Steepish climb to start the day, including double arrows on the Michelin map. Mostly 7% and 8%.
About 9km of this brought us to the beginning of the Cirque de Combe Laval. Stunning gorge with the road high above it on a “shelf”. Claimed (by the French) to be the finest balcony road in the world. Even allowing for Gallic pride and having toured lots of French gorges, we would agree to it being the finest in France. Lots of stops on the way to peer over the edge and have an attack of vertigo. In classic French style the wall to stop you plummeting to the bottom was not unnecessarily high. The balcony and its associated tunnels was engineered in 1893-96 to give access to the area for forestry.
Through the final tunnel and a short pull uphill brought us to the Col de la Machine 1011m (so named because it was from here that timber used to be winched down to the floor of the gorge below for many centuries prior to the balcony being constructed.) A welcome sight was the auberge at the col, where we were met by applause, and more importantly stopped for cold drinks and an early lunch sandwich.
Bit of a long plunge down followed inevitably by another climb, although not quite so steep as our earlier one. This brought us to the Col de Carrie 1202m. The height is a bit of a swizz because we had crested the unmarked highest point some way back and had begun descending before reaching the Col sign. Trike admired by a passing Dutch holiday maker.
Delightfully rapid downhill run to La Chapelle en Vercors, where we stopped for coffee and crepes.
More fast downhill to Les Barraques en Vercors to the start of a new tunnel funded by EU cash to replace defunct series of older tunnels. Sorted out the trike lights before setting off through the tunnel’s 1.7km. Being downhill we sped along and only encountered one car on the way.
Even more steep and twisting downhill including a few short tunnels above a gorge.
Final flatish 6km through St Eulalie en Royans and St Laurent brought us back to St Jean.
Max Speed: 56kph (too many hairpin bends to go faster)
Climbing speed up 8% hills: about 6kph
Cycling time: 4hr 12mins.
Cafe and sightseeing time: lots