Cevennes

May 2017

CCC Cevennes : another big success story of 2015. Many said it was the most beautiful of the CCC routes. Certainly heralded as a “must-ride” destination : both for the quality of the roads and the charm of the villages and hundreds of bridges of all shapes and sizes that our route leads us over. This event will NOT be held in 2016 but will return in May 2017.

« I consider this Cent Cols Challenge a true milestone in the evolution of these events: it is the first time I can offer a route in a region whose climbs are not world-renowned. Yet to the French, it is one of their most treasured, and respected, areas for tough cycling, and one that is rich in local cycling history. It is a region that is poor and extremely remote mainly due to its’ rough terrain. Yet it is riddled with a network of roads that are a cyclists’ dream. The CCC is now mature enough to be able to attract riders who know that the routes will be hard, ‘hidden’, and exhilarating.” (Phil Deeker)
The majority of this event explores the National Park of the Cevennes, and the Ardeche, in particular, but the regions of the Aubrac, Auvergne and the Massif Central also feature. The famous cyclosportive “L’Ardechoise” is held in this region annually and the many of its’ climbs are included here.

Held in 2015 in early October, the weather should be mild,with autumnal colours starting to further embellish the scenery. The latter stages are deliberately shorter than usual to accommodate shorter daylight hours. This will be a unique CCC style of event : one that should really appeal to riders who relate so well to this type of riding attitude.

Seldom are events held in this fascinating region. Its remoteness and sparse population of the Cevennes and Ardeche can easily compromise safety. For this reason, as much of the route as possible will be ridden as a group. Riders will not be held back on climbs, but will be asked to re-group at designated places, from time to time. There will be two support cars with four staff in all, including one rider-guide. Riders should consider themselves on a ‘middle-ground’ level of ability: the general pace of riding will be based on the “mid-pack” NOT around the fastest! This could be the perfect CCC for those who are looking for a more “social” ride, albeit still a ‘tough-enough’ one !

Book the Cevennes Challenge with Rapha

Stage 1 : Castries,Montpellier to Cocures,Florac (Auvergne) :

Stats: 210km. 4,400m

Main climbs: Cols : Vent, Sabliere, de la Broue, Minier, Serreyrede, Prat Pierrot, Mont Aigoual, Salides, Solperriere, Faisses, Rey.

Description: Heading north-west from the coast, our passage around the Navacelles monuments opens the feast of dramatic scenery. From sea level, we climb up to ‘Mont Aigoual’ (1567m). This desolate place records wind speeds greater than on its’ Provencale Giant Brother (Ventoux), so we will be hoping for a good day! To attain this legendary peak, we follow ever-twisting back-roads that take us right into the heart of the Cevennes National Park. The roads never tire of twisting along ridges or up & over them. A couple of perfect-road descents will be loved by all ! Hard to better this for a ‘show-opener’ !

Stage 2 : Cocures to Aurillac: (Aubrac)

Stats: 210km. 4450m

Main climbs: Cols : Pierre Plate, Coperlac, Riesse, Longue Louve, Trebatut, Bonnecombe, Aubrac.

Description: This stage features the impressive Gorges du Tarn before hitting the Monts d’Aubrac; wild open plateaux; the world-famous town of Laguiole (for its’ crafted knives with their handles sculpted from the cow horns of the beautiful local Salers cattle breed) ; and the Gorges de la Truyere to end the stage with two very challenging climbs. A transition stage as we approach the gates of the volcanic Puy region, but by no way a less interesting and challenging one!

Stage 3 : Aurillac to La Bourboule (Massif Central) :

Stats: 165km. 3650m

Main climbs: Cols : Croizet, Croix de Cheules, Bruel, Legal, St Georges, Neronne, Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary), Redondet, Eylac, Serre, Vendeix. (11)

Description: From the austere rocky Lozere region we now discover the greenery of the volcanic Monts d’Auvergne as our route takes into the volcanic Puy wonderland. The Puy Mary is the highest point of this stage (1600m). The rounded hills offer less aggressive roads : the tranquility and the views make this area a real treat for cyclists. After a choppy ride for the first half of the stage, roads chill mid-stage (after lunch) before some steep, wooded climbs bring riders back into the Pain Zone in the latter part. The thermal town of La Bourboule is quite fascinating.

Stage 4 : La Bourboule to Chaumont-le-Bourg (Puy de Dome and the Livradois):

Stats: 202km. 3500m

Main climbs: Cols : Croix-st-Robert, Chaumoune, Volpillere, Vestizoux, Pierre Plantée.

Description: The first of the two stages that make up the 'top' of this route : here we begin on the high plateaux of the barren volcanic landscape and then cross the Livradois-Forez Park , a beautiful wooded region with gentle wooded valleys. Some short, steep climbs appear from time to time to interrupt the rural tranquility. The stage ends in a tiny villlage where our hotel is an old monastery.

Stage 5 Chaumont-le-Bourg to Annonay (Haute Loire) :

Stats: 192km. 3150m

Main climbs: Cols : Chemintrand, Pradeaux, Champstrand, Limites, Croix de l’Homme Mort, Palchad, Pichillon, Sapet, Charousse.

Description: Across more tranquil wooded hills we cross the upper reaches of the Loire, climb up into the hills of the Haute Loire following the impressive "Routes des Balcons", before finishing the stage on the northern slopes of the Ardeche, eventually coming down to our rest-day hotel in the charming small town of Annonay, at the gates of the Ardeche region.

Stage 6 Annonay to Privas (Ardeche).

Stats: 180km. 3700m

Main climbs: Cols : Nesson, Gazereau, Leyrisse, La Justice, Croix de Ste André, Gilhac, Meran, Serre-Mure, Trible, Moulin à Vent.

Description: After a gently rolling start down towards the famous wine town of Tain l’Hermitage, we head up into the south eastern part of the ever-arduous Ardeche for a very rocky ride along (up & down, in fact) the Corniche de l’Eyrieux. Stunning views across both the Rhone valley and the Ardeche hills. Wooded, quiet, narrow roads bring us into the heart of the chestnut-rich Ardeche.

REST DAY

Stats: (3 nights in Privas : stage-end 6; rest day; stage-end 7)

Main climbs:

Description: Privas is the logistics centre of the famous 'Ardechoise' cyclo-sportive. We spend three nights in this town that is the very centre of cycling in the Ardeche!

Stage 7 : Privas to Privas (‘Ardechoise’, part One)

Stats: 184km. 3800m

Main climbs: Cols : Arenier, Sarasset, de la Fayolle, Miraud, Quatre Vios, Creysson, de la Faye, Le Coulet, L’Ardechoise, Clede, Mont Gerbier de Jonc, Pranlet, Croix de Ste André.

Description: This is the first of the two stages that will take riders over most of the climbs of the “Ardechoise” cyclo-sportive. Another intense day in the saddle, but so, so worth the pain! The Gerbier de Jonc is one of the two highest points of the region : the scenery of this stage is quite exceptional : open, barren hills alternate with densely wooded steep-sided valleys.

Stage 8 : Privas to Aubenas ('Ardechoise' part Two)

Stats: 166km. 3450m

Main climbs: Cols : Benas, la Souliere, Escrinet, Sarasset, Fayolle, Peyrille, Genestelle, Alzac, Juvinas,Croix de Bauzon, Meyrand, Croix de Rocles, Suchet, Eyrolle, Frages

Description: The second half of this Ardechoise extravaganza. The mighty Col de Meyrand climb might steal centre-stage, but this is another bumpy ride the whole way round. Wild riding at its’ best ! The wooded back lanes take second place to the Big Country here : outstanding views, some wider roads and still very little flat anywhere!

Stage 9 : Aubenas to Ales (Cevennes).

Stats: 180km. 3600m

Main climbs: Cols : Mas de l’Ayre, Villefort, Pré de la Dame, Canteperdrix, Valousiere, Banette, Begude, Baraque, Croix des Vents.

Description: Heading South from the eastern edge of the Monts d’Ardeche,we leave this region to go into the Lozere. Two long, wider-road climbs make a strong impressioin on this stage, heading up to 1400m altitude. The dramatic "Circuit du Mont Lozere" forms the core of this stage which looks tame on paper, but is anything but on the road! After our wild excursion into the Lozere, we end up in the Gard, at Ales, after another superb 13km descent.

Stage 10.Ales to Castries,Montpellier.(Cevennes)

Stats: 188km. 3200m

Main climbs: Cols : Uglas, St Pierre, l’Exil, Espinas, du PasAsclier, Bés, La Tribale, Pierre Levée.

Description: Containing one of the most memorable Cols in the Cevennes, the Col de l’Asclier, this stage offers us our last climbs and views of this formidable National Park as we follow the "Corniche des Cevennes". A couple of tough climbs here, followed by superb descents make this final stage spicy enough to make a fitting finale to an extraordinary journey.