At this time of the year, if you get a day with a “ciel serein” (as accurately forecast today), you make the most of it. For me one of the joys of coming down at this time of year is feeling that the real cycling season has longer to go, and though it might have turned cooler, a cloudless day with moderate winds gives such a boost. And there was only one place to go: Vercors. I hardly got up there at all in the summer, thanks to its habitual cap of cloud – not a whisp today.
Not a long route today: as I had stuff to do in the morning, I restricted myself to La Chapelle and back. It’s an old favourite (not least as it was my first Vercors ride in June 2012), but also it has a bit of nearly everything in just over 50 miles: the ever-fun ascent and descent of Col de Rousset; beautiful back roads through some of the most idyllic countryside you’re ever likely to see; and a journey through villages which resonate with history, particularly the Second World War, and the terrible retribution the Nazis meted out to the Résistance in July and August 1944.
So, today’s ride – actually, what was new to me was doing the circuit on the Vercors anti-clockwise, and I must say I think I prefer it that way. So after Rousset, St. Agnan, La Chapelle (a good place for a coffee, and it has a little shop as well as bakeries) and then back to Vassieux. St.Agnan, La Chapelle and Vassieux all suffered terribly in 1944, and very little remains of their pre-war structure (apart from the historic church at La Chapelle). In amongst the photos of beauty from today’s ride, there are one or two reminders of the history I rode through.
Oh, and you’ll notice the 1100m Col de Proncel in there (it’s between La Chapelle and Vassieux) – going from Vassieux it doesn’t really feel like a col at all, but coming from La Chapelle it does feel a bit more col-ish, and since it’s over 1000m I suppose it qualifies. But it’s not going to get its own page. If it weren’t sitting on top of the Vercors it would just be a lump of very modest dimensions. Though if you’ve ridden all the way from St-Eulalie-en-Royans, it’s definitely a col, I suppose: you’ve gained about 850 metres in height. When I’ve ridden it that way, I might give its own page.