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paging leadville blues - re. rides in Provence(9 posts)

paging leadville blues - re. rides in Provencephilippec
Jun 10, 2003 1:06 PM
Here are a few ride suggestions for your stay in Lourmarin. These are just suggestions based on my experience in the area but over 6 weeks, you should be able to do quite a bit of exploring on your own!

Before starting, however, a few pointers:

Get thee a good map! (my favorite are the Michelin series (1:100 000 green Provence-Cote d'Azur is a good starter) these are clear, easy to read and although they lack topo lines, all significant climbs are noted using the three chevron scale (>=below 5%, >>= btwn 5-9%, >>>=over 10% (with the percentage marked) -- you will learn to respect the chevrons! The IGN also makes good 1:100 000 topo maps (green series).

Like I said earlier, you'll want to head more north than south, the roads south of Lourmarin are hotter, more crowded, and less interesting (although I'll tell you how to ride to Aix the back way).

Your nearest nice shops are in Aix en provence (esp. the Veloland there).

Here goes for ride #1. This is a long ride that takes you over the Grand Luberon, up to Reillane/Vacheres, past the village of Oppedette and back through the hill-top village of Saignon, the Buoux valley and the Combe de Lourmarin. Highlights on this long ride include the descent btwn. Plane-tree lined N.100 road btwn Cereste and Reillane, the descent from Vacheres to Oppedette (and the valley out to the N.100), Saignon, and the Buoux valley. If you are feeling strong try the 20%+ climb into Viens for a small loop onto St. Martin du Castillon through the cherry orchards. Another variant will take you from Oppedette through Gignac (check out the manor house in the village center!), Rustrel, St. Saturnin and back through Apt. On the D3 from Apt to Bonnieux, stop in one of the three vinyards for some late-ride wine tasting. IMHO Chateau de L'Isolette is the best, but Chateau de Mille the most pittoresque (the "chateau de Mille" is in fact an old bachelor pad for the Avignon popes!).
Jun 10, 2003 1:13 PM
Almost all the roads in the lower Luberon are worth riding -- except the recently re-graded and modified N. 100 than runs through the center of the valley -- avoid this road west of Apt!

Here's a nice ride that will hit many of the nice villages in the lower Luberon including Bonnieux, Lacoste (Marquis de Sade's castle...), Menerbes, Gordes and then heads up into the lesser known Monts de Vaucluse for some climbing.

Highlights include all of the villages you will pass through, the view onto Gordes as you arrive, Senanque Abbey, the valley between the St. Lambert Sanatorium and Saint Saturnin d' Apt (pick some wild rosemary here) and the Pont Julien just north of Bonnieux (a roman bridge still in use today)
#3 Ventouxphilippec
Jun 10, 2003 1:21 PM
I trust you will be climbing the Mont Ventoux! Here is a route loosley based on the 2000 TDF stage won by Pantani just ahead of Armstrong. You'll need to start in Venasque (there is a great restaurant there -- keep in mind for post-ride!). The ride climbs the easy but winding Col de Murs, heads out to St. Saturnin and then up the Monts de Vaucluse towards Sault (lavender capital of Provence). Check out the Javon castle on the left as you reach the top of that last section! From Sault you whoosh on through the Nesque Canyon (watch the short tunnels!), hit a small climb in Mormoiron before the real stuff starts at the St. Estephe turn. +8% for 8kms, no turns, sunny and hot if you are unlucky -- you will suffer on this bit! The riding gets easier near the top if the wind isn't blowing too hard. The descent will see you hit ~ 90 kms an hour on the straight bits and then back to Venasque for a good meal!
#3 Aixphilippec
Jun 10, 2003 1:30 PM
You'll also want to go to Aix a few times -- try getting up early and going there by bike.

This route will get you there while avoiding many of the crowded and dangerous roads south of the Durance.

You'll want to watch the crossing of the Durance at Mirabeau -- in order to get the small road to Joucques, you will have to take ~ 300 metres of what appears to be a highway on-ramp -- don't worry, it is not one! The climb to the Col de Grand Sambuc is nice and from there on it is downhill to Aix (Picaso used to live in Vauvenargues that you will pass on the left). If you will be having people drive down to meet you in Aix, beware of the traffic/parking situation! If you park on the street, do not leave anything on the seats, Aix has a problem w/ petty theft. Better yet, park your car in the car park next to the hospital on the North end of town, it's 2 minutes by foot from the center and in the shade (the car park is just immediately east of the hospital). If you want to ride longer, I'll include a nice variant in the following post.
#4 Aix - variantphilippec
Jun 10, 2003 1:39 PM
When you come off of the Col du Grand Sambuc, at the D11/D10 intersection, head east, away from Aix. This variant will soon bring you to a short but brutal climb (15%) and round back the Montagne St. Victoire through the Cotes de Provence vinyards through Pourrieres, Puyloubier and into the Tholonet and Aix. Very nice ride but watch the sunny climb to Saint Antonin sur Bayon. The route here is marked w/ green dots.

Like I said, you can't go horribly wrong with any of the riding in this area -- hope these suggestions help get you out exploring on your own. Enjoy!


Merci PhilippeLeadvilleBlues
Jun 10, 2003 2:24 PM
Wow, you've gone beyond the call my friend, wonderful to hear back from you. Please feel free to email me with your mailing address, then I can send you my favorite Kona Coffee brew, a care package from Maui is in order.
Jun 10, 2003 6:58 PM
Incredible stuff Phillipe...
Great advice Philippe, but St Estephe is even steeper than 8%!!Cat 3 boy
Jun 11, 2003 2:19 AM
Mt Ventoux, the hardest ride of my life last August!
Up to St Estephe is a piece of cake, you wonder what all the fuss is about, then purgatory!!!

The kilo stones after the virage at St Estephe have the ave gradient for each km printed on them, I was nearly in tears trying to force 39x25 round, watching 10.5% kilos grind slowly past. I nearly got off as I rounded a corner only to see the gradient rear up even steeper. Thank god for the trees there, at least some shade from the heat. I tell you I cannot imagine how anyone could attack on a road like that. I race regularly & even with a fair amount of fitness it was just an effort to stay upright & not keel over in the ditch!!

If you go to Provence go to the Ventoux, but pay it respect, and please pay your own respects to Tom Simpson's memorial up there on the barren hillside as the wind tears past and the landscape of Provence is laid out before you

Nuff said
Die, France?wolfereeno
Jun 11, 2003 10:59 AM
Do you know anything about cycling in the area near the town of Die (pronounced "Dee"!)? It's somewhere in the Dhrome valley. I guess in Provence.

I spent a week there several years ago with friends. It was amazing and I would have loved to do some riding. But at least I did get to do a lot hiking and even tried rock climbing.

I'd love to find some travel info and plan a trip back. I remember there being a nice bike shop there. Web links would be appreciated.