Looking out my window at Mt Lozere, with the ski area on the right
and the mountain headquarters on the left
The mountain top is 1705 m and my room is at about 1450 m

Things are very different tonight from last night, mostly because I am over 4000 feet higher. I'm in a hotel on top of a mountain in the Cevennes National Park. It is nice, if a bit cool. I just had to dig my windblocker vest out of the bottom of my clothes pannier because I was getting chilled in my room. Since I live in the mountains, I should have remembered what a difference 4000 feet makes in temperature!

When I rode out from my hotel this morning, I quickly discovered that Vallon Pont D'Arc gets tacky just around the next corner. My hotel was actually in Chames, a small town just south of Vallon Pont D'Arc. Vallon Pont D'Arc is a major tourist town and not very attractive as a result of all the stuff designed to get tourists to part with their money. Getting through it wasn't too bad, although those big tour buses can be a pain and there were lots of plastic 'canoes' being hauled up river on big trailers. In North Carolina, we have companies that haul rubber rafts for the same purpose, but the rivers there are considerably faster than the Ardeche.

Leaving Vallon Pont D'Arc

The view from D579 - Sunflowers in a wide river valley

Once out of Vallon Pont D'Arc, I was still riding in the Ardeche river valley, but now it was a wide valley and the road climbed gently alongside the river. I rode D579 till near Ruoms where the Chasezzac river (several rivers come together] heads south west. Riding was easy with a tail - side wind and flat land.

Riding D111

When D202 heads west half a dozen miles later, I started climbing. For the rest of the day I was riding in hilly or mountainous country. If I am 4000 feet higher tonight, I must have climbed at least that much. Since there were downhills in there as well as uphills, I climbed about 6000 feet; the most climbing of any day on this tour. I'm sore tonight!

D202 entering Berrias

D202 reaching D901, which was my route for the most of todays ride

D202 T's into D901 in two miles. I rode D901 for the next 40, hilly, miles. D901 climbs gently (2%) and steadily for several miles, gaining about four or five hundred feet, before descending into Les Vans. Les Vans is in a beautiful valley, and the descent, which is not steep, is really nice riding.

I stopped in Les Vans for icecream and expresso. I was worried that it might ruin my appetite for lunch in Villefort, but that turned out not to be a problem. Heading out from Les Vans, I noted that the road headed out of the valley. Oh well, I thought, 1000 feet of climbing. As I learned by climbing, it was close to 2500 feet!

Looks OK

Looks like a good climb

An hour later, still climbing

Taking a break in what turned out to be the middle of the climb

Looking back at the valley

Oh, it is a Col!

By the time a sign appeared saying that the Col was 1.5 km away, I had climbed from less than 100 meters to well over 800 meters. I didn't know this was a Col! Ah well, it was a very pretty, if pretty hard, climb.

Heading down from the Col towards Villefort

I stopped for a real French lunch in Villefort. After 2500 feet of climbing, I was hungry! I had one problem at lunch: the well meaning manager of the restaurant/bar/hotel, moved my bike so that I could see it better from the restaurant. I know better than to let folks who aren't used to loaded bikes move my bike, but I was starting my three course meal and wasn't thinking. Midway through the first course, my bike fell over. No serious damage, but it bent my camera mount and banged my camera, which I should not have left mounted, around a bit. I spent ten minutes after lunch repairing things before riding off.

I'm heading for Le Bleymard

The road follows a river valley - this is a railroad bridge near the bottom

D901 descends over 200 m into Villefort. Then it climbs about 600 m in the next 25 km. Another long hill to crank up: This is getting tiring. It is still very pretty and really good riding. I stopped once to take a break, then just kept on cranking. 25 km of pretty steady 3% or so grade is a long hill!

Ah well, at least I got to meet and visit with a local cyclist at the top!

A km or two past that col (at 1100 m - the col was at 1200) is Le Bleymard. At this point I had to decide if I wanted to attempt a third col. I had an expresso at a bar and decided to go for it.

D20 climbing

Near the bottom of the climb, there was a sign advertising a hotel/restaurant five km up the road. I figured that I could make it there and, if I was really tired, stop for the night. Those five km meant 350 m of climbing, or an average grade of 7%, gentler at the bottom and about 10% near the top, which was hard on my tired body. I stopped after 200 m of climbing to eat the last of the energy bars Primoz's mother gave me in Slovenia. I'd been saving it for a special need, and this was it. It worked - thanks! - and I could have gone on, but I really climbed too much today. Being able to go on and being able to sleep well after abusing your body are two different things. Maybe next time I remember that before I try for three cols in a day...
Last Page Next Page