I can honestly say that cycling in Provence is always a delight, but sometimes we do a new ride that just makes my heart sing & leaves me feeling as if I’m grinning ‘from the inside out’ and that’s just how I felt after doing this route earlier this week.
I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, especially as I’ve turned 50 and ride a bike that is called Miss Daisy & is often fitted with a basket…….. but I’m really starting to enjoy the climbs on my bike.
To be honest it’s a good thing as, apart from a gentle ride along the Veloroute du Calavon, almost all roads here head up – and some quite steeply.
So I was more than happy when Andy suggested that we drive across to Sault, climb Mont Ventoux as far as Chalet Reynard before returning via the Bedoin route and the Gorges De La Nesque back to the start.
The weather here this October has been particularly spectacular with blue skies, only a few windy days and temperatures regularly hitting the high 20’s, which has been simply perfect for getting out & about on the bikes. Couple this with the fact that the roads are now empty and the villages & attractions are relatively quiet and I can’t think of a better time to cycle and enjoy the bright Autumn light and incredible views that the area has to offer.
That said, the mornings can be chilly and as we drove across to Sault via Saint Christol, the temperature dropped to 1 degree above freezing, with it not rising much above that by the time we arrived at Sault. At that moment I was regretting just wearing cycle shorts, but I was sure the day would quickly warm up and we’d be shedding layers on the climb.
Needless to say we started the day properly, sitting with a coffee and Pain au Chocolat in the Restaurant ‘La Promenade de Justin’ on the terrace overlooking Mont Ventoux and by the time we finally set off the temperature was starting to rise, although my knees were blue by the time we reached the Ferme aux Lavandes on the way across the valley floor towards the start of the climb.
I always get a buzz when we pass the sign at the start of the climb signalling that the ‘Col’ is ‘Ouvert’, even though I had no intention of going to the summit this time around.
The ride up was beautiful and apart from a very occasional car and other cyclists the road was effectively empty, to the extent that it almost felt at times as if we were on a cycle path.
As I had hoped, the layers quickly came off and we found ourselves wrapping our jackets around our handlebars & rolling up our sleeves, just enjoying the sun.
The views on the ride up from Sault are beautiful & even more so at this time of year as many of the trees have lost their leaves allowing you a glimpse of normally hidden vistas.
The colours were also spectacular with the trees seeming to stand on an orange and gold carpet, having shed a lot of their leaves in the recent Mistral.
With so many things to distract you, it does tend to take your mind off the climb itself and we quickly reached the viewpoint, stopping for a few minutes of absolute peace to enjoy the magnificent views back across to Sault and beyond into the ‘Alpes de Haute Provence’, before heading on & covering the last few kilometres to Chalet Reynard for a well-deserved coffee stop.
I do love stopping here, it always has a gentle buzz & has the feel of a restaurant on the ski-slopes, with people settling down to enjoy a break in the midst of an active day. It’s also inevitably a great place for some serious bike spotting & almost certainly some bike-envy – although for some reason Miss Daisy doesn’t seem to get a second glance!
From Chalet Reynard we took the route back down the mountain towards Bedoin, a shorter but much steeper route than the climb we had done and looking at the looks on the faces of some of the cyclists heading up I may give that route a miss for a while yet.
It’s a nice route down, but without the expansive views of the climb up as it winds steeply down through woodland with occasional clearings offering a view back up to the summit…..
Before opening out with beautiful views across cherry orchards and vineyards a few kilometres above Bedoin.
Bedoin is a great town and is always filled with cyclists about to tackle or having just finished tackling the Mountain, but we turned off before we reached it, heading through the vineyards ……..
Towards the pretty village of Flassan…..
And on to Ville-Sur-Auzon, where we started to head along the road that runs through the Gorges de La Nesque, bizarrely edged with neatly trimmed hedges, shaped almost like lego-bricks.
I’ve only ever come down through the Gorges before, which is effectively a 20km gentle free-wheel, so I wasn’t sure how I would get on climbing up the same distance. But I needn’t have worried as it’s a very gentle climb and again the views are spectacular, helping the kilometres disappear.
Towards the top of the climb the road runs through tunnels that have been cut from the rock…….
Before it reaches the viewpoint at the entrance to the Gorges, which sits above the road and gives you the chance to look back along the sinuous route that disappears into the distance.
The road then drops down past the pretty village of Monieux, before climbing gently back into Sault, past the striking Memorial to the local Resistance members who lost their lives during WW2.
The whole ride is a shade over 70km long with a total climb of over 1500m, which are not the stats that would normally encourage me to do a particular route……. but this was wonderful and I can honestly say that it was a truly beautiful ride and I had a smile on my face the whole day.
I make no apologies for saying that I love cycling here and sadly (for many reasons) I hardly ever get out on my bike when I’m back in the UK so find myself counting the days until I return.
I can best describe it that cycling in Provence just makes my heart sing, but this particular route truly made me grin ‘from the inside out’ and personally I can’t wait to have the chance to do it again.