Cycling World Magazine March 2018 | Page 150

150 | Cycling World Destination un-pedalled: Why you’ll love cycling ‘southern-style’ in France’s Occitanie region ‘Tours du Tarn’ cycling holidays, based near the Occitanie town of Saint Antonin Noble Val, has put its roots in arguably the most ideal cycling location in France. Bordering the Tarn, Aveyron and Tarn et Garonne regions, a quick look at any local cyclist’s Strava shows an average ride ticks all the boxes: ascents, descents, long fl at roads, dry weather and views. It’s litt le wonder that past guests include those in training for the London Revolution, Tour of Pembrokeshire and the Peaks Epic. Yet the region is mostly undiscovered by cycle tourism despite featuring in the Tour de France, with 2016, 2017 and 2018 stages travelling past Tours du Tarn’s doorstep. With miles of roads, the cycling routes in this area off er the ideal cycling mix of smooth tarmac, tree-lined roads, road-side cafés and virtually no traffi c – just some of the reasons why Marcus Gough, co-founder of Tours du Tarn, felt it was the perfect place to set up a cycling holiday business three years ago. “For me this area provided everything I wanted as a cyclist – challenging terrain mixed with miles of fl at valley roads, rolling countryside, hill climbs, when I wanted them, and consistently good weather.” Coming from the UK, the fi rst thing that struck me cycling in France was the quiet roads, not dodging a pot hole every 30 seconds and not having to clean my chain aft er every ride because for once it wasn’t raining!” And it’s no surprise really. As birthplace of the world’s most famous cycling race, home of iconic cols and a nation of cycle loving patriots, France is so famous for it’s cycling heritage people forget it is far more than just its famous Alpine stages and Pyrenean passes. Th ere is so much to discover by bike in this area, which is something Tours du Tarn aims to challenge. “Each time I’d go for a ride I’d be surprised by the variety of cycling, even in a 30- mile loop there would be something new, whether I want to train on hills or look at the scenery – I can have my cake and eat it. It’s not just cycling for roadies either, there’s something for everyone - as long as they enjoy riding a bike!”As a result, Tours du Tarn was born, aimed at bringing cyclists on ‘centre-based’ cycling holidays, with no moving kit from one place to the next. Instead, guests get to know the region inside out with routes exploring the best experiences direct from the base. Rather than bunks or cheap hotel rooms, the accommodation is a luxury barn conversion with private pool. Guests start the day with big cycling breakfasts, eat lunch at restaurants en-route and head back for home-cooked evening meals followed by desserts well worth the calories! All served with wines from France’s oldest vineyards on the south-facing deck with glorious views. It really worth a visit. One of last year’s leisure cycling guests, Simon Levermore, told us, “We’ve been on many cycling holidays over the years and our week here was up with the best of them. Th e barn is a fabulous base for a holiday; a beautifully converted stone building, very comfortable with everything we needed.”