Imagine pedalling gently along a shady canal tow path, buying a picnic from a local market, and stopping to visit historic villages along the way. The Canal des Deux Mers Greenway runs for 145km beside the Canal du Midi and the Canal de Garonne, crossing three regions with Midi-Pyrenees at its heart.
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Or maybe try the Lot Valley Véloroute which runs for 160km through Midi-Pyrénées and neighbouring Aquitaine, using peaceful back roads and a disused railway line. Explore Toulouse with a city cycle hired from one of 282 automatic bike hire stations; with more than 500km of cycle paths, the regional capital ranks third amongst French cities for the best cycle path network. And for the ultimate in easy cycling, hire an electric bike for a pootle through the Armagnac vineyards – the perfect two-wheeled tour for lapsed cyclists.
Go up a gear
Keen cyclists who want more of a challenge can pedal in the tyre tracks of the professionals on the famous Route des Cols which links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean. The departments of Hautes-Pyrénées, Haute-Garonne and Ariège have helped cyclists pace themselves by erecting signs a kilometre apart to show the distance to the top, the gradient and altitude.
Or try the 700km circuit linking the 10 Aveyron villages classified as being amongst the Most Beautiful Villages of France. Graded Intermediate, the route is divided into seven stages of around 100km each, passing through the Lot Valley and the Tarn Gorge, over the Aubrac Plateau and along the Aveyron river.
Enjoy a shot of adrenalin? Midi-Pyrénées is home to around 20 mountain biking – or VTT – centres approved by the French Cycling Federation and French Cycle-Touring Federation. Each boasts at least 100km of graded and waymarked trails from easy and family-friendly circuits to challenging descents. And for those with absolutely no nerves, the Pic du Midi and Pic du Jer descents are legendary amongst cyclists.
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Third biggest sporting event after the Olympic Games and the football World Cup, the Tour de France has visited the Pyrenees every year since 1910. This year, Midi-Pyrénées will host three mountain stages on 14, 15 and 16 July, with stages from Muret to Rodez on 17 July and Rodez to Mende on 18 July.
There are many other important cycle events across the region over the summer, but none bigger than the 77th International Cycling Federation Week in Albi from 2-9 August. Europe’s largest cycling rally, it attracts 15,000 cyclists, more than 1,000 of them from abroad, who ride dozens of road and mountain-biking circuits.