Mad dogs and Englishmen

I suppose it serves me right for choosing one of the harder cols, and one with ‘chaud’ in its name (col de la Chaudière) on a day when it’s distinctly warm, but today’s 80 miles, on a standard route (to Bourdeaux and Saoû), were hard.

Just few photos, beginning and ending with a splendid display of sunflowers right by the main road coming into Die. The tourist office should be happy: they’re getting quite a bit of attention… including mine.

Une pièce de théâtre

After Friday’s longer ride to the splendid col de Mens, Saturday was a mix: market (of course), a short ride, and an evening entertainment.

Die market heaves at this time of year – it’s rarely quiet on Saturdays, but add in all the holiday-makers (mostly Dutch), and it all goes a bit crazy. I’d never seen one of the big fruit & veg stalls having essentially sold everything they had by the time market closed (1pm) before today.

The evening entertainment (reached via a roudabout route) was friends Clare & Alan perform (in French) in a comedy play in their village fête: based on a series of misunderstandings, it was a jolly affair, with locals having the excuse to dress up in silly clothes and make their friends laugh. As usual, even an Englishman with imperfect French (me) was given a genuinely warm welcome to this quintessentially French celebration of community.

And the bonus: a ride home over the col de Marignac while the sun lowered itself towards sunset. 

Col de Mens (1117m)

Yet another “last col over 1000m within a day’s ride from Die”… if it is actually the last one for me to find, it’s a spectacular one to finish the list with.

The col de Mens is not a col you’ll find by accident, unless you’ve always wanted to go to Tréminis: even then, you’re more likely to follow the road up the Ebron rather than the road over the col. But what a treat the col is – you’d be mad to miss it.

Today I approached it from the Mens side, from which you get an early clear view of the col (I like a loop over col de Menée and back over col de Grimone), and that way you have a fairly gradual ascent of about 350m from Mens (pronounced, roughly as “Monse” but with a French nasal “en”), along the D216. Your ascent gives you stunning views of the Grande Tête de l’Obiou and the Dévoluy ridge that runs south from it.

If you approach from Tréminis, the ascent is short and sharp: in some ways, I think this might be the more satisfying way to do it, if you don’t mind short sharp ascents, as after the pretty col, you will be treated to the majesty of the scenery after, with a longer descent, and choice of coffee stops and restaurants in Mens.

Anyway, whichever way you do it, I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed. It’s not a giant, I’ll grant you, but you’ll probably want to stop every few mintes for photos. I did, and most of them are here.

Road resurfacing

It’s always interesting to see what roads have been resurfaced by the time I return for the summer. Two significant ones were being done when I was here in June: the approach to Die (which was truly awful), and the col de Rousset.
I’m now en route to Mens and the col de Mens, and the silky-smooth resurfaced road to St Roman brought a smile to my face, as does the road beyond St Roman to Châtillon. Cyclists are easily pleased sometimes.

A lavender hunt

With the legs still getting run in for Alpine riding, today seemed like a good day to do col de Rousset and my 50-mile la Chapelle route. Part of the plan was to get some really good photos of the oft-snapped lavender in Chamaloc, and with a good forecast, my guess that the lavender would still be unharvested should have made the plan a good one. Alas, grey skies, and rather poor lavender meant only cursory snaps. One is presented at the top as evidence.

The la Chapelle route has many things going for it: the ascent and descent of col de Rousset (both being a treat, however well you know it), a splendid coffee stop in the café in la Chapelle (and only 1.40€), and it’s an easy four hours, so I can be back for lunch. I was.

So, Plan B for the lavender. I’d seen from Chamaloc some more fields of lavender on the track to les Planeaux, so an afternoon stroll over the col de Romeyer sermed like a good idea. It was, as you’ll see from the photos. If only you could scratch and sniff them as well.

First full summer day

If my first day here is a Wednesday or Saturday, what I do after breakfast is an easy choice: Die market. If you need food, don’t miss it if you’re here: it’s foodies’ heaven. I’ll be doing my best to revive the French economy by eating my own weight in fruits such as peaches, nectarines, apricots and melons over the next five weeks.

And then, after lunch, a combination of weariness from yesterday’s travelling and a strong and gusty NW wind led me to choose the shortish Recoubeau – col de Pennes – Aucelon route for my first ride here this time. As good a start as any to get the legs going and the senses fed. Even my sense of smell was treated to the aroma of lavender being harvested, on the return to Die. It was an improvement on the smell of the tannery earlier. 

Summer 2017 begins

I don’t suppose you were waiting for the moment, but a busy summer term, ending with eighteen geaduation ceremonies over six days, leaves me pining for the fjords, or rather my familiar Alpine retreat.

So yesterday it was Truro, and today Romeyer, with the day’s travelling done on bike, plane, train, train, train, and feet. Minor delays, but not the excitements of the May journey here.

For now, the traditional walk home shots. Tomorrow will probably involve sleeping, market (it being Wednesday) and a little bit of cycling, I suspect.