Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ventoux and Provence

Provence -Bedoin Drove to Bedoin by a very circuitous route because of road and tunnel closures. Drove over the Col de Herbouilly, Col de Rousset and down into Die, the "capital" of Drome region. The descent from the Col de Rousset was very dramatic and long, and we promised that we'd come back up here another time to do it. Die seems to have a bit going on as well with lots more cycling climbs and routes. So a good base to explore. Eventually landed in a busy Provence, and Bedoin, our home for six nights leading up to the next sportive over Mont Ventoux. Given up on trying to get in at Camping la Garenne, with its sour-faced proprietor! Instead got a great pitch at the nearby municipal site, with a lovely breeze wafting through the 32' heat, and good shade at the heat of the day. The following day we decided to bite the bullet and do the most knackering ascent up Ventoux from Bedoin, firstly to give us enough gap to recover for the next ascent on the sportive, but also to give us the marvellous descent through the Gorge de la Nesque, which we've done before. Forgot how tough the ascent was, barely achieving 4 mph over 19 km in 2hrs 23', but then dropping down to Sault, and then averaging 20 mph over approx 10 miles through the gorge. Worth all the pain of climbing "le geant"! A good cycle but tough with sore knees and back! Out 5 hrs 30' and a very hot 57 miles. Not going anywhere near Ventoux until Saturday and the sportive! Flies driving us nuts! After a short day around Beaumes de Venise area, we had a longer 60 mile run reccying part of the route of the race, around the back side of Ventoux, through the beautiful Toulourenc valley, over the Col de Veaux, through Entrechaux and back towards the Dentelles area. Unfortunately, it turns out that the race does take you over the Col de La Chaine, and Suzette and La Roque Alric, which is only short but a stinker, especially before the climb up Ventoux from Malaucene, and later on the return after nearly 70 miles! We cycled over to sign on for the race and saw a couple, who we'd seen at the Vercors race, doing the rounds! We also met up with Simon Haig and some mates and went out for a meal together and some beers. He used to work with Ian, and has recently started going on some cycles with him. It was pure coincidence that he'd picked up on Strava that we were in the area and suggested we catch up! Really hot about 35'c. Very oppressive. Looking forward to going somewhere cooler after the race weekend. Can't believe that it was only 5' and we were putting the heating on in the van in the mornings! The day of the race- The Gran Fondo Mont Ventoux. We debated at length about driving from Bedoin to the start of the race at Beaumes de Venise, about 10 miles, but that would mean the van sitting in the sun in 36' heat all day, if we were lucky enough to find parking. Checked out the municipal parking in Beaumes, but we're happier to stay put on our shady pitch at Bedoin. So nothing for it but to cycle in earlier in the morning. 6am start, 7am in Beaumes and finally set off at 8.30am. Yesterday had had a high temperature alert and 36'. Today looked like it might follow suit, as we cycled through Lafare, up to La Roque Alric, up to Suzette, over the Col de la Chaine, down to Malaucene and the slightly less difficult route up Ventoux. Some gradients of a mere 4/5%, but then three consecutive kilometres of 10 and 11%, before the first feed station at Mont Serein and the final 5 kms to summit. Super fast descent to Sault and on to the Toulourenc valley, some 25 miles of undulating descent with stunning views around the back of Ventoux. Over the Col de Veaux and the ascent over Col de Chaine, up to Suzette and then the fast descent all the way back to Beaumes. Luckily, it clouded over a little in the afternoon, but was still incredibly hot. Great race. Ian did fantastically well with gold standard time of 5hrs 51mins but was exhausted with the heat. He hung on to see me finish, and then cycled back to van in case it got a soaking with the thunderstorms which threatened. The cycle back was a bit of a stinker, after the 84 miles of the race, especially the climb up to Crillon le Brave. Total of 104 miles today and nearly 11000 ft ascent! Must have drunk gallons today! My finishing time was 7hrs 37', just 7' outside gold time for 50+ , female category! so reasonably chuffed. Couldn't have worked any harder. Had to support myself with the table, during the interminable wait for result. Internet had crashed! Thunder and lightning but the rain stayed further south. Can't wait to go somewhere cooler, Bourg d'Oisans and the Alps tomorrow.


France 2015 After overnighting at the car park aire in Calais, and the following night at the Camping des Cents Vignes (beautiful) in Beaune, we arrived at our destination for four nights in the Vercors region, near Grenoble. A small village called Meaudre, near Autrans. One of four sportives we've booked in, part of the Grand Trophee series. A good way of seeing a new part of France. Well signed and organised. This one even had a sportive specifically for women, Vercors pour Elles, on the Saturday and the longer men's the following day. Arriving a few days earlier gave us chance to reccy some of the route and practise a couple of the climbs, the Col de Herbouilly and the Col de Croix Perrin. Not too steep but long. Although chilly in the morning, the temperature rises steadily, and it's such a joy to ride and not be cold. Vercors pour Elles was a stunning course, with fast cycling in the valley floors to neighbouring villages, climbs up to Croix Perrin and then Herbouilly, long, fast descent to St Agnan, looking up at the impressive rocky escarpment, that the Vercors is famous for. On through farms and meadows, eventually climbing to St Julien and a beautiful, high altitude road with stunning views. Rapid descent to climb again through the narrow Gorges de la Bourne, with high rocky overhangs. They're currently resurfacing this popular tourist road, so it was a very unwelcome experience to be cycling over having covered 50miles! Back at Meaudres after 57miles. Really enjoyed it, managed 13.7mph, over 5000' ascent, and just less than 3mins off gold standard at 4hrs 24'! If only I hadn't stopped for some fruit pastilles at feed station 2! They provided a hot meal at finish, with the celebrated Bleu de Vercors cheese, soft, creamy and not at all salty. Ian set off earlier the following day, as his course was longer. It was only 5deg but sunny, as he set off in the morning. Began on same route as me but took in much more climbing over Col de Rousset and Col de la Machine, to name but two. Covered over 100 miles. Whilst he did this, I cycled over to St Julien and on to Pont en Royans and then back up the Gorges de la Bourne, a beautiful route of high level alpine fields, little villages, picturesque Pnt en Royans and then back through the stunning gorges, following and being overtaken by the front markers of the long challenge route. Ian came in in excellent time inside the gold standard, but complaining of back ache. Evenings spent watching the French regulars on the campsite playing p├ętanque. Great to watch and so skilful. There's a few of them who drive over regularly from Grenoble and has static cabins on the site. Very attractive. Off to Provence tomorrow and a day off, driving! Really liked this area. Very quiet. Would definitely come back here again.