You could almost split today’s ride exactly down the middle. Like the intrepid ten thousand men belonging to the Grand Old Duke of York, we spent the first half going to the top of a hill, and the second half going back down again.
We left Mende in the morning along the very same road that the Tour de France travelled in 2010, albeit that we were going up it and they had been coming down it (wimps). The high forested hills and mountains around Mende have a very alpine feel, and they made for a pleasant and cooling backdrop as we made our way slowly and steadily. We had a pit stop, but no bath, in Bagnols-les-Bain which has been a thermal spa town since Roman times. Apparently the restorative powers of thermal waters are so well recognised in France that doctors can prescribe patients free visits to any centre thermal. Sign me up, Monsieur le Quack.
The road carried on up, but almost imperceptibly at times. Passing the imposing ruins of Château du Tournel, we next stopped in Le Bleymard which is remarkable for its unremarkableness. However it was interesting to have a quick drink in La Remise and see just how much the only bar in a small village is the hub of the area, and the social glue of the countryside residents. It was only 10am on a Sunday but it was pretty lively.
And then we reached the top, the Col des Tribes, and the joy riding began. For the next 25km we barely had to lift a pedal as we wound down to Villefort. Compared to how we normally arrive at our destinations (a bit of a sweaty mess), we cruised along into this one and casually hopped off at its tree-lined boulevard to begin an afternoon of almost undeserved R&R.