If you've already cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats, this a similar "end to end", about the same distance but just a tad more exotic. The roads are far less busy in France than the UK, and the diversity of the scenery makes it simply spectacular.

REF: 07933


If you've already cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats, this a similar "end to end", about the same distance but just a tad more exotic. The roads are far less busy in France than the UK, and the diversity of the scenery makes it simply spectacular.

  • Half board hotel
  • French Alps —Saint-Malo > Villefranche-sur-Mer
  • Activity Type
    • With guide
    • Point to point
  • Groups up to 16
  • Challenging riding
  • Style
    • Flats
    • Mountain cols
    • Rolling hills
  • Distances
    • 100-150km/day
    • 150km+/day
  • Features
    • Bar
    • Ensuite rooms
    • Restaurant
    • Secure bike storage
    • TV/DVD
    • Wifi

Contact the host

Service & Itinerary back to top


  • Airport Transfers
  • Ensuite accommodation in minimum 2 but usually 3 or 4* hotels, in shared rooms. Single rooms are available and a supplement of £325 applies.
  • Continental or buffet-style breakfasts every morning, supplemented with muesli if needed.
  • 3-course evening meals every night with wine, a beer or a soft drink.
  • Snacks to keep you going during the day, such as bananas, chocolate, and quality energy gels and bars.
  • Bottled water and carbohydrate powder for your bottles, as well as High5 Zero electrolyte tablets.
  • Maps of the route for you to refer to as you ride and GPS files for you to upload to your device.
  • Souvenir full-zip Owayo St Malo to Nice jersey.
  • As many photos of you as we can take during your trip - usually a few hundred pictures - so you can relive your journey from start to finish when you get home.
  • We’ll never be more than a few kilometres from you at all times, so you don’t need to carry loads of kit with you “just in case”. We’ll try to be at the bottom of every climb so you can shed unwanted clothing, top up your water bottles and grab a snack or energy bar, and at the top of every col so you can add a windproof layer before you start your descent.


Arrival Day

We can pick up from Nantes, Rennes and Dinard airports or the ferry terminal or train station in St-Malo. For transatlantic clients, there are good railway connections from Paris CDG. We’ll then take you to the hotel in St Malo, where there will be tools and equipment available so you can put your bike together. Then it’s off to dinner and we’ll spend the evening getting to know each other while we brief you on the ride.

Day 1 - St Malo to Vitré -125 km, climbing 1,100 metres

After a hearty breakfast we gather on the seafront to take the official departure photo with the ocean as a backdrop. Then we mount up and head off out of St Malo along the coast. You can admire the bright colours of the sand yachts at Saint-Benoît-des-Ondes and the view of Mont Saint Michel as we cycle along the headland. The landscape is a little undulating at first, but then flattens out for a while as we turn inland and ride by fields full of cabbages, onions and garlic. Then it changes again to rolling hills and lots of pretty villages and towns, including Fougères, which is frequently included in the Tour de France, but also features in the 4-yearly Paris-Brest-Paris cycling event. The terrain starts to become a little more hilly as we arrive at the medieval town of Vitré, with its castle and timbered medieval houses. This is where we stay the night and we’ll wander into the old town and enjoy our dinner in one of our favourite restaurants on the trip.

Day 2 - Vitre to Saumur - 180 km, climbing 1,200 metres

This is certainly a day of contrasts. At first we cycle from one small town to another along lanes past open fields and hedges. You’ll be amazed at the beautiful gardens that surround the houses and decorate the towns. After about 70km, we pass through the town of Segré and everything changes. We’re now cycling along dead straight Roman roads through forested areas, where you can see a church spire on a hill in the distance. When you finally reach the little town on top of the hill, you descend the other side and again you can see the next hill, with the next church spire. The only real difference is that the churches all have different shaped spires - as if there had been a medieval competition see which town could build the church with the most interesting steeple.

Just when you think you can’t take another straight road, we come to St-Georges-sur-Loire and the terrain changes once more. We cross a bridge over the Loire that leapfrogs several small islands to get to the other bank and for the rest of the day we cycle through one pretty village after another as we follow the river, criss-crossing the Loire via an assortment of bridges and marvelling at the beautiful old châteaux and churches, and even the odd windmill. We finally ride into the beautiful historic city of Saumur on the banks of the Loire, the site of a WWII battle where the cadets at the local cavalry school held off the German invaders for two days before the powers that be forced them to withdraw, allowing the enemies to overrun the town. This is a massive wine producing area, and we’ll be sure to taste a couple of the local vintages with our dinner.

Day 3 - Saumur to Gencay - 160 km, climbing 1,200 metres

We leave Saumur and cycle away from the river Loire, passing through Fontevraud with its famous Abbey, the final resting place of the Plantagenets including King Henry II and his son, Richard the Lionheart. Then it’s on to Loudun, the site of the 17th Century Loudun Possessions, when Cardinal Richelieu rid himself of a rebellious and disobedient parish priest by conspiring to have him accused of witchcraft, leading to his torture and eventual execution by being burned at the stake. On a less grissly note, it was also the finish of a Tour de France stage in 2000. The route takes us past the mushroom farms that are a major industry of this area (there’s even a mushroom museum near Saumur) and through wide open fields of corn and barley. For the rest of the day the landscape alternates between beautiful rolling green fields and hedges, wide open farmland and small towns and villages as we make a wide arc around the outskirts of Poitiers. Finally we arrive in the small, understated town of Gençay, famous for … absolutely nothing!

Day 4 - Gencay to Brantome - 151 km, climbing 1,500 metres

Heading South East, we approach the river Vienne, passing under the magnificent viaduct at Ile-Jourdain as we touch the river and turn away again, winding through many small medieval villages on quiet roads. We follow the river along its eastern bank, before we arrive in Rochechouart. Many places (hotels, bars, campsites, garages) bear the name of the meteorite that landed 4km to the west of the town around 200 million years ago. From here we follow the D675 into the Massif des Feuillardières with its chestnut trees and small rivers, finally arriving in the picturesque town of Brantôme, sometimes called the Venice of the Dordogne, which is built on the river Dronne.

Day 5 - Brantome to Souillac - 162 km, climbing 2,200 metres

We’re now entering the South West of France, with its profusion of châteaux and caves. We travel winding roads through rolling hills and unbelievably pretty scenery, past buildings constructed from golden stone with terracotta tiled roofs. We begin cycling past fields of sunflowers and end up riding through endless plantations of walnuts, as we follow the Route des Noix (road of the nuts). There’s a short climb to Hautefort, which is famous for being the first ever hospice, founded in the 17th century, which is now a museum of medicine. We pass through beautiful Condat-sur-Vezere on the river, before coming to a big open valley with a magnificent castle, the Château Fleunie. A short, steep climb, and then you’re looking down on the valley with the château and the river. Before long we arrive in Montignac, famous for the Lascaux caves, now closed to the public for fear of damaging the fragile structure of the prehistoric cave paintings. At St-Léon-sur-Vézere you will see the amazing limestone cliffs with their cave dwellings, the Cité Troglodytique de la Roque St-Christophe, which was inhabited for 55,000 years until only 300 years ago. More walnut plantations and foie gras farms and we finally arrive at our overnight stop in Souillac, a remarkably modern town in this very historic region of France.

Day 6 - Souillac to Espalion - 167 km, climbing 2,400 metres

Out of Souillac, continuing on the Route des Noix towards the Massif Central, and you can see that the terrain is becoming more hilly as the walnuts finally give way to sheep. We pass the ancient fortified mill at Cougnaguet and climb back out of the valley. From here we can see Rocamadour, the small town built into the side of the cliffs and a destination for pilgrims for centuries. Many small towns in France have an amazing claim to fame, and we stop for coffee in Figeac, whose famous son, Jean-Francois Champollion, deciphered the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone in Egypt, and put his home town on the map. Continuing along the river Lot, we head into the department of Cantal, famous for a fairly hard cheese that is about as near as you’ll get to English Cheddar in France. We continue past the wine-producing area of Entraygues-Le-Fel and then cycle along the river Lot as we arrive in Espalion, where deep sea diving equipment was invented by two very enterprising local men - one a mining engineer and the other a mariner. There’s a diving museum here and a bronze statue of a diver on the river bank.

Day 7 - Espalion to Les Vans - 117 km, climbing 2,700 metres

After leaving Espalion, we soon come to Ste-Eulalie d’Olt, still on the river Lot, one of the most beautiful villages in France. We follow the river along a flat valley surrounded by farmland, passing through an area that used to be known as Gévaudan. Here in the 18th Century, a wolf known as “La Bête de Gévaudan”, attacked and killed more than 100 people, many of them children working in the fields, until it was finally killed. At Moriès we turn away from the Lot and follow the river Colagne through Chirac and as far as the fortified town of Marvejols, which used to be the capital of this region. Now the terrain is more demanding, and we make the short climb up to Goudard where we find we’re at an altitude of over 1,000 metres for the first time on our journey.

We pause to enjoy the stunning view before we descend into the small city of Mende, where there are lots of bars and restaurants to stop for lunch. This area was featured in the Tour de France in 2010, so you’re now definitely in cycling country. There are a couple of undulating climbs - the first up to the Col de la Tourette (839m) - the first real “col” on our route - followed by the Col des Tribes (1,131m). At the top you’ll also find a sign for the “ligne de partage des eaux” that marks the point where the Atlantic side of France meets the Mediterranean side. From here we can see the wooded slopes of Mont Lozère, the highest point in the Massif Central, before we make the twisting 25km descent to Lac du Villefort. Our final climb of the day is the gentle ascent from Villefort to the Col du Mas de l’Ayre (846m), and then we descend into Les Vans. It’s noticeably warmer and you know you’re finally in the South.

Day 8 - Les Vans to Bédoin - 153 km, climbing 1,700 metres

Now we’re in the South of France there’s an immediate change in the landscape. From lush and green it has suddenly become rocky and dry with goats, sheep, fruit orchards, olive groves, sunflowers and endless vineyards. We turn south at Ruoms and head towards Pont d’Arc, famous for the natural stone archway spanning the river Ardèche, formed by the sheer force of the water. This is the gateway to the famous Gorges de l’Ardèche, otherwise known as the European Grand Canyon. We follow the river with its many beaches and enormous limestone cliffs for 30km, making the short climb up to the Col du Serre de Tourre (322m), from where we can look down on the Gorge.

We stay at this level, cycling through arid, rocky terrain, stopping now and again at the viewpoints to take in the amazing panorama, until we exit the Gorge at St-Martin-d’Ardèche and the pretty town of Aiguèze. Here we cross the river via a very narrow suspension bridge, with huge, imposing towers. We follow the river Rhône, criss-crossing it as we go, riding through endless vineyards. We’re soon in Châteauneuf du Pape, one of the most famous wine producing areas in the world. Before long Mont Ventoux appears through the haze on the horizon - a timely reminder of tomorrow’s ride. We ride past endless fields of lavender - the smell is amazing, but the noise of the bees is also incredible. Finally we cycle through Carpentras and head towards Bédoin, at the foot of Mont Ventoux, where we stay the night.

Day 9 - Bédoin to Moustiers-Ste-Marie - 160km, climbing 3,200 metres

We couldn’t see how you ride past Mont Ventoux without making the climb up to one of the most spectacular and revered cols in the cycling world. Of the three climbs, this is considered the middle one in terms of difficulty, but it’s also the shortest, and we have a long way to go today. From Bédoin you have a couple of kilometres to warm up before you start the climb, then it’s about 14km up to Chalet Reynard, and then a further 7km up to the col, passing the monument to Tommy Simpson who died at that spot almost 50 years ago in the Tour de France.

If mountains are really not your thing and you don’t want to make the final 7km ride up to the summit, you can turn right at Chalet Reynard and go straight into the descent to Sault, but for those that make the final climb, the landscape is absolutely amazing and totally unlike anything else you would have seen - like an enormous sand dune - very barren, but stunningly beautiful. We stop briefly to take in the atmosphere and enjoy the sense of achievement before we retrace our steps to Chalet Reynard, pausing to pay homage to Tommy on the way down. From here we ride through fields of lavender, chestnut plantations and lots of little towns. As we leave Banon, we say goodbye to the lavender at last and follow a wooded valley to a reservoir. Climbing out of the valley to Forcalquier, with its observatory and its octagonal chapel, we cycle past lush green farmland until we reach Moustiers-Ste-Marie, our overnight stop.

Day 10 - Moustiers-Ste-Marie to Nice - 146km, climbing 2,200 metres

Our last day of riding and the challenge hasn’t ended yet. We head out of Moustiers on the Corniche Sublime, with dramatic views over the surrounding countryside, before descending to cycle around the enormous Lac de Ste-Croix. Before long we can see the Gorge du Verdon, as we cross over the bridge, to make the climb to Aiguines. Passing the château with its mosaic-tiled roof, we ride up to the Col d’Illoire (967m), from where we can stop to look down over the gorge. It’s not the top, there’s a further 3km to go until we reach the Source de Vaumale (1,180m).

For the next 30km we’re either riding up or down as we travel through the Tunnels de Fayet, descending to cross the river at the Pont de l’Artuby, and climbing along the Balcons de la Mescla, until we come to Comps-sur-Artuby, where we may stop for coffee. We climb gently again as we cycle through the rocky landscape, and into Castellane with its Chapelle Notre-Dame du Roc, perched high on a cliff above the town. Across the river again, still climbing, to the Col de Luens (1,054m), followed by a short descent and then a modest climb to a final, unnamed col. This is the last significant climb on the trip. We cycle along a wide, fertile valley, until we come to a canyon called the Clue de Gréolières. Through the town and we continue down the Gorge du Loup, with its waterfall, the Cascades du Saut du Loup, and on through a tunnel and over a bridge where we can look both ways down the gorge. Another tunnel and another waterfall, the Cascade de Courmes. From here it’s all downhill to Cagnes-sur-Mer, where we can see the ocean for the first time. The roads are noticeably more busy as we approach Nice, but there’s a cycle path to make it less nerve-wracking. Finally we’re on the Promenade des Anglais, and we ride triumphantly into the old city of Nice. Time for a well-earned beer, I think!

Departure Day

We can drop you off at Nice airport, which is well-connected to major international cities, such as London, Dublin, New York and Toronto, or the railway station, which connects with many European cities. We’ll also be passing Béziers on the road home, so that gives you another option.

Accommodation back to top

Good quality accommodation every night, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are sometimes available and a supplement applies.

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We’re always looking for new things for our clients to do, so when we discovered the book France en Velo, we had to find out more. The route described in the book takes you around Mont Ventoux, with the option to take an extra day and ride the 26km each way from Sault to the peak and back if you want to. For us it seemed a shame to be so close to such an amazing and iconic place without actually making the climb, so we’ve tweaked things slightly. We stay in Bédoin for the night and then get up fresh the next morning and make the climb to the peak, before descending to Sault and continuing on the official route.

About French Alps

Picturesque villages and famous cols in the Savoie and Haute Savoie.

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Prices include

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  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
  • Energy Snacks
  • Guide
  • Luggage Transfers
  • Route Maps/Gps
  • Transfers
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