Summer’s gone

So, time to leave after seven weeks here. It has, of course been lovely – not just for the endlessly enchanting scenery, and the joy of being able to see so much of it while riding a bike, but mostly for the memories the experiences create.

And foremost among the memorable  pleasures has been welcoming friends to stay – eleven in all (including four non-cyclists, though I’ll let baby Jemima off!) Some were returning, some were new to the area, and they all had smiles on their faces on arrival, and departure. And while they were here, some fun was had.

As for me, away from work, it’s when every day is a cycling day. Actually, there was just one day when not a pedal was turned. But even with that lapse, I know I’ll have done more leisure/training miles here, in seven weeks, than I will in Devon over the rest of the year. The final total:  2935 miles, and, this time, only three miles in the rain… coming back from the swimming pool.

I’m back at the end of October: we’ll see what that brings.

Photos from a last day blustery col de Rousset ascent. I never tire of these views.

Last long ride of summer

It definitely feels autumnal today: strong northerly winds, and clouds skimming in over Vercors. My legs are feeling a bit autumnal too after a long ride yesterday.

So, a route to match the weather and my legs: heading south to Valdrôme, and back to St Nazaire via the cols de Rossas, du Fays,  des Roustants, la Vache, du Portail and des Guillens.

The wind certainly provided challenges on the 85-mile route (roadside vegetation giving good advance warning of gusts), but the choice of heading south was vindicated by the cloud-shrouded view of Vercors on the return to Die.

Maybe I am just starting to be able to read the weather here after all.

Today’s route:

Diversions: D57 Marsanne to Loriol

​For the route, this is well worth doing. I’ll admit that it’s not a stunner all the way, especially nearer Loriol, but it has nice bits.

After the pleasant climb, with its spectacular view back over the Cléon d’Andran basin to Les Trois Becs and more, you come to the Col de la Grande Limite (sorry I can’t answer the very obvious question), a popular place for picnickers and walkers.

The descent, albeit on a decent road, treats you to a selection of electricity infrastructure to view: wind turbines, and to the south the cooling towers at the vast Cruas-Meysse power plant. I dare say that with binoculars you could see the atomic plant at Tricastin, and the hydroelectric plants at Le Pouzet and les Tourettes aren’t far away. Oh, and there are plenty of pylons and wires because of all that generation. Well, the French have never been ones to hide these things away.

After the descent you also get to see Mirmande (worth a detour/visit). However, the entry to Loriol is disappointing: if you try to approach by the back road (turning right off the D57 just before you meet the main road, and pleasant while it lasts), you’ll be sent down through a housing estate back to the main road, because of a pointless (for cyclists) one-way road.

So, probably not one to make a point of visiting, but a pleasant enough way to get from M to L.

Flat and hilly

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the reasons I don’t tire of riding around here is the wide choice of roads and terrain. My Devon riding is hilly, whichever direction I go in: even the ‘flat’ bits are constantly undulating. If you go to the edges (the coast) or the middle (Dartmoor), things get even more challenging.

Here, of course, you have hills: lots of them, and reasonably big ones, including the Vercors Plateau (which internally is very lumpy). But then there’s the Drôme Valley road, which rises just 600m over 60 miles, and the vast plains near the Rhône.

So, devising routes gives almost limitless options. Today’s route really mixed it up: flat as a gently sloping pancake west to Crest; a little lumpy to Combovin, in the shadow of Vercors’ western extreme; then valley-hopping heading back east to Die, going over three cols (Jérôme Cavalli, de la Croix, and de Marignac) to get back to Die.

A cracking ride, and after the D93, all on back roads. I think that after Crest I was passed by fewer cars than the number of vultures I saw soaring overhead near Combovin.

Route (though you can simplify the route in Crest itself, as RidewithGPS thinks there are one-way streets where there aren’t):

Back on the D93

​If the weather’s still good (it is!) in the week following the bank holiday, it’s a nice time to be here. The hordes of holiday-makers start to evaporate, Die market stops being a scrum, and the main Drôme valley road, the D93 becomes pleasant to cycle on again.

For the busiest part of the summer, it’s not the best place to be – some parts are completely unavoidable, and though quite long stretches have a decent cycle space, just the sheer number of cars, especially west of Die, makes it wise to take side roads where possible, at the busier times of the day. At least they are now widening bits where it’s been worst, for instance at Vercheny.

Well, you’ll see from the photos below what a glorious road it is when it’s quiet.

Diversions: D271 to St-Nazaire-le-Désert

​Just a short one: if you’re descending from Col de Planlara towards St-Nazaire-le-Désert, where the road doubles back on itself (signposted to St Nazaire), if you have just a few minutes to spare, head straight on to the D271, signposted to Montnègre. Instead of carrying on descending, you’ll have a short gentle ascent, giving you some nice extra views, and a better final descent into St Nazaire. Well worth it.

In the scenic photo from this diversion, you can see the descent from Col de Planlara, and where it carries on to St Nazaire.

Incidentally, please excuse the state of my map: it’s served me well for four years, having been used in the planning and execution of literally thousands of miles of rides here. I think I might treat myself to a new one.