Not a very early start and the morning sun already feeling powerful.
But for a change it was an easier start today with a fairly flat and downhill run out of town to reach Pont en Royans, where we stopped to see the old houses perched on and in the cliff and hanging out over the river below. Lots of French cyclists out – and motorcyclists – because not only is it le weekend it is also the French Pentecost bank holiday.
A short way from here we turned out of the valley and began stage one of the climb of the day. Unfortunately there was no shade anywhere as we climbed the cliff face hairpins at 8%, only managing 5 or 6kph in bottom gear. At one (of increasingly frequent) pauses we chatted to a passing French cycle tourist sporting the typical bar bag only luggage of such cyclists. The views back to the valley and cliffs was very scenic.
Absolute plethora of wild flowers including orchids, mountain asphodels and many more. Also dozens of butterflies on the wild thyme.
Eventually reached the plateau top and stopped to eat our pain au raisins.
Decided on a short detour to the village of Presles to replenish our empty bottles, and stopped in a jazz bar there for cold drinks too. John had a nut tart.
Stage two of the climb was over a forested lump of hill rising from the plateau. Despite the trees because of the overhead sun there was still no shade and the temperature was soaring. Rather rough surface to the small road, which oscillated in gradient up to 10% rather than being evenly graded.
Struggled to maintain 5kph and Sheila who was running on empty (1 pain au raisin not enough for a mountain day) bonked badly and decided to give up cycling as a pastime and sit on the roadside instead.
Sometime later we did actually reach the Col de Pra d’Etang – nothing special and no view. Should have been downhill from here. Well it was but the road deteriorated into a broken surface and lots of gravel making braking and keeping the trike under control on the steep drop both difficult and slow. Eventually the road gave out altogether into a rough track only suitable for mountain bikes. We walked the trike steeply downhill for 2km until the road was just about rideable again.
Back on tarmac we swept down to Rencourel, where we stopped at a hotel for coffee. Spoke to the hotelier who explained that when our road was being resurfaced the local authority ran out of money so just stopped part way. Fairly caustic about ‘Wonderful French Administration’
Fast twisting descent to the valley where we stopped for some chewies. Then downhill all the way along the Gorge de la Bourne. Spectacular gorge that features in all Vercors tourist information photos. Sped along between the cliffs and in and out of a succession of short tunnels and snow and rockfall shelters.
Back through Pont en Royans where we continued along the valley because Sheila had worked out that although a longer route home it would cut out a nasty climb. In fact due to some not understood arithmetic curiosity, this ‘longer’ route also turned out to be shorter.
Had a shower and collapsed.
Speeds, climbing rates etc withheld to protect the innocent.
Verdict on cycling in the Vercors – stunning scenery, as good as any in France / choose cooler weather / nothing in Britain to even vaguely compare with the climbs.
No more cycling in the Vercors. In the car tomorrow.