Superbe Sud Ouest

2014 tour now on sale

Outline


Superbe Sud Ouest
1,230 km | 9,600 m vertical climbing | 5 World Heritage Listed Sites
Dates: May 17 – May 29, 2014 | 10 days cycling | 12 nights
Price: $4,995 per person twin share | Single Sup. $1,200
Depart: Toulouse | Arrive: Toulouse

South West France rose to prominence on the back of its formidable wine reputation – and has since become something of an institution, with the rest of France cottoning onto the fact that the locals knew a thing or two about great food, climate and lifestyle. Despite its popularity, much of the region is sparcely populated and predominantly rural, contributing to its status as a cycling paradise. This tour is designed specifically to capture the very best of this fantastic part of France.

 

Itinerary


Day 1: Le Grand Départ

Our adventure starts in beautiful Toulouse. La ville rose is the capital of the Midi Pyrenees region and takes its moniker from the red bricks that feature so prominently in much of its architecture. The city is France’s 4th largest and is home to Airbus, the world’s leading plane manufacturer. The countryside surrounding Toulouse is rural and today we’ll wind our way through the vineyards and sunflower fields en route to Albi, another picturesque city on the banks of the Tarn.

Day’s Riding Summary: 125 km with an elevation gain of 640m
Ville de départ: Toulouse
Ville d’arrivée: Albi
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 2: Les plus beaux villages de France

Albi is the chief city of the Tarn department and has many noteworthy castles, museums and churches, including the World Heritage listed Cité épiscopale d’Albi. It has many similarities to Toulouse with its red bricks, riverside setting, high student population and rich history. Today’s long ride passes through some gorgeous countryside and is punctuated with many postcard villages. Cordes-sur-Ciel is a medieval village that, as its names suggests, sits in the sky, while Najac and St Cirq Lapopie both find themselves on the list of France’s most beautiful villages. The former boasts an 800 year old château.

Day’s Riding Summary: 130 km with an elevation gain of 1520m.
Ville de départ: Albi
Ville d’arrivée : Villefranche de Rouergue
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 3: Gimme a home among the plum trees

Today’s shorter ride takes us south as we leave the Parc naturel régional des Causses du Quercy and travel through four different departments en route to Puymirol. We venture into Dordogne for the first time today, France’s third largest department and one of its most untamed, with 45% comprised entirely of forest. We terminate the day in Lot-et-Garonne and the quaint village of Puymirol. This is located a short distance from Agen, the prune capital of France. Agriculture is the main industry of this part of France and the plentiful vineyards, fruit orchards and fields of wheat make for a scenic backdrop to our ride.

Day’s Riding Summary: 120 km with an elevation gain of 560m.
Ville de départ: Villefranche de Rouergue
Ville d’arrivée: Puymirol
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 4: The Bay of Biscay beckons

We continue our path towards the Atlantic today and our final destination of Segos sits right on the joint of the Gers, Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques departments. Most of the day’s riding takes place in the rolling hills of Gers, one of the best cycling destinations in France, an opinion supported by the fact that 10% of all homes here are secondary/holiday residences and that tourism is the principal industry. It is also one of the most feebly populated departments of France – hardly surprising given Condom is one of its major towns.

Day’s Riding Summary: 142 km with an elevation gain of 880m.
Ville de départ: Puymirol
Ville d’arrivée: Segos
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 5: Beautiful Pays Basque

Today we go as far south west as France’s geography permits as we power into Pays Basque and our destination of St Jean de Luz. This picturesque seaside town sits just kms from the France-Spain border at the base of the Pyrenees and has the Atlantic lapping at its shores. With its white buildings, red roofs and green doors, it is classic Basque. The same may be said of the food here and while rich, it really is delicious. Another fantastic day’s riding through stunning countryside with the mountains clearly visible and the scent of the ocean a constant incentive to keep grinding.

Day’s Riding Summary: 155 km with an elevation gain of 1280m.
Ville de départ: Segos
Ville d’arrivée: St Jean de Luz
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 6: Into the mountains

We bid adieu to the Bay of Biscay and undertake an abrupt change of direction, heading east and following the Pyrenees towards the Mediterranean. The magnificent rolling foothills of Pay Basque start proceedings with some short but nonetheless challenging climbs. We remain in the shadows of the Pyrenees for the duration of the ride and enjoy a really scenic route to Pau. This is the capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department and is widely regarded as a city on the move with a dynamic Mayor.

Day’s Riding Summary: 136 km with an elevation gain of 1550m.
Ville de départ: St Jean de Luz
Ville d’arrivée: Pau
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 7: Jour de repos

After six big days on the bike we have scheduled today as a rest day. Pau offers plenty in the way of cultural activity with its collection of castles, museums and historic monuments. Alternatively, try your hand at white water rafting or some of the other less intense sports on offer – the oldest golf course in mainland Europe is found here. Maybe a wine tasting tour of nearby Jurançon or just a relaxing stroll around some of the beautiful parks in Pau.

For the diehards, we are within a stone’s throw of some of the Tour de France’s most mythic climbs if you fancy another day on the bike. The Col de Marie Blanque can be done in a really nice 100 km loop or the Col d’Aubisque circuit which is a bit longer at 120km. You can incorporate both into an epic 150 km if you’re feeling really strong. Another option is the mighty Tourmalet although this is a whopping 175km round trip.

Day’s Riding Summary: Optional
Ville de départ: Pau
Ville d’arrivée: Pau
Stage Profile: Click here to open the profile of Col de Marie Blanque circuit in a new window or here for the profile of the loop featuring both the Col de Marie Blanque and the Col d’Aubisque.
Categorised Climbs:

Climb / ColLengthAltitudeElev. GainProfile / Gradient
Col de Marie Blanque9.5 km1035 m715 m7.5%
Col d'Aubisque16.6 km1710 m1190 m7.2%
Col de Tourmalet18.4 km2115 m1405 m7.7%

Day 8: L’impeccable Ariège

Refreshed or otherwise we’re back into it today courtesy of a long and rewarding day’s pedalling as we continue our course along the base of the Pyrenees. At the conclusion of our antepenultimate day’s riding we will be spending the night at St Girons. This is a beautiful mountain town in the Ariège department that is situated right in the centre of a giant forest and on the banks of the Salat River.

Day’s Riding Summary: 158 km with an elevation gain of 1540m.
Ville de départ: Pau
Ville d’arrivée: St Girons
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 9: Into Aude

The morning’s ride takes us through the Parc naturel régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises for 50 km as we gradually make our way out of the mountains. Just prior to the village of Mas d’Azil the road leads us into a cave where we remain for 500m. This is spectacular and a highlight of the day’s ride. Afterwards the landscape transforms as we approach Limoux and its ubiquitous vineyards – this is the home of Blanquette, a less recognised but nevertheless delicious competitor to champagne. From here we make a beeline for Carcassonne, the chief city of the Aude department and host to a magnificent medieval castle and fortified city. This and the Canal du Midi are both World Heritage listed and contribute into making Carcassonne one of the most visited cities in all of France. Coincidentally, it is also country’s rugby league nerve centre.

Day’s Riding Summary: 131 km with an elevation gain of 770m.
Ville de départ: St Girons
Ville d’arrivée: Carcassonne
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

Day 10: Homeward bound

The Canal du Midi features prominently today as we leave Carcassonne and head for Toulouse, two ancient cities linked by the canal, which was constructed in the 17th century to facilitate wheat transportation. We cross it on several occasions as we make our way through the sunflowers en route to Castelnaudary and Revel. Today’s ride is relatively easy and very rewarding after such a gruelling week on the bike, a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery and reflect on a great ten days.

Day’s Riding Summary: 131km with an elevation gain of 830m.
Ville de départ: Carcassonne
Ville d’arrivée: Toulouse
Stage Profile: Click here to open in a new window

 

Inclusions

– Twelve nights of accommodation in three, four and five star hotels
– Daily breakfast, all lunches and eight dinners.
– Minimum of two experienced bilingual guides (staff client ratio of 4:1)
– Daily ride support, including a bike mechanic.
– Snacks, energy bars and drinks for each day’s riding.
– Support vehicle on every ride.
– All luggage transfers.
– All transportation during the tour, including airport transfers (at specified times only).
– TdF Travel cycling jersey.

 

How to book


Secure your place on this tour by completing the online booking process below. Alternatively, you can download and print a booking form here.

 

FAQ

To view the answer to a question, just click on it.

What’s included in the tour price?

- Twelve nights of accommodation in three, four and five star hotels
– Daily breakfast, all lunches and eight dinners.
– Minimum of two experienced bilingual guides (staff client ratio of 5:1)
– Daily ride support, including a bike mechanic.
– Snacks, energy bars and drinks for each day’s riding.
– Support vehicle on every ride.
– All luggage transfers.
– All transportation during the tour, including airport transfers (at specified times only).
– TdF Travel cycling jersey.

What level of rider do I need to be to go on this tour?
The level is not as significant as the amount of training done. To complete the week’s riding with us you want to have done at least 5000km over the last year. The key is endurance and your ability to ride for up to five or six hours per day. Coming on one of our tours out of condition just means you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the sag van.

What will the weather be like?
The month of May in South West France generally boasts a beautiful climate. The average temperature at this time of year is around 20°C but like anywhere, fluctuations occur in both directions. Experience tells us that just about every day the ideal cycle attire is short sleeve jerseys and bibs. The odd morning may be fresh however so we recommend be equipped with a light jacket and gloves. These are generally offloaded to the support van pretty soon after starting. Albeit rare, the possibility rain can’t be disregarded. Pack some wet weather gear just in case but on most days the summer cycling outfit is totally adequate.

What is not included in the tour price?
- Airfare to and from the tour
– Airport transfers for arrivals outside the designated pickup time.
– Accommodation before and after the tour (this can be arranged however)
– Travel insurance
– We have intentionally excluded certain dinners in order to allow you the opportunity to discover some of the regional cuisine on your own. Our guides’ local knowledge is always on offer to make suggestions.

What are the daily rides like?
The rides are challenging and quite lengthy, however, like any time you cycle it’s the tempo that determines how tough things get. We gauge this on the level of the group and always let you set it. Our routes are designed specifically for cyclists who choose to come to France to get a taste of the Tour de France. The majority of days see us clock up over 100km in relatively undulating terrain – equating to between four and six hours in the saddle. This said, we always have support vehicles present to keep fluid and energy levels sustained. A lunch stop in a picturesque setting is generally used also to break the day’s riding up.

What are the options for a non-riding travel companion?
For this tour it is certainly an option for them to come along. They would spend some time in the support vehicle as we’re constantly on the move but there is plenty in the way of cultural activity and sightseeing to keep them interested. Be aware that the length of time on the bike each day is between 4 & 6 hours and that they would obviously have to fill that in somehow without you. The key is that non-riders be aware of what they are in for.

What are the hotels like?
Unlike our Alpes & Pyrenees Tours where the famous climbs dictate to an extent where we stay, we have chosen stop-over destinations for this tour based purely on the quality of hotels and villages. On almost every night we stay at a hotel that has been awarded Relais & Chateax status – an independent ranking system that only awards its name to the crème de la crème of international hotels. You will be astounded by just how nice these hotels are. The only nights we stay in hotels that are not Relais & Chateaux are in:
– Pau where the hotel is nonetheless 5 stars.
– St Girons where the hotel is a restored castle that is 3 stars due to the fact it doesn’t offer room service and has restricted check-in hours. It does boast excellent quality rooms and gardens however.
– Toulouse where we have opted for a charming estate out of the city that is non-classified.

What gear ratio should I have?
There is some climbing on this tour but nothing too extreme. We suggest you stick with the gear ratio you use normally. The sole exception is our rest day in Pau where you have the option of taking on a couple of the Tour de France legendary climbs. If you think you’re up for this challenge then be prepared for over an hour of steady climbing at 7 or 8%.

For this optional stage, a review of your current set-up is definitely advisable. It is important to consider that le Col d’Aubisque is 17km in length and boasts an average gradient of 7% (not to mention the occasional passage of 10%). For a strong cyclist this equates to close to 90 minutes climbing.

The overwhelming majority of bikes in Australia and the US are set-up with double cranksets, which do the job for most of us all year round. So much so that it is common to hear scorn poured upon the triple crankset or granny gear. Therefore, it may (or may not) come as some surprise to learn that many of the road bikes in France are equipped with triple cranksets. The climbs here are just so far beyond anything we encounter back home that it makes sense.

Despite what we hear about toughness and power, you’re not necessarily going slower uphill by climbing in lower gears. In fact, the opposite regularly occurs, as the lower gearing of a triple may be better suited to your physique. Not everybody is built for power, and in many cases, higher RPMs at lower gears may be more in sync with your body than big gears which you are barely able to turn.

Think about some of the tough hills you ride regularly and what gear you do them in. You need to make a call on whether you think you’ll be able to maintain that intensity of effort for over an hour. Experience tells us that often people think they’ll be fine only to find themselves wishing they had a lower gear ratio 20 minutes into a climb.

While there is a strong argument for the triple crankset, the compact is enjoying a renaissance of sorts and does the job for a lot of people. A 50/34 or 50/36 crankset with an 11/28 sprocket is popular and very practical combination.

The traditional 53/39 crankset does suffice for some but others find the climbs simply too tough with the 39 chain-ring. Don’t forget the previously stated fact about the length and gradient of the Pyrenean climbs. If you are going to stick with the 53/39 then we would certainly advise using a rear sprocket that goes to at least 28.

Factors such as preferred cadence, body weight and power output impact on the ideal combination for different people. Please email us if you’d like further information.

 

Enquiry


 

Terms & Conditions


Payment terms

A non-refundable $500 deposit is required to reserve any tour. This is payable at the time of booking, whether it be an online booking or via a posted/faxed/emailed booking form. The balance must be received by Tour de France Travel at least 8 weeks before the start of the tour. Where a booking is made within 8 weeks of departure, the full amount of the tour cost must be paid upon booking. Payment may be made credit/debit card, direct deposit, PayPal or by cheque payable to Tour de France Travel.

Booking amendments

If you need to change your booking after the booking has been confirmed we will endeavour to meet your requirements if you inform us in writing. However, if the alterations requested are not possible, we reserve the right to apply cancellation charges if the change is made within 8 weeks of departure. Bookings may be transferred to another person if desired.

If, after the start of the tour (which for this purpose means the point of collection by Tour de France Travel staff) you wish to change the itinerary, accommodation, duration or any other material aspect of your holiday, Tour de France Travel cannot accept liability for any loss, damage or additional expense that you may incur and no refunds will be made.

Cancellations

If you need to cancel a booking for whatever reason once it has been confirmed, cancellation will become effective upon receipt of written notification from you, and the following cancellation charges apply:
Cancellations coming more than 8 weeks prior to the commencement of the tour will forfeit the deposit only.
Cancellations coming less than 8 weeks prior to the commencement of the tour will forfeit the entire amount paid.

Changes to holidays

If we need to make material changes to the content or terms of the tour as published before the start of the tour we will notify you as soon as possible. If you are not happy with the changed tour details you may transfer to another tour without charge if space is available. Alternatively, you may cancel your booking and we will refund in full any moneys already paid, as a full settlement.

We also reserve the right to amend any ride itinerary or stop-over destination if circumstances arise where we deem it necessary.

If we cancel your booking

If we have to cancel a booking we will offer an alternative tour if possible. If this is not possible or acceptable to you we will refund in full any moneys already paid, as a full settlement. We will endeavour to notify you of any cancellation at least 5 weeks before the tour start date; if notification takes place after this date we will pay an additional $200 per person in compensation for your inconvenience.

If a customer fails to make payment or by his or her behaviour necessitates the termination of the tour, Tour de France Travel reserves the right to cancel the booking, without any obligation to refund or make alternative arrangements. Tour de France Travel reserves the right to refuse a booking from, or to continue to provide services to any person if by their conduct or actions they adversely affect the enjoyment of the tour by other persons, and will be under no liability for any costs incurred as a result.

Accommodation

The cost of each trip is based on accommodation in twin- or double- bedded rooms. People requesting single rooms will be charged a single room supplement. Whilst we will endeavour to find suitable room-mates for single travellers wishing to share, we cannot guarantee that a suitable share will be available, and if this is the case the supplement will be payable. The standard of accommodation and other services are based on various factors, which are generally accepted as indicative of a certain class, however, we do not guarantee the standard, class, or fitness for purpose of that accommodation or service. Hotel ratings are those suggested by relevant local authorities and may vary from Tourist Office ratings.

Physical Health

Clients taking part in Tour de France Travel tours do so at their own risk, and if there is any doubt about their fitness or ability to take part in an activity based holiday they should consult their doctor.

Visa & Passport Requirements

Kindly note that passport and visa requirements are not the Tour de France Travel’s responsibility and Tour de France Travel is not liable for any loss or expense due to a passenger’s failure to comply with the above. For up to date advice on visa requirements for overseas travel, Australians should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country they intend to visit well in advance of travel. Visas may take several weeks to process.

Each person (including infants) requires a valid passport. Passports must have at least 6 months’ validity from the date of your return to Australia.

Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, American and Japanese passport holders are entitled to a 90 day visitor’s visa upon arrival in France. Persons of other nationalities should contact us for information regarding their visa requirements.

Travel insurance

Travel Insurance is essential to cover you against loss of deposit or final monies paid, because of unavoidable cancellation due to illness or other causes, personal baggage loss, medical expenses etc. For detailed information and prices, please contact Tour de France Travel as we can arrange travel insurance for you through our insurance provider SureSave.

Costs Not Included in the Package

Costs of passports or visas, meals and sightseeing other than those specified in the itinerary, gratuities/tips (unless stated), excess baggage charges, personal items such as phone calls, laundry and insurance are not included in the package costs.

Liability

Please note that Tour de France Travel cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to your personal property, luggage or other possessions, nor for any other loss, damage, inconvenience, delay, illness, fatal or other injury suffered by you as a result of making a reservation with us, unless it can be shown that the company is in breach of its contractual and legal duty. In the event of you accepting any payment from Tour de France Travel, where it involves responsibility of a third party, this will be made on condition that you assign to Tour de France Travel your rights to claim in your place, and that you fully co-operate if we wish to enforce those rights.

Health and Immigration

Participants should familiarise themselves with any health or visa requirement that may be applicable in the areas they intend visiting, and they shall be responsible for all exit, entry, health and other documents required by laws, regulations, orders, demands or requirements of the countries visited or transited. Each person (including infants) requires a valid passport. Passports must have at least 6 months’ validity from the date of your return to Australia.

Safety and Security throughout Europe

For current information and up to date travel advice on France and other regions of Europe please visit the website of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade www.smartraveller.gov.au. You can subscribe via this site to receive email updates when there are changes to travel advisories for your destination. It is also recommended that all Australians register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via www.smartraveller.gov.au before travelling overseas, this will assist in locating you in the case of an emergency.

Bicycle Risk Waiver & Release

When booking with Tour de France Travel you agree to comply with all road rules and regulations, and all lawful instructions and directions of Tour de France Travel, its directors, officers, employees, contractors, and volunteers (collectively the Organiser) during the Tour de France Travel organised tours (the Event).

If you fail to comply with the road rules and regulations, and instructions and/or directions of the Organiser, you will not be permitted to ride or continue to ride.
You acknowledge that cycling can be an inherently dangerous activity. You recognise there are risks and hazards specifically associated with this activity, including the possibility of injury or death and loss and damage both to yourself and your possessions. When booking with Tour de France Travel you release the Organiser of any liability resulting from injury, death, loss or damage during the Event.

When booking with Tour de France Travel you understand and acknowledge the dangers associated with the consumption of alcohol or any mind-altering substance before or during any cycling activity. You accept full responsibility for injury, loss or damage arising from consumption of alcohol or any mind-altering substance.

If you suffer any injury or illness, you agree that the Organiser may provide evacuation, first aid and/or medical treatment at your expense and your acceptance of these terms and conditions constitutes your consent to such evacuation, first aid and/or medical treatment.
You acknowledge that you have sole responsibility for your personal possessions and sporting equipment during the Event. You acknowledge that if the Organiser performs any repairs or work on your equipment the Organiser does not warrant that work nor offer any guarantee of any kind in respect of that work.

When booking with Tour de France Travel you, your executors, administrators, heirs, next-of-kin, successors and assigns, hereby:
1/ waive and release all claims you may have against the Organiser or any one or more of their executors, administrators, heirs, next-of-kin, successors and assigns including any or all claims for injury, loss or damages caused by negligence of any of the above arising out of your participation in the Event, together with any costs including legal fees that may be incurred as a result of such claim whether valid or not; and
2/ indemnify and hold harmless Tour de France Travel against any such claim that you or any one or more of your executors, administrators, heirs, next-of-kin, successors and assigns may have or assert and against any costs including legal fees with respect thereof
3/ acknowledge that if you were to assert a claim such claim would be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the laws of New South Wales, Australia.
You acknowledge you have read this assumption of risk. You fully understand its terms and that you have given up substantial rights by agreeing to it. You accept this document freely and voluntarily without any inducement made to you and acknowledge an unconditional release of all liability to the greatest extent allowed by law.

Conditions of Responsibility

Tour de France Travel give notice that all final travel documentation, tickets and coupons issued by them, or on their behalf are supplied as agents, and all arrangements for hotel accommodation, entry tickets, transport and conveyance are supplied upon the express conditions that they are not liable for any injury, damage, loss, accident, delay, sickness howsoever caused or occurring to persons or to property.

Tour de France Travel accepts no responsibility for loss or additional expenses for any failure to perform or delay if that failure or delay is due to anything beyond their reasonable control.

Should there be any disruptions or delays to any service to be provided it will be the responsibility of the passenger to contact Tour de France Travel to prevent any no-show or non-arrival charges. Tour de France Travel give notice that if passengers are attending an event that the event tickets will be subject to Conditions of Entry and Conditions of Sale. If Tour de France Travel has included such event tickets as part of a travel program/package, these conditions are available by contacting Tour de France Travel.

This clause does not exclude or limit the application of any statutory provision where to do so would contravene that statute or cause any part of this clause to be void.

Tour de France Travel excludes all implied conditions and warranties except any implied condition or warranty the exclusion of which would contravene any statutory provision or cause any part of this clause to be void. Tour de France Travel liability is limited, where it is liable, to refunding the price of the service or product.

Complaints

Any complaints should be communicated to the Tour de France Travel representative as soon as it arises. Failure to notify our representative at the time, providing the company with an opportunity to rectify the cause of the complaint, may result in your loss of any legal rights in respect of the particular matter. If the issue is not resolved, then the complaint should be made in writing to Tour de France Travel at the company address or via email within 28 days of the end of your trip.

Law of Contract

These Booking Conditions are governed by the laws of Australia and any action arising under them or in any way connected with the travel arrangements may be bought only in a court in Australia, subject to any law which is expressly inconsistent with this.