The Gorges of the river Tarn

Today was superb riding, both for the quality of the scenery and for the riding environment. It was one of those rare days, like riding through Triglav in Slovenia, when I was simply overwhelmed by the experience. After a day like today, pretty much everywhere else is only a weak taste of what reality can be. I already understood why riding in southern France is so popular, but now I understand in my gut rather than just in my head.

About a km of 10% climb at the start

Looking east at the park

Looking back at Le Refuge where I spent the night

And the riding was easy on top

My riding day started, after a good breakfast, with climbing the last 100 m to Col Finiels. The first km of that climb was steep, but then it was an easy ride on a nearly flat road to the col. I was chilly, the temperature was 14 C or in the high 50s F, but it was gorgeous up there. Then I got to ride down to Le Pont de Montvert.

The start of the open section

The initial downhil was through woods, but it opened up and became one of the longest - about 12 km - and prettiest sustained downhills I've experienced. It wasn't quite as spectacular as Vrsic, but it was more fun to ride. The total drop was only 600 m in the 12 km to Le Pont de Montvert, or about a 5% slope, and my average speed was probably about 20 to 25 mph. The road was narrow and bumpy with, usually, a drop off on one side and a cliff or embankment on the other. The corners where mostly easy to take without slowing down too much, and the view was breathtaking.

The headwaters of the Tarn near Le Pont de Montvert

The signpost at Le Pont de Montvert

Part of the town of Le Pont de Montvert

At Le Pont de Montvert, D20 - the road over Mt Lozere - T's into D998 which climbs up on the side of the valley and then follows the Tarn, whose headwaters are in that valley, down to near Florac. The riding on those section was also superb, with most of it being a 20 - 30 mph downhill alongside the river. After Cocures the road climbs away from the river and then comes back down to it, several times.

A chalet on D998 - the Tarn cut those cliffs you see

D998 reaches N106 1.5 km west of Florac. I chose not to ride into Florac, but rather to head for the Gorges of Tarn which start about five miles west of Florac. N106 wasn't great riding, but it got me to D907 bis, which was. D907 goes from N106 to Aguessac which is half a dozen miles north of Millau. That is about 45 miles of very nice riding. Unlike the gorges road I rode two days ago, The Gorges of Tarn road runs near the water. SInce the river flows gently south, the road is slightly downhill most of the way to Aguessac. It does have a couple of places where it climbs well above the river, but I'd guess that total climbing, going south, at less than 1000 feet. The total down hill is a few hundred feet greater.

Heading into the Gorges

A village in the narrow part of the Gorges
D998 goes into a tunnel at the right edge of this image

The Tarn in a typical section of the Gorge

I saw a number of bicycle tourists today. The first was a couple, on loaded bikes, coming up near Col Finiels. The others were in the Gorges of Tarn; several pairs on lightly loaded bikes and one group of about a dozen who were stopped, with their commercial support vehicle, having a snack. I'm sure that a number of companies run supported rides though the Gorges since it is a beautiful, relatively easy, ride.

There are a lot of tourist support facilities in the Gorge
This hotel is where I want to stay the next time I ride through <grin>

The big tourist thing is canoes

The river is mostly quite gentle and it offers many places to beach your canoe and have a picnic

When I got to Aguessac, the fun riding was over for a while. It is less than 10 km from there to Millau, but that riding was on the busy N9. Moreover, there was a big traffic jam that lasted half the way into Millau. This was definitely urban riding, but, because it is in France, not bad, just not great fun. When I reached Millau it was about 4 PM. It was too early to stop and Millau was too busy a place for me, so I rode on. That mean riding west out of the Tarn valley.

Following the signs for Albi, I took D992 east. I went through a small town, Creissels, where I stopped to see if I could get something to eat. Only restaurants which, in France meant no food till late evening - 7 or 8 PM. I snacked from my supplies and rode on up a big hill. It was about one km of close to 10% grade. Not fun, especially with traffic.

The downhill after the uphill out of the Tarn valley

Fortunately, D992 follows another river valley, so riding was good

After less than 20 miles, I took D999 heading east toward Albi. I rode about five miles to near Roquefort (yes, the cheese) where I checked into a small town hotel. Nice. I had an excellent, four course, French supper from 8:15 to 9:30. Then I worked on this web page till 11 when I just couldn't stay awake any longer. That was a mistake. Burp. I needed to stay up longer to give that big dinner time to digest. Indigestion all night. I guess the French - there were about 20 people enjoying dinner here last night - stay up later than I do while touring!
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