep that made a good focal point for a wander around, some good places to eat and the usual delights of a French town. The river that runs through the town/valley made for a good canoeing trip and a welcome water feature for a cool down. The riding was great. We did a few local rides, 30 or 40 milers and a 75 mile trip along the valley to Die, up the Rousset and back. There's a good few options for rides to the South of Crest and in the end we stuck to these as a ride North into the Vercors was a bit too challenging distance wise and it was a bit too hot to want to bother to load the bikes into the car to drive to a start point. Pretty villages, beautiful views and quiet roads; it was really a lovely area. Thanks again for the suggestions; I'll definitely be bookmarking this thread for future trips but feel like there's another trip to the Drome to be had before looking at other locations. Die looks like a great option too. We stopped for a crepe on our way up the Rousset.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    Great! I'm so pleased the suggestions were useful. Wish I was going back to France this year, but Brexit uncertainty is keeping me in the U.K.
  • heavymentalheavymental Posts: 2,020
    Mercia Man wrote:
    Great! I'm so pleased the suggestions were useful. Wish I was going back to France this year, but Brexit uncertainty is keeping me in the U.K.

    :(:( We'll avoid talk of politics here but I sure do love France and Europe.
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 7,313
    We had 5 days in the massif central last year - it was nice and plenty of good cycling. Can't remember exactly where we stayed - it was more of a small village without a great deal there but I did a few rides and Lac Chambon up the road has nice little touristy town with a beach etc. You've got the Puy de Dome not too far up the road (well quite a long bike ride - not too far in a car) - I know you aren't allowed to cycle up it other than a few days a year but you might get away with it early morning - there is a road but with the addition of a railway I think it's just too narrow for bikes to be hurtling down at 40mph. Otherwise it's worth a hike to the top which is what I did.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
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