Tuesday, 24 September 2013
Landed on a lovely warm, sunny day, but the forecast for tomorrow was rain, drying up by lunchtime. So we cycled in the afternoon, setting off in the direction of Malaucene, on the beautiful road which climbs over the Col de Madelene, contouring around vineyards and pine forests, with spectacular views as you climb higher. Over to the Dentelles, down to Beaume de Venise, climbing up to hilltop villages of St Pierre de Vassols and Crillon Le Brave and back to Bedoin. Nice intro and a route we've done before, but the other way around. Unsettled weather and cool.
The forecast was better for Monday. I set off at 8.30am, 40mins ahead of Ian, which is roughly the difference expected to the top of Ventoux! The other big difference between Ian and I is unfortunately for him, he has a clear, good memory of how hard these climbs are, whereas I blot out most of it, apart from the feeling of euphoria at the top! Consequently, it began to come back to me, as I began the interminable climb up through the pines, with a gradient of around 9 and 10% over 10 miles. Thank God for Chalet Reynard, a couple of minutes to stretch and then the tough last few miles over the "desert" landscape to the top. The wind was building, occasionally helping, at other times making it tougher. Ian overtook me with 3k to go, damn him, and I thought I'd done well. Turns out he was having another good day!
The top is always a wonderful but cold place to be. 2hrs 36mins, eat a snickers bar, and put leggings, cold weather gloves, merino top, winter jacket, and cagoule on, before the descent back to Chalet Reynard and a cup of hot coffee. Ian had time for a second! Then off down towards Sault, on a superbly tarmacced road, switching back through pine forests, and eventually on through lavender fields, now empty but still fragrant. My 6th time up the Geant de Provence. Always takes me by surprise at how hard it is, but memorable.
Sandwich at our favourite bar in Sault, in a little square, tucked away. In June it's very busy, but now the neighbouring restaurant is closed, and quite quiet. Such a short season for these places. On through lavender fields and climbing up to the head of the Gorge de la Nesque, and then the magnificent 7 or 8 mile descent through the gorge. Hardly needing to use the brakes, and cycling at an average speed of 18 mph, we contoured around high up the side of the gorge, twisting and turning, with dramatic drops down into the valley. The best piece of downhill cycling ever. The weather was unsettled, but it didn't take the shine off. The kind of cycle you relive in the cold winter months in Derbyshire!
Climb out of the gorge to Ville sur Auzon, on to Flassan and then Bedoin. 56mls, average speed 12.9mph, which shows how fast the return is bearing in mind the first half was ascending Ventoux, averaging 5mph.
Met up with Ian, from Sunderland, here on his own for two weeks on the BikeBus. Same age as Ian and a keen cyclist, so lots of stories to share over a steak hache and frites!