On the up
We said a final goodbye to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, weaving our way out of this worldly wine-making haven towards Gorges de la Nesque, described as ‘the best 30km cycle in the whole of France’. That’s a big claim, especially since we’ve cycled some pretty epic stretches already.
This section of the route was also said to have a ‘gentle climb and perfect gradient for cyclists’. It certainly sounded enticing, but less enticing was the projected elevation of 900m for the day. We were suspicious, especially due to some of the previous climbs our guidebook has listed as “gentle.” Also, surely a perfect gradient for cycling is just flat? Or even better, downhill?
So we prepped accordingly with another early start, another baguette-heavy breakfast and a banana and coffee-kick right before the anticipated ‘climb’ was to commence.
But either our fitness has seriously improved over the last couple of weeks or (more likely) for once ‘a perfect gradient and gentle climb’ were aimed at the cycling masses and not the cycling elite. We raced uphill (we actually did) and took ourselves by surprise when we reached the end at Sault before lunch.
Sault is one of 3 basecamps for those who choose to climb Mont Ventoux, a real Cyclist’s Mecca and listed in any top ten of “must do rides”. We could see it looming ahead of us, a threatening reminder of tomorrow’s challenge, but we were feeling pretty smug with today’s effort.
Perhaps tomorrow’s cycle up Mont Ventoux won’t be so beastly after all (although that would makes its nicknames ‘the beast of Provence’ and ‘Giant of Province’ a little redundant). We’ll let you know. But if it gets too much for us, we’ll certainly be demanding a manufacturer’s refund for the metric fuck-tonne of energy bars we’ve just bought.