Cycling Through The Vineyards and Olive Groves Toward Mont Ventoux

Did you ever have one of those days when everything was so perfect you couldn’t imagine anything going wrong? Today was one of those days. I felt quite queasy when we left the busy streets of Vaison-la-Romaine, but actually felt better on my bike. It was already quite warm as we started toward our destination for the day, the small town of Modene, near the base of Mont Ventoux. With the GPS as our guide, we headed out along the river toward Entrechaux.

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The scenery in this part of Provence is nothing less than spectacular. We traveled along quiet local roads during the morning with the Dentelles on our right and Mont Ventoux on our left.

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As if this scenery wasn’t enough, the road was also sprinkled with vineyards for tasting, small hill towns for visiting (all with a steep uphill climb to get to of course), and charming B&B’s.

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The scenery is so breathtaking that The morning goes by quickly. Before long we are in the small village of Entrechaux, formerly ruled by both the Celts and the Romans. Its 11th century feudal castle is now privately owned, and closed for the season to visitors, but it makes for a great photograph anyways. The view from the hill tops is fantastic, but Ventoux is hidden behind the clouds.

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Next is the village of Crestet, dominated by the ruins of one of the oldest castles of the region. We choose not to make the climb up to this village, knowing that we have some difficult climbing yet to come. By lunch time, we arrive at the medieval fortified town of Malaucine where we planned to replenish our water supply and have something cold to drink. This is the beginning of Mont Ventoux territory. The town was filled with serious cyclists on very fancy looking racing bikes. We definitely didn’t see anyone carrying their own luggage in panniers like us. The supermarket was already closed for lunch until 2:30, and the several cafés were full with locals and cyclists enjoying lunch on the warm fall afternoon.

Not wanting to stop for a long lunch, we decide to push on to the next town. The GPS directs us out of town via a very long hill with a grade that quickly had me gasping. My heart dropped as I looked at the length of the hill ahead of me. I was sweating profusely. After about 20 more minutes, we came to a juncture in the road and I realized we were going the wrong way, even though the GPS showed our route as correct. I pulled out the map to show my husband that the GPS was not directing us to Bedoin and Caromb, it was directing us up one of the three major ascents to Mont Ventoux! Who knows why the GPS screwed up on our route out of Malaucine. It took less than 60 seconds to descend the hill that took almost 30 minutes to ride up!

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Unfortunately, the right way out of town also involved an even longer uphill climb. I avoided looking up, as I didn’t want to see how long the ascent was. I tried to concentrate on getting into a rhythm and to not think about how hard it was to keep a steady body temperature. After seemingly forever, a voice from behind me called out, congratulations, you’ve made it. A young man waved and smiled as he passed, a serious cyclist in full racing gear taking the time to extend a word of encouragement to someone obviously struggling. His words made my day. And as I looked up and ahead, I had I fact reached the top of the ridge. There would be no more climbing today. At the top of the hill, there was a marker and statue to St. Michael the Archangel, which I thought was so fitting. I had my husband take my photo and then I drank a liter of water.

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I keep drinking for the rest of the afternoon, but climbing today in the heat really took a lot out of me, probably more than I knew. The rest of the afternoon was fortunately uneventful and mostly flat or gently rolling hills. We passed Le Barroux with its 12th century chateau dominating the town, but decided not to make the 2 km climb into town. I had nothing left in my tank and was just hoping to make it to our B&B for the night.

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Dreaming about Villa Noria, our destination for the night was what got me through the rest of the ride today. I could not wait to lay down on the bed and collapse! Before I knew it, we were it Caromb, a charming small town on the southern slope of Mont Ventoux. The town had a beautiful, helpful tourism office and a great charcuterie where we picked up supplies for a picnic dinner. From Caromb, we had just a 10 minute ride though the vineyards to Villa Noria, I had made it through the day. Villa Noria was as perfect a place to stay as I could have chosen. We were instantly made to feel completely at home. I was so glad that we would be spending the next several nights here.

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Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.