We have been cycling through Provence this week, and it has been brilliant. It’s been hot, the campsite swimming pools are open, we have cycled up mountains and the Alps are in sight!
The south of France has given us more than our fair share of rolling farmland, epic gorges and endless climbs and it has just been excellent riding. It’s been very hot, and we have had a few oh-no-we-are-out-of-water moments, as well as some lovely lazy lunches in the shade.
Campsites are much nicer in the sun, and we are loving the luxury of a post ride swim most days, either in a pool or the local river. Although Jim nearly got swept downstream by a strong current one afternoon. The grape vines and olive trees have been replaced by lavender, and we discovered another railway cycle path for a few flat miles.
We headed east to Sault and ended up on the D942, gently climbing through the Gorges de la Nesque while enjoying the outstanding view, and spent two nights camping there so we could tackle Mont Ventoux.
Mont Ventoux, 1909 m of mountain, standing tall and alone in Provence, is a well known and loved climb, and I’ve been waiting to give it a shot for a while. We left our stuff in Sault and headed up, winding through farmland which turned into forest. The road was full of hairpins and cyclists. The Sault ascent is the easiest, and was an enjoyable and gentle climb up till Chalet Reynard, where the road joins the Bédoin ascent and gets alot steeper. We also bumped into Henry (the American cyclist we met near Ax-les-Thermes) again here! The last 6 km are tough going, and you are suddenly out of the forest and surrounded by white rock. The view is incredible, we could see for miles, and it felt so high up. Finally we reached the very windy top. And I went a bit crazy and decided to descend down to Bédoin and do the climb from there too! Jim declined to join me so headed back to camp to relax and sort out dinner. And I went and pushed through the much steeper and tougher Bédoin ascent. Reaching the top for the second time was really great, though my legs were not happy!
It was really awesome to be able to leave our stuff and do such an iconic climb. Since Ventoux we have been rolling through the lavender fields of Provence towards the Verdon Gorge. I cycled here a few years ago so it’s been interesting being back and doing climbs in the opposite direction. We have had quite alot of headwind the last few days, and it’s been colder so hopefully the weather picks up again soon.
Yesterday we arrived at Lac de Sainte Croix in the rain, but woke up this morning to a beautiful view of the lake in the sun. So we swapped the bikes for a canoe and set off up the Verdon Gorge. Sore arms were an okay trade off for an epic adventure winding through the gorge.
Being back on roads previously ridden is quite nice but next week we head properly into the Alps and I am looking forward to some new cols to climb.
Jim’s words this week – Blue, Hot, Crosswind, Ventoux, Lavander, Headwind, Canoe.