Can you imagine - 2 weeks of warm days, smooth roads, nice scenery, no cars, great food, great company. Can't imagine , just see some photos from our trip to France.
It was great to spend time in one location and fall into a vacation rythmn of morning rides, coffee breaks with cafe elonger, cafe grand creme, chausson au pomme, pain au chocolat, market shopping for lunch and dinner, awesome wines from the cellar, gourmet dinners. Our location was Chateauneuf de Mazenc in Rhone Alps region. This is an assortment of fixed up ancient homes set on the side on the west side of the Rhone valley, and looking to the east over rolling farmland past the Rhone river to the Ardeche. Thick stone walls, wood shutters on the windows and tile roofs. Our place had a big open kitchen with walkout to the terrace, and a spectacular view of the valley, sunrise and sunset!
Ruins of ancient castles or amazing old churches with high vaulted ceilings seem to be on the tops of most of the higher hills.
Fields of Sunflowers, Lavender, corn, sorgum, and wheat in the valley below and set in, what appeared to us as, random patches on the hillsides. Cutting and processing of the lavender filled the air with the amazing smells.
Local rides were typically 50 to 80 km with 2, 3 or 4 climbs, and switch back filled descents, no flat or straight roads to be found. A short south ride up the hill to Alyrac and Mt Ventoux can be seen to the south.
We even got the Mistral experience - big, BIG, north east wind that rushes down the Rhone valley with steady speeds 30 to 40 kph and gusts over 60. It really blew for a few days, during which we cut the rides short.
A mid vaction highlight was the climb of Mt Ventoux. This is the giant of Provence, and no kidding, the other "hills" are all at least 500m lower. You really feel like you are on top of the world when at the summit.
Ventoux is a great climb. We drove about 1.5hr from our place at Chateauneuf de Mazenc to Bedoin, parked and got the bikes setup ready to roll for 9am. Check food, electrolytes in the water, pump the tires and go! The Mistal wind died down and the summit is open, so we are good to go. Temperature is a wonderful 25C to start and will be getting hot later in the day.
The road turns up as soon as you leave Bedoin. 4% for a few km then right into 8 to 9%, until a small respite around 12 km, then back at it to the top. 21 km distance, 1500m rise, average gradient 9%, maximum gradient about 12%. We decided to not try to stay together to let everyone ride at their own pace. I think this was a good plan.
We are among a parade of all kinds of riders, lycra clad on the latest bikes, mountain bikes, bikes with paniers, bikes with trailers and kids. Speeds varied from pro racer fast to slow walk! I got passed by some, passed some riding slow, and passed a few sitting at the side.
The lower part of the ride has frequent switch backs and is sheltered by trees, the last 6 km are very different. No trees, no shelter, just large angular stones for dirt. The is summit nearly alway visible after you leave the trees. We are high enough to notice cooler air, and by the summit it is quite cool. The top is packed with happy people taking photos by the sign at the summit. My ride went well until about 6km from the top, I rode steady and felt great until that point and slowed alot, Paul overtook me at that point and I just couldn't maintain the pace. A few gels and a little slow riding and I had recovered enough to return to regular speed (read 11kph). Climb took around 2 hours for Paul, a few minutes more for me, then the others tricked in. Melani was a little back so I rode back down to join her for her ride to the top. Amazing accomplishment for all of us, especially for Rob with very little time on the bike and Melani for digging deep and getting it done.
Oh ya, the ride down is kinda fun too! 30 minutes of no pedalling, brakes on, carve the switch back turns, smiling all the way.
France has a few things other than riding, and we did a bunch of those too!
Markets of Provence, Avignon, Pont du Gard, wine tasting, castle tours, speaking francais....
Can't wait until I can get back to do this again.