VERDON GORGES/ PROVENCE/ALPES-MARITIMES:1994

Route continued................

03/9 - Vence to Sospel. Warm to very warm with blue skies all day. 57mls.

View after Col d'Eze

Menton (and old railway?) from Col de Castillon ascent

Downhill to the coast via the picturesque (and touristy) hilltop village of St Paul de Vence to Cagnes-sur-Mer. Very busy roads now into Nice along the Promenade des Anglais. We had a rest on the seafront watching all the sun worshippers and admiring the blue azur colour of the sea.The climb up to the Col d’Eze 512’ begins in town, steeper lower down before easing off and is a reasonably quiet road considering how close it is to the town. We then followed a cliff side road to La Turbie (BPF stamp, Grand Corniche). Superb sea views and across to Monaco. The road was barred on the way (avalanche problems) -so we carried the bikes over the barriers and walked the short section. Downhill to Menton and the sea again before a gentle 8mls climb over the Col de Castillon 783’ and a winding descent on the old road to Sospel.

Hotel L’Auberge Provencal: Room 25frs. Meal 75frs. P/D 30frs.

04/9 - Sospel to Roquebiliere. Warm and a bright sunny day. 43mls.

An 8mls approx climb through impressive gorges to Le Moulinet - cafe stop, a lovely mountain village. Slightly steeper climb for another 7-8mls through forests to Col de Turini 1607’, forested at the top, so no real views, hotels/cafe/restaurants. Very little traffic all the way from Sospel - a lovely climb this one. Slightly downhill to Piera-Cava(BPF stamp, viewpoint and forest of Turini) - superb mountain views to the west. More downhill over to Col de la Cabenette 1372' and Col de St Roch 990' then a narrow road down a forested gorge over the Col de la Port 1068’ and a bumpy descent to the valley and Lantosque - another cafe stop and decided on an early stop. A beautiful ride today on generally very quiet roads.

Turini road above gorges

View west from Piera-Cava

Hotel (name unknown): 190frs(shower on landing). Room 65frs. P/D 22frs.

05/9 - Roquebiliere to Isola. Warm to hot and a bright sunny day. 50mls.

Ascent of Col St Martin

Steady 5ml climb to St Martin-Vesubie, a shopping stop and BPF stamp(Gorges du Vesubie). A nice but hot steady climb to Col St Martin 1500',good mountain views on the way up but a ski village at the top with no real views. top. Then a 10mls descent to Tinee valley - some interesting gorges lower down. A long lunch stop at St Sauveur deciding what to do next (another climb or stop in this valley). Goat herder with about a dozen goats wandered past us as we sat. Rode 10mls up the valley to Isola. Jo stopped here, I rode 18mls up and back to St Etienne de Tinee for BPF stamp(Tinee Valley). Knock out mountain and valley views around all of this area.

Hotel du Tourisme(Touring Hotel). Room with P/D 210frs(shower on landing). Meal 75frs. Excellent.

06/9 - Isola to Entrevaux. Another warm to hot sunny day. 56mls.

Roubion village

View up Col de la Couillole

Descent from Valberg

A fast descent back to St Sauveur - the sun had not yet reached the valley bottom and it was quite cool. A slow climb then up quiet a narrow road (hot and steep at times) to Col de la Couillole 1678’ Impressive gorges and mountain village of Roubion, perched on the side of the hill, a fantastic location. This is quite a hard climb for the height gained but is a very beautiful one. Slight descent to Breuil then a rising road to the ski village of Valberg. Superb mountain views on descent from here - Jo thought it was quite hairy going over the narrow bridges. Cafe stop at Guillames in valley before more descending through the impressive Dalius Gorges, some rock tunnels on the way. Main road for the last few miles into Entrevaux - a mediaeval village - we walked up to the old citadal, an impressive spot with hidden tunnels and views down to the village.

Hotel Le Vauban: Room 200frs(room 10 -quiet, toilet on landing). Meal 75frs

07/9 - Entrevaux to Digne-les-Bains. Another warm and bright sunny day. 58mls.

Folllowed the main road (Route de Napoleon) to Annot, surprisingly quiet for a main road. Cafe stop at Annot, a very pleasant village (BPF stamp, middle ages village). A gradual climb then over the Col de Toutes des Aures 1120’ and a descent to St Andre-les-Alpes. Met 2 Huddersfield cyclists here (OCD members also), they recommended a hotel for us in Digne and we recommended the Hotel at Isola to them. We then just followed the main road to Digne. The large overhanging plane trees on the main street cut out most of the light and it is quite dark as you walk underneath.

Hotel le Petit St Jean: Room 190frs (quiet, toilet on landing again). Meal 65frs. P/D25frs

08/9 - Digne-les-Bains: day ride. Cloudy then tremendous thunderstorm and gales. 12mls.

A cloudy start and a look of rain in the air - and it did later! Anyway we set off for a day ride, intending to go up a few local cols. However 4mls up the road it started. We retreated to a cafe to see what it was going to do. It eased so we set off again, then it started again, so we had to shelter in a changing rooms building on a local football field. We stood there for a while watching the football field became awash, rivers of water everywhere. We raced back to the hotel by 12:00 during a brief respite, pools of water everywhere. After a change had a walk around town - the rivers were running very fast indeed. Then there was one almighty thunderstorm with hail and strong winds which swept down the main street destroying some cafe canopies amongst other damage. We just hid in a cafe watching it all. It was dark as night in the street. What a day!

09/9 - Digne to Sault. Bright blue sky day, cool to start then warmer. 70mls.

What a contrasting day - bright sky, sharp colours - just beautiful. The previous days storm had washed all the haziness away. We followed quiet roads down valley and then through Oraison and onto Forcalquier, an interesting provencal town (BPF stamp,citadel, monuments). Had picnic lunch further on in the warm sunshine. Then undulating quiet roads with a slight headwind, we were getting quite high up again, around 600+' , but no steep climbing. Cafe stop at Banon before continuing to Sault with Mt Ventoux in the background. Today had been a total contrast to previous mountain days but none the less was very enjoyable.

Hotel ??(by the square). Room 8 overlooking the square 180frs. Meal 75frs. A good place.

10/9 - Sault, Mt Ventoux circuit. Bright and sunny, cool to warm. 60mls

Mt Ventoux

Easy climb to Chalet Reynard, about 12mls and then the classic last 3mls or so past the Tommy Simpson memorial to the top. Total climbing time about 2.5hrs. Lots of other cyclists about, but then thats true for most days on Mt. Ventoux. Descended to Malucene for lunch. More climbing then to get over into the very picturesque and quiet Toulourene valley, good views of the north side of Ventoux. Very warm now. More climbing past hamlet of Aurel to get back to Sault and 2 beers. A superb ciruit of Mt Ventoux - throughly recommended.

11/9 - Sault to Bollene to catch the Bolero bus back - approx 50mls

A leisurely last day, mainly downhill and flat, some superb gorges on the way. Evening departure for the coach back home.

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