Time to leave

Well, that’s the last ride here for 2017 done – a quick morning spin over col de Pennes, up via the hard Pennes le Sec route (and yes, it’s hard, even before it’s been properly warmed by the sun), and descending via Barnave, with all its hairpins.

Summer total is 2004 miles for the five weeks – and hardly a route repeated. Highlights have been the handful of new cols for me (including de Mens and des Deux), and three longer rides I’d planned and ridden (each being most satisfying too). And also introducing trumpeter & cyclist Lewis to the wonders of the area, while helping him discover that there’s nothing scary about riding up very long hills.

I’ve got routine stuff to do now to make the house winter-proof (I hope), and then I’m back to Devon via Valence and Paris using various forms of transport.

I’ll be back here in February. In the meantime I have a few nice photos to remind me how I spent my summer.

A bientôt!

Diversion: Col des Deux (1222m), D242

This should really go in both categories of cols over 1000m, and Diversions. I planned it as a diversion from the straight descent from col de l’Allimas and Gresse-en-Vercors northwards (I’ve only ever ascended that bit) – it is certainly a fabulous diversion, and has little ascent to the col before descending, when coming from Gresse.

However, it’s also a corker of a col (which you’d really be aware of) coming from the St Andéol/St Guillaume end, with a real sting in the tail.

Anyway, whichever way you do it, it’s a splendid diversion, running parallel to the eastern ridge of Vercors, with stunning views of its craggy and imposing face.

If you like road numbers, it’s the D242, and I cut through to St Guillaume on the D242a, as my legs were asking to go home by then. And I had enough photos.

Last epic of 2017

Tomorrow will be leaving day, with all that entails (including a shortish ride), so I had today tagged for a last epic ride. And so it was: the weather played ball.

The only time I’ve ridden over col de l’Allimas, near Gresse-en-Vercors (east of Vercors eastern ridge), I thought it would be even nicer ridden south to north, with a steep ascent from St Michel-les-Portes, and a gradual descent. Well, the gradual descent got modified into my Col des Deux diversion, so the gradual descent will have to wait for another time.

And with two ascents of col de Menée in the route, 102 miles and about 8,500ft of climbing, certainly a day to remember. (You’ll find the Col des Deux diversion under its own post.)

A final observation: it was a day when much water was needed, and thankfully sources appeared at all the right moments to refill my bottles, or replace warm water with fresh – new ones discovered today at la Bâtie (near col de l’Allimas), on the D242 (see photo), at les Oches (Chichilliane), and near col de Menée. A big “thank you” to those whose thoughtfulness and maintenance keeps these wonderful Alps features running and refreshing weary travellers.

Lesches loop

Another warm day forecast, and having done a bit of an epic ride (for me) yesterday, and with another (the last of the current stay) tomorrow, I popped up to Lesches-en-Diois: a good stretch on the now-quiet D93, and a satisfying ascent and descent (better to ascend via the more northerly end of Lesches, as it’s a very sketchy descent).

And it’s nice to see Lesches in its ‘normal’, quiet state. If you’ve only seen it in its fireworks mode, you’d barely recognise it – I saw just one person there today. Up on its own plain at over 1000m, with one road either end to access it, it doesn’t get many passing visitors… maybe the odd cyclist though…

Combe Laval circuit

I certainly haven’t run out of longer routes to do this summer, so trying to select a couple of end-of-season epics has been fun.

First up: the amazing Combe Laval, but with novelties, for me. Firstly, approaching from Font d’Urle. Secondly, doing the circuit of the combe by going west from St Jean-en-Royans to St Laurent and ascending via the D2 on the west side of the combe. And lastly, returning via col de Carri – the first time I’ve done that col in that direction.

I was taken aback to be passed by a cyclist on a mountain bike on the ascent to col de Rousset, and though in the end I timed my last push just right to pass him on the last bend, we arrived at the col together with a handshake. Turns out he was English, a national over-50s champion in England, and one-time pro based in St Etienne (so said I shouldn’t feel too bad about his passing me), and his and his son’s nice road bikes had been stolen from his roofrack in his drive just prior to leaving for their holidays. The mountain bike had been hired from the campsite. Anyway, we chatted en route, and then he headed off to col de la Bataille, and I carried on to Combe Laval.

Reflections on the route? At 90 miles with 10,000ft of climbing (and nine cols), it’s as demanding as the return via Bouvante and Font d’Urle, but, like that, and unlike the return via Léoncel, the last 15 miles, descending from col de Rousset, are ‘free’ – a nice end to a ride. None of the three is easy!

The D2, from St Laurent, isn’t a greatly inspiring road or climb, though, thankfully, there is one small spot, at the end of the second mountaintop dip, where you get a good view of the combe, and a slight insight into why thd mad road on the other side, was built where it was. It does lso have ome decent views of the Isère valley. (The D2 is the road larger vehicles are directed to to get to the top of the combe. It’s wide and well surfaced, and barely used, at least on today’s evidence.) Two things for cyclists to note: the hardest parts of the climb are near the bottom, but there are no roadside markers to help you gauge your effort over the 17km (just km markers painted on the road). And the two tunnels are unlit and long enough that you will want a rear light at least, and if you’re descending, probably a front light too (and remove sunglasses) as both are on a bit of a bend, and at speed might catch you out.

Anyway, time for photos, mostly from Combe Laval and the D2. The last one is of the pretty flowers that appear at this time of year on trimmed roadside verges – these were at col de St Alexis near Vassieux.

The route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/25105311

Diversions: Marignac-en-Diois

This afternoon’s plan was a quick ride to col de Pennes, but after spending a pleasantly long time admiring friends’ old bikes and old house in the Quint valley, the plan was heavily modified: I returned home via the col de Marignac. But instead of taking the lovely ‘Marignac bypass’ through le Moulin, I forked left for the first time to head through the village of Marignac.

As you’ll see from the photos, definitely a decent diversion, albeit a short one.

Late August miles

After yesterday’s greyness, a forecast gentle southerly prompted me to head north west to col des Limouches, which I havenlt descended for some while. I also wanted to ascend to Gigors from Aouste (which I’ve never done), making the ascent to col des Limouches about 1000m with the lumpiness between col de Jérôme Cavalli and Limouches (and boy, it’s lumpy!)

The forecast ‘gentle’ southerly was decidedly lively as I headed down the Rhône corridor, making it a tiring 95-miler.

Photos start from above Gigors, and end with views of Eurre, two from the bridge at Aouste, and some wildlife which decided to vacate a shady cake-eating spot near Aubanasson when I arrived. I was the cake eater, by the way, in case you were wondering.

Oh, and spot the ‘joke’ col: it’s a real col, but more than 250m lower than my house, somehow going over it doesn’t feel like much of an achievement.

Clouds, work, and wheels

A forecast cloudy (and possibly damp) day gave me a good prompt to get stuff done prior to my return to Devon and work. Washing done, door blind and door stop fitted, and then a very productive bit of repertoire planning for my various ensembles. Suffice to say that that gave me an appetite for a cheese- and fruit-heavy lunch.

In fact the rain mostly passed us by, so time for my lovely little ‘loop of the three valleys’ (enough of this walking lark): up the Quint, down the Gervanne, and back up the Drôme. It’s a measure of how many visitors have left that not one car overtook me in the 15 miles between Sainte Croix and Beaufort-sur-Gervanne. And the D93 was pleasant again.

Not only did the clouds give me the nudge to do some proper work, but it makes a change from blue skies for the photos… just a couple of the Drôme, at Pont de Nodon, and Die.

Vallon de Combeau walk

Even I will admit it sometimes nice to be on two feet without wheels, as it gives access to a range of terrains and views not available to road cyclists.

I’d cycled to the end of the vallon de Combeau road before, and been for a short walk there, but the offer of a lift from a friend gave the chance for a longer walk to the top of the valley.

Not a long walk, and moderate slopes, leads to what looks a bit like a fantasy creation of Alpine pasture. (Sadly the marmottes must have been on their lunch break.) And not much further on, and there are the most astonishing views over to the Devoluy and Ecrins mountains in one direction, and the eastern Vercors ridge and Mont Aiguille in the other. I’m still taking it all in. Even if you’re a cyclist, it’s worth every step.

Solo again

Yesterday was Lewis’s last full day here, and given that he’d never ridden higher than The Tumble in Wales (512m altitude), I decided his last ride ought to be col de Menée at 1402m, to add to his 1000m+ cols col de Rousset (1254m) and col de Pennes (1017m). A splendid last day’s ride, well managed by someone who’s never ridden a hill half as big as these. Lewis was certainly happy with his hire bike from Vélodrôme – just a basic aluminium frame, but still a bit of a bargain for 99€ for six days’ hire.

Lewis departed by train from Die at lunchtime, so after lunch I stretched my legs with a 68-miler to Autichamp (again!), but this time via the D166 from the east, then navigating unnumbered lanes to the perched village of Chabrillan. As with many of these perched villages, there’s not much to do there other than enjoy the views and quaint narrow streets. But the view was certainly worth it, looking over the Drôme towards Crest, with more distant views of the Glandasse and Grand Veymont beyond.

With just over a week left here for me till the return to Devon, I think I’ll need to do one or two more epics… watch this space!