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France

St Malo to Nice Classic

Guided Road Bike Tour

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

15 days

Prices from

$4,015 P.P.
France

St Malo to Nice Classic

Guided Road Bike Tour

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

15 days

Prices from

$4,015 P.P.
BOOK NOW

Skedaddle’s 'Channel to Med' odyssey takes us from Brittany’s St Malo shoreline and doesn’t stop until we reach the glamourous and warm Mediterranean waters of Nice on the French Riviera. Our journey of more than 950 miles takes us through no fewer than 19 of France’s regional départements as we ride into some of the country’s most striking and dramatic landscapes, discovering the true heart of rural France.

Passing through a patchwork of subtle and striking changes in terrain and landscape this is a route of two distinct halves. We begin by hugging the Brittany coastline, momentarily flirting with Normandy, and seeing the iconic Mont St Michel before heading south to the banks of France’s longest river, the Loire. After crossing the wheat fields and grazing land of Poitou-Charentes, we reach the rolling hills of the Dordogne.

On leaving the Dordogne we turn a corner. The terrain changes as hills become ever more prominent, slowly giving way to mountainous terrain and steep sided valleys, and a change in climate and terroir. The route hugs the banks of the Lot River, picking a gentle route into the mountains and occasionally propelling us up its valley sides, before we reach its source and the northern edge of the wild and wooded Cévennes. The route then plunges down into the fruit and vineyard choked Ardèche département before following the famous gorge of the same name to the Rhône valley, and riding through the Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Crossing the Rhône announces our arrival in Provence. The towering shape of Mont Ventoux on the skyline, hot sun, lavender fields and blue-shuttered cafés, combine to make you feel as if you are in a separate country entirely. Finally, after an exhilarating descent to the Mediterranean coast we cruise along the Promenade des Anglais for a celebratory dip in the Med.

 

This is the original and ‘Classic’ road schedule but for those looking for a slightly more leisurely cycling holiday in France, we have another version, our Explorer, which involves cycling the same route over 20 days and includes a rest day.

Highlights

  • Cycling along the Brittany coast with views out to the Abbey of Mont St Michel
  • Travelling under your own power all the way from the Channel to the Mediterranean
  • Following riverside roads along the Loire, Dordogne and the Rhône
  • Riding through the wine drenched Châteauneuf-du-Pape!
  • Riding through the lavender fields of Provence and winding your way through the Verdon Gorge
  • Descending to Nice to ride along the Promenade des Anglais like a Tour de France winner!

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St Malo to Nice showcases cycling in France at its best!

Nigel, UK

Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival: St Malo
Non Riding Day

St Malo is the perfect place to start our journey across France! It boasts the most impressive walled citadel on France’s northern coast as well as large stretches of sandy beach. The wide, sweeping bay to the east of the town makes a great starting point for your journey.

Depending on your arrival time, the afternoon and evening is spent building bikes and strolling around the beautifully preserved fortified walls and the maze of cobbled streets in the old town while some riders like to take a dip in the sea. In the evening we will eat at one of St Malo’s many restaurants for a chance to catch up and meet your fellow Skedaddlers, and chat about the epic journey ahead.

Day 2
St Malo to Chateaubourg
73 Miles / 117 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 780 Metres Approx.

A gentle first day with friendly flat terrain, enjoying the wide expansive views of Mont St Michel and quiet back lanes of rural Brittany and Normandy.

Pedalling right from the hotel door we make our way to the official start on the beach front, just 500yds away, for the obligatory photo with ‘La Manche’ (the French name for The English Channel) against the backdrop of the tidal island of the Fort National, clearly visible from the promenade. This morning’s ride takes us out of St Malo, hugging the coastline and this early part of the first stage gives a true taste of Brittany. We pass close to the small fishing port of Cancale, famous for its fresh oysters, before searching for the misty outline of the island of Mont St Michel across the marshes and the vivid colours of the Cote d’Emeraude. Mont St Michel is emblematic of France’s dramatic northern coastline and a great intro to the sites to come.

The Abbey was established on the island as early as the 8th century on top of a large distinctive mound connected to the mainland via a causeway and is the most visited sight in France after the Eiffel Tower! Mont St Michel is the highest piece of land for many miles around. As we start pedalling inland, just before the town of Pontorson, don’t forget to have a look over your shoulder for your last glimpse of the sea for 2 weeks!

Pedalling south-east away from the sea; the route winds through the tranquil roads of rural Normandy and Brittany, weaving our way past golden fields of hay and deep green pastures. The latter part of today’s stage passes through the town of Fougeres with its well preserved chateau designed to protect the Duchy of Brittany. Brittany fiercely defends its unique culture and identity to this day; recently exempting itself from a proposed merger of French regions proposed by the central government.

Day 3
Chateaubourg to Brissac-Quincé
89 Miles / 144 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 955 Metres Approx.

Starting with straight roads linking crests crowned with churches, we cross the great Loire river and meander through our first vineyards of the trip, arriving at the small town of Brissac-Quincé, dominated by its chateau.

After stocking up on pain au chocolat we press on due south as we cross from Brittany into the deeply rural Mayenne and then the Loire. We pass though many small villages punctuated by occasional market towns such as Craon and Segre. Most settlements are located on top of small rises, their church spires each competing to be the tallest. A series of undulations along the straight roads ensure the next church is a great visual target to lure you south.

Just over 60 miles into today’s stage we cross the famous Loire River – France’s longest river at over 600 miles. We follow the great river upstream, starting with the beautiful curves of the Corniche Angevine, where the route winds its way past the first vineyards of the trip before becoming reunited with the Loire and we pedal along the quiet lanes of one of the river’s many islands.

The route leaves the river as we approach Brissac-Quincé, a small town which boasts the tallest chateau in France. The Loire region is famous for its rosé but the local Saumur sparkling (a rival to champagne) is a must as an aperitif to celebrate getting one of our longest days under our belt.

Day 4
Brissac-Quincé to Parthenay
81 Miles / 130 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 850 Metres Approx.

We start the morning by re-uniting ourselves with the Loire, following its banks upstream for around 15 miles before rolling through the Forêt de Fontevraud as we head due south, leaving the Loire behind to the town of Parthenay in Poitou.

Pedalling along the Loire is ever popular with cycle tourists and with the pancake flat quiet lanes it is easy to see why. After passing the ‘caves’ of the famous Saumur Cremant we turn south away from the river en-route to the atmospheric old streets of Fontevraud l’Abbaye and its grand monastic complex, the largest in France. Even if you are not an ardent abbey enthusiast the sheer scale of the complex is impressive. The abbey is the resting place of 15 of the Plantagenet family, including the mysterious Eleanor of Aquitaine who is buried alongside her husband Henry II and their son Richard the Lionheart.

After lingering in the Loire, the second half of the day after Fontevraud l’Abbaye is a stage of real pedalling progress which starts with the Loudun church spire teasing you from 10 miles away on perhaps the straightest section of the whole journey. After this, the route winds through the wheat fields and grazing land of the Thouet valley to the unassuming but history-steeped town of Parthenay with its impressive 13th century Porte Medieval through which many a pilgrim has passed on their way to Santiago de Compostella.

Day 5
Parthenay to L’Isle Jourdain
64 Miles / 102 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 550 Metres Approx.

Secluded back lanes with flower-studded hedgerows take you through the pastoral landscape surrounding Parthenay to the more open countryside of the Vienne region. We glide past endless fields of sunflowers and farmers bringing in the hay. Avoiding the city of Poitiers, we stick to quieter routes passing through the small towns of Lusignan, Vivone and Gencay. We spend the night just south of L’Isle Jourdain. Our hotel is on the banks of the Vienne river perfect for a post-ride dip and a great opportunity to relax after the first few days.

Day 6
L’Isle Jourdain to Brantome
73 Miles / 118 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,298 Metres Approx.

Today is a little bit more exerting than previous days, with the added ingredient of the rolling hills of this picturesque ancient region of Perigord making an appearance in the afternoon to add a little extra spice.

With an easier day yesterday, and any morning saddle soreness hopefully having disappeared, we will all be raring to continue on our journey! The morning starts gently along the peaceful Vienne River, following it upstream on some of the quietest back lanes of the whole journey with little disturbance other than a stray roaming cow or the occasional tractor. After passing through the pretty village of Exideuil, the route undulates away from the river, past Gallo-Roman ruins to Rochechouart, famous for being hit by a meteorite and is dominated by its chateau. The route enters the ever popular region of Dordogne, famed for its lush rolling hills and languid lifestyle. We roll past green meadows and clusters of chestnut trees before reaching picture postcard Brantome which is perfect for an evening stroll. Almost an island, the town is entirely surrounded by the Dronne river.

Day 7
Brantome to Souillac
86 Miles / 138 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,486 Metres Approx.

The riding is similar to yesterday on quiet back lanes, and for the most part of the day over gently rolling hills. The patchwork landscape of woodlands and pastures make the region famous for truffles and foie gras. We skirt the regional capital of Perigueux, before reaching Les Eyzies, a small town made famous by the many pre-historic cave paintings that can be found in the valley. Cro-Magnon man, our earliest modern human ancestor, was discovered here. A small stretch on ‘route national’ brings us to Sarlat; arguably the jewel in Dordogne’s crown. Sarlat has one of the best preserved networks of medieval streets in the whole of Europe. In fact, Sarlat was the first old town granted protected status in the whole of France.

We leave Sarlat on a short section of immaculate cycleway which glides us down to the Dordogne River before following the channel upstream. During the fantastic ride along the Dorodogne river we are likely to see more cyclists than cars. This stretch to Soulliac is incredibly popular with locals and cycle tourists alike as we follow the flat tree lined roads of the ‘route des noix’ along the banks of one of France’s most famous rivers. Souillac appears to be a small modern working town at first but scratch beneath the surface and you will be able to find tucked away squares and narrow medieval streets.

Day 8
Souillac to Entraygues
83 Miles / 135 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,633 Metres Approx.

A real cyclist’s stage with the first climb and descent of any length so far. After a short section following the river we soon reach Grottes de Lacave where we turn south-east and the first climb of the trip starts. The route rises out of the Dordogne valley to the tip of the dramatic pilgrim village of Rocamadour before reaching the limestone plateau, which takes its name from the small town of Gramat. After crossing the distinctive plateau dotted with sheep and dry stone walls we descend into Figeac on the banks of the Cele.

Another modest climb follows Figeac to the hilltop village of Montredon where we have a well-earned picnic, slightly later than usual, but you can tuck in safe in the knowledge that t6odays climbing is done. After lunch we twist our way down to the Lot River. We will get to know the River Lot well over the next few days as we follow it to its source in the mountains of the Massif Central. We spend late afternoon riding along the banks of the river on a well maintained but virtually unused minor road that takes us all the way to our hotel in the small town of Entraygues. A long yet rewarding one as the riding simply gets better and better as the day goes on!

Day 9
Entraygues to Mende
75 Miles / 120 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 2,300 Metres Approx.

A great day as we head to the hills and the town of Mende, which regularly hosts a Tour de France stage. A slightly mountainous stage with 3 climbs, the final one undoubtedly has some bite at the end of the day topping out at 1,020m. The first two climbs have very gentle gradients, luring you almost imperceptibly up the climbs.

The Lot River guides your morning ride, passing the medieval bridge of Estaing and through 3 of France’s ‘_plus beaux villages_’. The scenery is stunning so we hardly notice we are climbing for the early part of the day. The road follows the river’s course only leaving its banks to climb into the wooded hillside of this quiet corner of Aveyron. The first 2 climbs are gentle before we take a picnic lunch by the river in St Laurent d’Olt.

A much welcomed flat section allows us to digest our lunch before climbing gradually through Marvejolsas, we can marvel as the surrounding hills become small mountains. As we enter wolf country beware the ‘Beast of Gevaudan’ snapping at your heels! We start the Col de Goudard, a challenging climb and the first of the trip at over 1,000m. A steep descent precedes a final cheeky little 2km climb before we reach Mende, the capital of the Lozere département on the northern edge of the Cévennes National Park.

Day 10
Mende to Vallon Pont d’Arc
81 Miles / 130 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,600 Metres Approx.

A little known region but today’s riding is awesome and will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the trip. We have 2 very gentle cols are punctuated by a seemingly endless 25km descent which if pedalled slightly flows all the more sweetly.

We dip into the northern edge of the Cévennes National Park, home to gorgeous mountains which are characteristically green and forested, and home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. One of the hillier days of the trip it includes the Col des Tribes (which at 1,069m is the second highest point on the trip!) and the stunning wooded descent off the Col du Mas de l’Ayre (846m) into Les Vans. Today’s riding is challenging but all the ascents are thoroughly manageable.

The afternoon of this stage is a defining moment when you truly reach the south of France, as we descend through the cool pine forest of the Cévennes to the warm valleys of the Ardèche crammed with vineyards and fruit orchards. The ride finishes at the stunning Pont d’ Arc, the gateway to the Gorges de l’Ardèche.

Day 11
Vallon Pont d’Arc to Sault
89 Miles / 144 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 2,200 Metres Approx.

A varied days riding as we enjoy the corkscrew ride above the Gorges de l’Ardèche, cruising along the banks of the Rhône with the mistral on our backs (hopefully!) before riding through the vineyards of wine drenched Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Immediately after leaving our hotel we enter the Gorges de Ardeche. The start of a fantastically winding 35km gorge ride is marked by a great photo opportunity at the Pont d’Arc – an amazing arch that the river has carved through the limestone. As the road rises and falls alongside and above the gorge, take advantage of the many great viewpoints down into the steep sided gorge where adventurous kayakers enjoy the long descent down the Ardèche. Panoramic vistas accompany the twists and turns of the road, whilst the scent of herbs and wild goats provides a heady concoction of smells.

Shortly after Pont St Esprit we arrive at the banks of the great Rhône River. We follow the river south for around 20km passing vineyards, fruit orchards and some industry, all accompanied by the backdrop of the shadowy silhouette of Mont Ventoux. The Rhône also marks our arrival in Provence. One of the most famous cycling regions of France which is still to come!

The day is finished with a glorious climb up and through the mighty Gorge de la Nesque, located in the Vaucluse Mountains.

Day 12
Sault to Moustiers-Ste-Marie
73 Miles / 116 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,431 Metres Approx.

Leaving Sault we begin our day by tracing a series of minor and virtually traffic-free roads through a series of small Provençal villages and towns as we make our way to Forcalquier. The roads are generally undulating but do have the occasional short climb to keep us on our toes. After Forcalquier the route descends to the Durance river valley, which divides Provence in two, before climbing to the Plateau du Valensole. The plateau is a sea of lavender surrounding the town of the same name and is the number one production area in France.

The afternoon is spiced up a little as the route rolls into Riez with a couple of short punchy ups which can be more difficult on a warm day, but we can always stop for an ice cream under the shady trees in Riez. A steady incline takes us out of Riez before a switchback descent to Moustiers-Ste-Marie which is precariously perched on a cliff face and guarded by a star chained high above the town.

Day 13
Moustiers-Ste-Marie to Castellane
52 Miles / 83 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,750 Metres Approx.

Today will probably be one of the most memorable rides of the tour. A challenging but perfectly manageable stage with a shorter than average distance which includes the dramatic Gorge du Verdon.

Leaving Moustiers we head for the lake, riding the shoreline for a few km to the entrance of the gorge, where the climbing begins almost immediately. The southern rim of the gorge, which we will be riding, is certainly the most dramatic and the most rewarding way to experience this area of outstanding natural beauty. It is also the least visited side of the Verdon Gorge and has considerably less traffic. We’ll climb steadily for an hour or so, dropping down dramatically and then finally rising again out the gorge. Things ease up on the road to Comps-sur-Artuby, gently cruising along before plunging into the depths of the upper reaches of the gorge alongside the Verdon river, hugging the overhanging walls as we enter the immediate depths of the canyon. We relax for the evening in Castelanne with the Chapelle Notre-Dame du Roc dominating the skyline, sat high above the town on its own rock plinth.

Day 14
Castellane to Nice
57 Miles / 91 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1063 Metres Approx.

Castellane itself is at the bottom of a hill so the day begins with a couple of climbs. However soon enough things level out and we’ll begin to make good progress as the last leg of our epic journey starts to really take shape.

The route plunges from the high Provençal plateau, clinging to cliffs and weaving through arches blasted through the rock to the precariously perched village of Greoliers. From Greoliers we lose nearly 1,000m as we descend thorough the tight twists of the Gorge du Loup, reaching the Med at Cagnes-sur-Mer. We pass from Cagnes into nearby Nice where we ride along the famous ‘Promenade des Anglais’ to dip our wheels in the warm sea and reflect on our epic journey through France.

Day 15
Departure: Nice Airport
Non Riding Day
  • Meals: Breakfast

Following a night of celebration in Nice, looking back on 2 weeks of epic cycling, we have a very short transfer to Nice Côte d‘Azur airport from where you will fly home.

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The Cycling

Terrain

France is the spiritual home of road cycling, and as such you’ll find a warm and friendly welcome from the locals.

Travelling the length of the country you’ll see all types of terrain from the quiet country lanes of Brittany, through the long straight undulating roads of the interior and finishing off with the enjoyably challenging hills of Provence.

Our route is chosen with care to balance the climbing and terrain with the daily mileages generally higher when the terrain is flatter. The trip is hillier near the end but distances are generally a bit shorter and the cyclist fitter!

Road surfaces in France are generally good although some of the more minor roads may include uneven sections, occasional potholes and gravel patches, but surface quality in general is superior.

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Road Cycling Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grade 3 - 4: Moderate/ Challenging

Distances between 50-75 miles / 80-120km per day

For more regular riders who like to push themselves a little from time to time

Not extreme but certainly challenging on occasions with some good climbing opportunities

Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!

For more information about our grading system click here.

Is this suitable for you?

You’re an enthusiast. Road cycling is probably your main hobby and you ride regularly at weekends, staying on the bike for much of the day. You’re in pretty good shape, and you might also participate in cylo-sportive events. You also love a challenge and are looking for a tour with some good climbing, preferably with an opportunity to tick off some famous Tour de France cols, or the like. You’re a competent descender, and you’re not afraid of speed, but you ride safely and within your limits at all times. You understand road etiquette and you’re comfortable riding in a bunch. You might even take a stint at the front of the pack if the need arises.

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The guides made the holiday with their friendly, efficient support. Their knowledge and experience of cycling made a big difference.

Colin, UK

Dates & Prices

Private Departures

Private Departures

Are you keen to only travel with your family or friends? Struggling to find the right date? Well, we can organise a private departure for this tour and tailor aspects to suit your group's specific needs. Contact our friendly team and we'll help you turn your dream into reality.

Start Date
End Date
Duration
Price p.p.
Start Date
26/06/2021
Return Date
10/07/2021
Duration
15 days
Price
$4,015.00
Start Date
04/09/2021
Return Date
18/09/2021
Duration
15 days
Price
$4,015.00

Whats Included Tick

A) Accommodation (shared twin / double en suite rooms)

B) Meals as per the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

C) Full support service including a Skedaddle support driver and a Skedaddle riding guide

D) Unless stated, at least one leader qualified in first aid

E) Support vehicle and luggage transfers

F) GPS device with pre-loaded daily routes

G) Airport transfer on scheduled arrival day from Dinard airport (DNR) or from St Malo ferry port or train station

H) Airport transfer on scheduled departure day to Nice airport (NCE)

.

What's not Included Cross

A) Bike hire (available if required)

B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike (if applicable)

C) Meals not stated in the itinerary

D) Single room (available if required)

E) Travel insurance

F) Personal clothing and equipment

G) Personal expenditure (souvenirs, bar bills, hotel facilities etc)

H) Entrance fees to museums and other attractions en route

I) Airport, ferry port or train station transfers on days other than the scheduled arrival / departure days

.

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The Essentials

Travel Options

Group airport transfers are included in the cost of your holiday. To join the airport transfer on arrival, you’ll need to arrive into Dinard airport (DNR) by 15:00 for a 15:30 transfer. As there are no direct flights from North America to Dinard you may find it easier to fly to Paris and catch the train to St Malo where our guides can meet you. The train takes approximately 4 hours and is bookable in advance at www.sncf.com/en, France’s national rail company.

Please note, most journeys from North America require an overnight flight. The first day of our trip should be your arrival day in France.

At the end of the tour, we will transfer the group to Nice airport (NCE), with an estimated arrival time of 10:00 – please consider this when booking your return travel and allow enough time to check in for your chosen flight.

Please contact us for more detailed information on the specific flight schedules available for your holiday. Please check with us before booking any flights, to make sure we have reached the minimum number required to guarantee your holiday and to ensure your flights fit with our scheduled transfers. Please note – If you make travel arrangements that fall outside of the above time windows there may be an additional charge for individual transfers.

Accommodation

Accommodation (shared twin or double rooms) will usually be en-suite in 2 and 3 star hotels, chambre d‘hôtes and local auberges. Our accommodation has all been hand-picked and chosen for their room and service quality, as well as their food quality and, of course, French charm.

Bike Hire

If you don’t own a suitable bike or would prefer to avoid bringing your own we have bikes available to hire. These bikes are Scott Addict 20 or alternative brand equivalent, great bikes with good quality components. If you do decide to hire a bike we can include a helmet and all necessary spares for the trip. Please request helmets when booking. The bikes come with flat pedals as standard, so if you prefer to ride with clip-in pedals please bring your own pedals along with you.

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News, Reviews & Stories

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