Du Morvan au Volcans

From Morvan to Volcanoes

20 years later, the Grande Traversée du Massif Central is back. Discover this week the 1st part of this mythical mountain bike tour which will take you from the forests and great lakes of Morvan, in Burgundy, to the volcanoes of Auvergne and its capital, Clermont-Ferrand.

To complete this first part of 700 km, from Avallon to Saint-Flour, via the Plomb du Cantal, the highest point of the GTMC, we had decided to complete 70 km stages over two weeks, punctuated by two days rest allowing you to take the time to visit the territories crossed.

We leave Paris by train to disembark at Avallon, gateway to the Morvan Regional Natural Park, in Burgundy. It only takes 3 hours, we will be on our bikes before 10 am. After having crossed the heart of Avallon and its many medieval constructions, we embark on a beautiful playful single track which overlooks the valley. Then, it is a series of forest paths and single-track paths in the heart of immense deciduous and coniferous forests alternate with crossings of plains and groves. The technical level is rather average. So much the better because you have to manage your efforts over so much distance and be attentive to the consumption of the electric assistance for those on an e-MTB.

We discover these great lakes of the Morvan, which follow one after the other. Then, at the top of Mont Beuvray, high place of the ancient Gallic tribe of the Aedui, we recognize the Alps in the distance. We are heading towards Bourbon-Lancy, a spa town recognized for the beneficial properties of its waters. We pass over the Loire, towards the plains of Sologne Bourbonnaise, this country with 600 ponds. We finally arrive at the edge of the Allier and take a beautiful single-track path to reach Moulins, the prefecture of the Allier department and capital of the Dukes of Bourbon. Back on the paths, we go alongside the National Nature Reserve of Val d'Allier. Crossing the AOC vineyard of Saint-Pourçain, you can already guess the famous puy de Dôme...

From Clermont-Ferrand, we go up to Volvic. At the top of a wooded hill, we observe the Chaîne des Puys which takes shape in front of us, due south. No doubt, we entered the Regional Natural Park of the Volcanoes of Auvergne. The dirt road that we take narrows as we progress and emerges at the level of a clearing, at the foot of the Puy de Dôme. No choice but to stop and take out the camera. Right after, we will experience moments of pure pleasure: driving, speed, sequence of playful passages without it being too technical. After passing Orcival (a superb 11th century basilica), head towards lakes of volcanic origin (Lake Servières and Lake Chambon) to reach Murol and its imposing fortress.

By mutual agreement, we choose to take the “Plomb du Cantal” variant. We wanted to climb to the highest point in the GTMC. You will have to cross beech forests, where granite blocks are scattered there, and descend fast singles to arrive at Murat, Small City of Character. Direction now the station of Lioran. We leave for a last effort. We are going slowly, we have been riding for more than 10 days and, despite the good mood, we still feel a certain fatigue. Slowly but surely, we arrive at the summit of the Plomb du Cantal. We descend in the direction of Saint-Flour, from where we will take the train to return home.

During the trip, we rehash the moments spent on this Grande Traversée du Massif Central. The dates for the second part, from Saint-Flour to Cap d'Agde, have already been set.

© Cedric Tassan

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