Excited about the upcoming Tour de France?
Check out these cycling routes in The Tarn, south-west France
The Tarn’s sun-drenched countryside lends itself perfectly to being discovered by bike, home to expansive vineyards, rolling sunflower fields, the winding Tarn River and the dramatic Aveyron gorges. Ranging from gentle pursuits to more challenging outings, the area boasts miles of marked trails approved by the Fédération Française de Cyclisme, all offering a variety of different sceneries.
The Tour de France kicks off on the 2nd July and passes through the Garrigue Forest in the Tarn during the sixth stage of the competition. With this in mind, the relatively undiscovered department of the Tarn will be in the spotlight and on the radar of lycra-loving Brits seeking new cycling spots.
Les Routes de Laurent Jalabert
Visitors to the Tarn can retrace the steps of the renowned Laurent Jalabert. Born in Mazamet in 1968, he was one of the top French racing cyclists of the 1990s and once considered the best climber of the Tour de France. Remaining loyal to his homeland, he created a road racing circuit called ‘Les Routes de Laurent Jalabert’ passing through the Tarn.
The circuit is a cyclist’s playground, stretching for 79km through the Montagne Noire, showcasing both sides of this impressive mountainous area. With climbs comparable to some Pyrenean mountains, it is certainly for those seeking adventure on two wheels. It climbs to the highest point of the Montaigne Noire, ‘the Pic de Noire’, (1,211m) and has an average gradient of 4.6% on one side and 5.7% on the other.
Le Circuit des Crêtes
A cycling holiday in the Tarn isn’t complete without a visit to the renowned bastide village of Cordes-sur-Ciel, found dramatically crowning a rocky stone summit in the northern reaches of the department. Pedalling up the fortified town’s hilly terrain is certainly worth the sweat and tears upon seeing the breathtaking views of the Cérou Valley from the top.
Starting off in Albi (a UNESCO world heritage site) the Circuit des Crêtes stretches 65km, following minor roads through an undulating landscape to reach Cordes-sur-Ciel. The best time to visit is during the early morning when the mist rises from the surrounding valley, creating the impressive allusion that the town is floating on a cloud. The return leg passes through a string of pretty villages including Monestiés, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and the old mining towns of Blaye-les-Mines and Cagnac-les-Mines, before heading back to Albi.
La Véloroute de la Vallée du Tarn
The Tarn Valley cycling path follows the bends of the Tarn River for 107km, weaving riders through some of the area’s most picturesque villages. Consisting of two sections, the first stage follows peaceful roads from the quaint village of St Sulpice towards the UNESCO world heritage site of Albi and the towering presence of its cathedral.
Tracing back through history, cyclists will ride through Gaillac, one of the oldest wine regions in France and the medieval bastide towns of Lisle-sur-Tarn and Rabastens. The second stage runs from Lescure d’Albigeois, passing through the fairytale like town of Ambialet, where the Tarn River makes a three kilometre loop around the town, shaping the valley into an impressive rocky peninsula. The route ends in the ancient spa town of Trébas-les-bains, where cyclists can cool off with a range of water based activities on the Tarn River.
Where to rent bikes
Locat VTT Scooter
La Vaurelle – 81170 Cordes sur Ciel
T: +33 (0) 5 63 56 08 68 W: www.locationvtt.fr
Located on the outskirts of Cordes sur Ciel, Locat VTT Scooter offers mountain and hybrid bikes for hire. Bikes are available for hire all year round every day and must be booked in advance.
Price: Rental ranges from 3.50€ (£2.70 approx) to 18€ (£14 approx)
2X2 Wheel Cycle Hire
Rond Pointe la Richarde- 81660 Bout du Pont de L’Arn
T: +33 (0) 5 63 97 16 27 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Situated 4km from the start of the Laurent Jalabert cycle route, this bike hire shop offers mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and scooters.
Price: Rental starts from 8€ (£6.20 approx)
10 rue du St-Esprit 81 440 Lautrec
T: 06 31 90 78 05 W: www.velotrek.fr
Velotrek offer tours around the village of Lautrec and has eight electric bikes for hire. Run by Anthony Escofier, the tour will be in English and will be a brief history of the medieval village and surrounding area.
Price: Full day is €35, half day is €20 and a picnic can be provided for €10 per person
Where to stay
Hotel Alchimy – Located in the centre of Albi, Hotel Alchimy is a four-star boutique hotel boasting a stylish and modern design. Guests are conveniently located to the city’s main attractions and can make use of the hotel’s facilities including the brasserie restaurant and bar.
A Classic Double Room at Hotel Alchimy starts from £124.32 per night, based on two people sharing (www.alchimyalbi.fr/en; +33 (0)5 63 76 18 18)
Chateau de Salettes – Located in the Gaillac wine region in the town of Cahuzac-sur-Vère, Chateau de Salettes is a four-star hotel and gourmet restaurant, built into the surrounding walls and towers of a 12th century chateau. Guests can make use of the on-site swimming pool and spa services and accompany their visit with a wine tasting session in the chateau’s own vineyards, available everyday at 6:30pm.
A double room at Chateau de Salettes starts from £137 approx (€175) during peak season (1st May-September 30th), based on two people sharing (www.chateaudesalettes.com/en; +33 (0) 5 63 33 60 60)
Domaine de Perches – Situated in Gaillac, Domaine de Perches sits on a hillside, surrounded by four hectares of parkland and overlooks twenty hectares of vineyards. Guests can make use of the guest house’s swimming pool and tennis courts.
A room at Domaine de Perches starts from £117 approx (€150) per night including breakfast, based on two sharing (www.domainedeperches.com ; +33 (0)5 63 56 58 24).
Mercure Albi Bastides Hotel – Situated in the centre of Albi, the four-star Mercure Albi Bastides is located on the banks of the Tarn in an 18th century listed water mill.
A standard room at Mercure Albi Bastides hotel starts from approx. £71 per night excluding breakfast based on two sharing (www.mercure.com/; +33)5/63476666).
For more information please visit Le Tarn Tourisme, www.tourisme-tarn.com/tarn/en
For more information on The Tour de France please visit http://www.letour.com/le-tour/2016/us/overall-route.html
Jenna Osborne, P1 Communications
+44(0)20 8614 7505