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France is host to the world’s most famous bike race, the Tour de France, so it’s a great country to road cycle. It’s surrounded by the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Alps and the Pyrenees. Scenic and challenging routes abound, and the climate is agreeable to cycling all year round in many places. So, here are five of the best regions to visit on a French road cycling tour.

Nice, Cote d’Azur

A mild, sunny climate, varied cycling routes and awesome scenery make this Mediterranean coastal region a great destination. There are many routes with Col de Vence, Col de La Madone and Col de Turini among the most popular. Nice is a great city to base yourself with a great food and cultural offer. In the port area, you’ll find Café du Cycliste, where you can rent bikes, buy cycle gear and drink great coffee. From Nice, attempt one of the region’s classic rides, the climb up Col d’Èze, while the 55km ride from Nice to Cap D’Antibes offers a cobweb-clearing recovery ride along the coastline.

Provence

If your idea of cycling holidays in France is vineyards, pine forests, olive groves and lavender fields, head to Provence. It’s not all easy riding as, although hardly the Alps or the Pyrenees, Provence has its challenges. Mount Ventoux stands at 6,270ft and is used during the Tour de France. ‘Venteux’ means windy, and the mistral blows at 50mph for 240 days a year. If you make it to the moonscape summit, enjoy views of Provence and the Alps. Les Gorges de la Nesque is an easier climb than Ventoux and has stunning scenery. Luberon Regional National Park offers a variety of cycling backdrops from the sparse orange of former quarries to lush, green forests.

French Alps

The French Alps has abundant Tour de France climbs. Unlike the less-populated Pyrenees (below), the Alps has plentiful tourist-friendly towns and villages, making refuelling pitstops easier. In the north of the Alps, base yourself in Morzine and Annecy. The south, head to the small town of Bourg d’Oisans. In the central Alps, go to Bourg Saint-Maurice. There are hundreds of cols (mountain passes) in the Alps, so you won’t run out of routes to conquer. Alpe d’Huez is the most famous climb along with others such Col de l’Iseran and Col de Galibier.

French Pyrenees

The 430km Pyrenees mountain range straddles the French-Spanish border and provides challenging cycling. When cycling the Pyrenees, as opposed to the Alps, be prepared for shorter, steeper ascents. To access these mountain routes, stay at either Argelès-Gazost or Bagnères-de-Luchon. From either resort, you can cycle Col du Tourmalet, a Tour de France regular and the highest local mountain route. Other notable climbs include Col du Soulor, Col d’Aspin, Port de Balès and Col de Tentes.

Normandy and Brittany

This area has a network of hundreds of kilometres of ‘greenways’ (voies vertes), disused canals and railways that have been converted into routes for cyclists and walkers. Normandy alone has 500km of dedicated bike paths. The greenways provide cycling for all the family and take you past cideries and half-timbered buildings, and you can cycle a rural towpath for 365km between Nantes and Brest. With this cycling infrastructure, it’s no wonder that Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy’s UNESCO-listed fortified island, hosted the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in 2016.

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