Day 1 Sault to Roquemaure (76km)
Sunny and getting hotter as the day went on.
This is deliberately not too long a day to give us a chance to get our legs going.
Final sorting out of baggage, then park the car at the bottom of the yard where it was to reside until our return three weeks later.
While we are retrieving the trike from the barn a cyclist goes by and then re-appears a few seconds later. He turns out to be Ray Smith (an Audax UK member) who had spotted the AUK cycle jersey John is wearing. Brief chat about cycling, France and Mont Ventoux.
Au revoir and off, heading for the Nesque gorge. Although our B&B was beside the Nesque River itself, our tour starts with some steady climbing because we have to leave the river and head into the hills so as to climb around to reach the gorge on its summit rim. A real scenery highlight to start our tour, justifiably claimed to be the second most spectacular gorge in France. Stop at various points to take in the view, including chatting to a few other passing cyclists climbing up the gorge the other way.
After a long downhill with twists, turns and tunnels we reach the rather busy roads to Carpentras. Sheila had plotted a route to keep us on minor roads where possible. At one point we pull sharply off the road as les pompiers loom in the rear view mirrors with all blue lights on, only to observe that about 100m after they go by they turn right into the fire station (obviously just in a hurry to get home for a coffee).
Into the bustle of Carpentras for a shopping stop to buy sandwiches for lunch and PaRs; then on to a town centre square for our first tour café stop. Admire the hanging cloth art strung across the square. On to Bédarrides, some roads busier and some quieter, where we stop beside the river and sit on the wall of the old quay to eat our first tour PaRs and lunch. An excellent start so far – spectacular gorge (✔) .. long downhill (✔) ..café stop (✔) ..PaR (✔).
A short ride on to Châteauneuf du Pape. John decides to ignore Sheila’s route instructions for the village centre and takes a short cut that ends up in a slightly difficult spell pushing the trike the wrong way along a one-way road. Sheila issues only a mild “told you so”. On a previous tandem tour into Provence we had sat in this square in the early morning cool seeking a breakfast coffee. Today the temperature is 35℃ and rising, so we seek shade beside the fountain for a spell of relaxation before heading for Roquemaure.
Down into the Rhône valley and over the river to reach our hotel mid-afternoon.
Check in and S&W, but encounter our first TP. Sheila’s new sports bra has performed well all day doing all the things for which sports bra’s are designed, but TP1 of the tour turns out to be that with her dodgy shoulder Sheila cannot remove said garment without assistance. Knowing Sheila to be of a strongly independent mind John tries not to look as though he is amused while offering assistance. (Note from John – short fantasy about how you would organise a women’s netball team in the changing room if this was a general requirement, but decide not to share this with Sheila). Hot afternoon + hotel swimming pool means that Sheila is soon splashing around in the water. John, still not feeling altogether fit opts to sit in the shade near to poolside.
Dinner in the hotel provided by the three rather too laid-back fellows running the hotel is rather poor and certainly not worth the €18 per head charged.
Pre tour and Travel south
Day 1 Roquemaure (76km)
Day 2 Anduze (84km)
Day 3 Aniane (73km)
Day 4 Narbonne (105km)
Day 5 Carcassonne (78km)
Day 6 Carcassonne (0km)
Day 7 Castres (73km)
Day 8 Cordes sur Ciel (68km)
Day 9 Cahor (88km)
Day 10 Salviac (51km)
Day 11 Salviac Rally (28km)
Day 12 Salviac Rally (68km)
Day 13 Vers (50km)
Day 14 Villefranche de Rouergue (65km)
Day 15 Villefranche de Panat (105km)
Day 16 St Chély du Tarn (105km)
Day 17 St Chély du Tarn (0km)
Day 18 Chamborigaud (81km)
Day 19 Vallon Pont d’Arc (65km)
Day 20 Vaison la Romaine (88km)
Day 21 Sault (72km)
Mont Ventoux (51km & 1912m)