Following the spectacular valley of the Allier, this could be the most attractive of the Loire-to-Mediterranean cycle routes.
Although the full V70 isn’t yet complete, the 415km of the Via Allier are fully signposted and rideable today– crossing the whole of the Auvergne region from north to south. From its start at Cuffy on the outskirts of Nevers, as far as Langeac at an altitude of almost 600m in the Haute Loire, the route generally follows the river Allier, meaning that for most of the first 200 km, it makes for easy cycling with few hills. Beyond Langeac, riders climb another 600m to reach the highest point on the route, shortly before ending at Langogne in the Lozère.
So what makes this special compared to other north-south French veloroutes? First, it’s a relatively direct route from the Loire towards the Mediterranean. It runs through lightly populated areas, avoiding suburbs and sprawl. It runs through some of France's finest countryside – and by following the river Allier almost to its source, it crosses the Massif Central mountains without a succession of multiple climbs and descents.
Just one word of warning. The part of this route south of Langeac is not recommended between December and March, even for intrepid winter cyclists. Routes may be snowed up.
At 415km, the route from Nevers to Langogne would take a moderately accomplished cyclist four or five days. But there’s enough to see along the way that you could easily plan a longer holiday.
This is ultimately a river valley route of the sort that France does so well. Although it’s mostly on quiet lanes rather than towpaths or former railway trackbeds, there are few climbs to speak of in the first 200km of the route.
As you head upstream, however, the valley narrows into a series of gorges where space is closely fought – and on occasion the cycle route is squeezed out. This is particularly true of the last 80km of the route, after Prades. Still, it’s gentler than any other route you could plan through such glorious scenery, and the views are worth it.
Any road or touring bike will be suitable on this route, which is almost all on-road, and paved throughout.
Yes: the route is signposted throughout with standard French véloroute signage and a ‘Via Allier’ logo.
Although this is an on-road route for now, the authorities are working on traffic-free greenway sections which could ultimately keep you closer to the river. The main focus at present is a cycleway from Pont du Château towards Vic le Comte, a 27km route set to open in 2022.
Although this is a fine route in its own right, it’s as part of a longer cross-country trip that it could come into its own. It begins at Nevers in the Loire valley, connecting with the famous Loire cycle route – and hence the Channel ports via the Vélo Francette. At the southern end, there is as yet no signposted connection to the Med, but it’s the work of minutes with cycle.travel’s route-planner to find an appealing route on quiet roads.
Both Nevers and Langogne have train stations, though do be aware that the service at Langogne is fairly sparse, with some of the routes operated by coaches. There’s a useful train along the valley between Langogne and Clermont-Ferrand, from where you can find connections to Paris, Lyon and beyond.