Raymond Poulidor bike route, Lac de Vassivière

Jacqueline and Adrian Brown report back from their cycle around Lac de Vassivière, a vast shimmering lake on the Haute Vienne and Creuse border in the Limousin.

Adrian's GPS download of the route around the lake.

With Paul from the bike-friendly Grange 87 as our guide, we drove the short distance from his apartment in Eymoutiers to the lake. I guess we should have cycled it, as Paul would normally do, but the weather was a little against us and we were in hillier terrain than I am used to.

As the drive seemed to be mostly uphill all the way, I was glad I had taken the easy option. The 23.5km Circuit des Légendes route around the lake is well marked with regular information panels – an information sheet with map can be downloaded here.

Lac de Vassivière

Lac de Vassivière. Photo: Dominique Guillemain/Tourisme Haute-Vienne

Named after the Haute-Vienne’s most successful professional cyclist Raymond Poulidor, each of the panels highlights the life of a great cyclist who has left his mark on the sport, notably those with stage wins in the area. This route has real cycling heritage as it has been used three times as part of a time trial course in the Tour de France.

We set off in a clockwise direction and immediately tackled the steepest of the climbs, a great warm up for cold legs and a good move psychologically as I now felt confident that if I could manage that, the rest should be easy.

It was a beautiful ride with views over the lake that changed with every twist and turn in the road; even the rain (that just seemed to get heavier) couldn’t spoil the views.

The shape of the lake makes for an interesting ride with plenty of shady forest stretches that would be very welcome on a hot, sunny day, and although the climbs are nothing too challenging this is not a dull, flat ride.

We crossed over the dam where the sheer size of the lake becomes apparent, but as it is not possible to see it all from any one position, it retains a sense of mystery that keeps the legs turning to discover what lies ahead.


Lakeside sculptures. Photo: Jacqui Brown

We didn’t need to take a rest and completed the circuit in just over an hour, but there are some cafés and restaurants and, during the summer holidays in particular, it's a popular place with beaches and lots of water activities for all ages.

I was rather surprised to see such a large marina at the end of one downhill section, and I can imagine how a bike ride here could turn into a relaxing day spent enjoying everything the lake has to offer.

The traffic was almost non-existent when we were there – the biggest hazard we came across was a stray pony standing in the road looking as damp as we felt.

Although I was glad to see Paul’s van when we returned to the car park, I was rather surprised that we were back already. Adrian wasn’t quite ready to get off his bike, so he cycled back into Eymoutiers, a fast blast of 13km that was mainly downhill and great for adrenalin junkies.

Jacqui runs the wonderful French Village Diaries blog, which features all sorts of interesting stuff related to living in France, including local bike rides in the Poitou-Charentes region and books about France.  

See here for more on cycling in the Haute-Vienne

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