Provence 1

Had a fairytale holiday in June 2005 when I joined some friends from Jacksonville and Perth for a week of riding in France, followed by a week in a lovely country estate in the hills behind Cannes.  The first week of riding we pinched ourselves that we were riding the famed Tour de France 6000' Mt Ventoux (amongst other climbs), and the second week we pinched ourselves that we were staying in one of the most beautiful places in France.  Hyperventilation all around!

Day 1;  Comps sur Atuby - la Bastide des Jourdans; 70 miles/5000' climbing


Most of my crew on the first day of riding, only LeeAnn Buck missing.  There were 22 of us in total, the other riders coming from elsewhere in the US.  


The first day took us through the gorges of Verdun, stunning gashes created by the river through the limestone rock.  My bike didn't arrive for 5 days thanks to bl**dy Delta and all their lies, so had to borrow a bike (thanks Mitch), peacock yellow helmet (thanks Greg), and buy shoes (thanks Guillaume).  


Being spring, the poppies were out along with many other (allergy inducing) varieties.  At times the wind blowing the hoards of dandelion tufts made it seem like it was snowing.  


Fields of blood red poppies were everywhere.  The lavender had started to flower down closer to the sea where it was warmer, but up in the higher country where we were, it was still a couple of weeks away.


Victor's birthday necessitated a bike decoration that made him stand out.  All day.  Unfortunately it didn't slow him down at all.

Day 2;  Bastide - Vaison la Romaine; 68 miles/3500' climbing


The lovely village of Mountbrun (oddly in a valley) where we lunched.  After a week of similar stunningly picturesque villages, you began to tire of such beauty, but then had to slap yourself out of it.  Some of them were breathtaking.


Sated by lunch, we then had our first view of Mt Ventoux in the distance (the tower is at the top).  The top is 1912m, or ~6000'.  A loooong way up for the next day.

Day 3;  Vaison la Romaine loop (via Mt Ventoux); 60 miles/7000' climbing


So here we are grinding (slowly it must be admitted) up the 6000' mountain.  To have completed one of the signature sectors of the Tour de France, and one that was to be part of the Dauphine Libere just two weeks after, gives you quite a rush.  Naturally the pain experienced on the day is replaced by elation afterwards.


The top of the mountain is denuded of trees, having been cut down years before for fuel.  It does however make the view quite spectacular, much like that from a plane.  Speed up was slow, but I did hit 80km/hr on the way down.  And my knicks stayed white.


A sign in Vaison that was made for Victor, he suggesting that we could do Ventoux again the following day by taking a short cut that just happened to be across the top.

Day 4;  Vaison - L'Isle sur la Sorgue;  72 miles/3200' climbing


This route took us down the Gorges de la Nesque, another stunning set of canyons.  Unfortunately our road had been closed due to a rock fall, but as you can see, that didn't deter we cross-training types.

Day 5;  Sorgue loop ride;  52 miles/2200' climbing


The lovely village of Fountaine de Vaucluse.  Because of the strong river it is a site for a kayak slalom training course.  We came back to the restaurant for dinner that night.  Our frustrated waiter exclaimed "merci mon Dieu" finally (you had to be there).

Day 6;  Sorgue - St Maximin;  65 miles/2500' climbing


Terri and Victor studying the map, and Mitch on the phone eventually sorted us out in the right direction.  It was Terri's second  (of three) attempts that day to get us lost but none were successful. 


The lovely village of Bonnieux.  You just had to stop and catch your breath, but we took a coffee as well in the town.


This was either Jouques or Rians (or Meyrargues or Peyrolles).  Either way, it was another lovely village.  I lusted after the roof tiles for my new house.  Sick puppy really.


On the final road to St Maximin.  Guillaume dispensing much needed water ahead of a looong and brutal climb into strong headwinds.  

So the total for the 6 days of riding was 390 miles/650 kms, and 23,400' climbing.  Not quite Tour de France or Giro d'Italia standards, but when we stayed at La Campanette the following week, we managed to find some more climbing close by!

A plug also to Breaking Away Tours www.breakingaway.com run by Greg and Terri, and ably assisted by Mitch and Guillaume.  Great organisation, great routes and great people.  I would definitely recommend them anytime.

Go to Provence 2  Photos of La Campanette (the estate near Cannes), and 

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