Everyone has dreamed of cycling south until you reach the sea. When I was a child, I often imagined what it would be like to ride or walk the distance we drove by car on family holidays. How long would it take? What experiences and landscapes would I find hidden beyond the motorways in France?
Twenty years later, I finally put what was, at the time, no more than a passing thought into action. I bought a new bike and equipment, secured everything to my bike and set off for the sun.
This Tour was my first and it ignited my passion for cycle touring. Over the years, I added more and more routes to explore with my buddy ‘Alfred’ – my bike. Spain, Portugal, France... there was a lot on my list. The Tours all had one thing in common – south-western Europe. I guess I have a soft spot for that area.
I love the idea of cycling to the south of France whenever I can so much that I’ve now cycled there three times. This Collection that I would like to share with you draws on the experiences, memories and route variations I gathered along the way.
The route leads from my hometown Weil der Stadt in Germany, through Sainte-Marie-la-Mer (not to be confused with the municipality with almost the same name in Camargue) in the south of France. The 15 stages vary in length from 33 to 154 kilometres (20 to 95 miles), averaging around 80 kilometres (50 miles). In total, you’ll ride 1,255 kilometres (780 miles) through impressive nature and landscapes. With almost 10,000 metres (32,800 feet) of climbing, great views await you too. From the Rhine Valley, you cross the Swiss Jura, ride from Lake Geneva into the Rhône Valley, cut along the Vercors mountain slopes, cycle over mountain passes in the Garrigue and Cevennes mountains and reach the longed-for Mediterranean Sea shortly before the finish.
In some of the Tour descriptions, I give tips for alternative stage stops where it makes sense to divide a longer stage into two days. For the most part, I chose to stay overnight in campsites and I give more information in the Collection. Of course, it is ultimately up to you to decide which starting and finishing points are best or most convenient for you. This Collection is mostly about the roads in between after all – these are what makes the route from the Rhine plain to the Mediterranean one of my favourite cycling Tours.
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After you've warmed up well over the past few days, it's time to get down to business for the first time: 145 kilometers and over 1,000 meters of altitude await you on your way to Lausanne today. The good news: a lake to cool off is almost always within reach. So the strategy with which you master this stage can basically be broken down into one thing: the main thing is to plan enough time!
Today at least a good half is dedicated to Lake Geneva. You drive along its entire north-west bank, then you pass the glamorous city of Geneva with its villas and diplomatic quarters, until you finally devote yourself to the last task of the day: the passage through the foothills of the southern Jura - here it goes up again before an enjoyable descent back to the banks of the Rhône awaits you.
With one last look in the direction of Lac d'Aiguebelette, you start the mountain stage of the day. It is an exhausting ascent, especially since at the beginning of the tour you still feel refreshed in the lake while the sweat is running off your forehead again - but who said that a bike tour is always quite fair. You will still be rewarded today, with breathtaking views of the Vercors Mountains!
If you have some extra energy left in your legs, it is worth taking a detour to the Vercors from Cognin-les-Gorges. The Gorges du Nan is practically right on your doorstep and invites you to take a short tour along the spectacular road that accompanies it. You can come across the tour a little further southwest, continue on today's stage, or simply drive back to the campsite to spend a second night there - why the rush?
Today's route takes you high up at the beginning of the tour - to over 300 meters in the regional park of the Cevennes. The ascent, which must therefore be mastered directly from Anduze, is not entirely without for the first three kilometers. Here you work up a sweat on hot days. Just allow yourself enough breaks on the way and enjoy the landscape a bit, because it is absolutely impressive.
Of course, if you are already on a practical river, it would be a good idea to simply drive along it until it finally ends in the Mediterranean Sea. The route on the Hérault is anything but unspectacular and finds its climax with the Pont de Diable in the nice village of Sain-Jean-de-Fos. Now that I've ridden both variants several times, I can promise you that today's tour will make your jaw drop - and not just once.