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Cycling a Great Way of Exploring Provence on Two Wheels

There is something about pottering around Provence on two wheels that makes my heart sing, as it’s just such a delight for all your senses:

It may be the beautiful views, perhaps taking a moment or two to sit on a wall watching the sunlight shift across the landscape, or laying the bike down and relaxing on the edge of a poppy field, absorbed by the sight of the flowers, a shimmering sea of red in the gentle spring breeze

You may be delighted by the sound of a Hoopoe, or the lilting chatter of Bee-Eaters, catching sight of them chasing insects around the trees or be almost deafened by the wonderful kss-kss-kss sound of cicadas, which is the real soundtrack to the long sunny days of summer in Provence. Continue reading here for the original article ” Exploring by Bike” on Vaucluse Dreamer.

Cycling in Provence

Options for cycling in Provence are nearly endless. Of course, road rules apply like anywhere, and where possible, avoid busy roads. The popularity of electric bikes has exploded in the last decade, making cycling a possibility for a large population.

Luberon Valley

Explore hills and more hills on your way to Simiane La Rotonde and then up to Saint Christol Plateau, towards Revest Du Bion. It’s a gentle climb up to the village, thanks to the hairpins and then once past the Rotonde, the road continues to climb gently, meeting the main road that runs across the top of the Saint Christol Plateau, towards Revest Du Bion. The roads across the top of the plateau are always a surprise because they are wide, well-surfaced and incredibly quiet.

Chestnut Festival Revest-du-Bion

Whereas the cycle up to Simiane is a tough 12km, the cycle up to Bonnieux from Apt is the opposite and is one of our favourite morning rides. It’s still uphill, but this is a gentle, sweeping climb that tracks up the northern flank of the Petit Luberon, giving great views across the valley towards Mont Ventoux. And Bonnieux is a great place for breakfast.

Véloroute du Calavon, in the Luberon Valley. It’s a pretty ride and very easy. This route is a voie verte (or “greenway”), a paved route for bikers, walkers and rollerbladers. There is a network of them in France, many built where railroad tracks used to be, making them nice and flat.

Cycling Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux is a cycling challenge for every biker, regardless of your time in the saddle. Sitting in the north of the Vaucluse, on the border with the Drome, Mont Ventoux dominates the skyline. This mountain, with its white-scree summit, is an iconic landmark, and its profile is instantly recognizable from afar, even as far away as the Camargue. Mont Ventoux can be seen from many places around the department.

Expat Living in Provence Cycling Mont Ventoux Vaucluse Dreamer

The Giant of Provence rises to over 1900 metres (it’s been as high as 1912 m and as low as 1909m since we arrived). Many believe the name Ventoux relates to the severity of the winds at the summit, which is understandable, as they can reach incredible speeds, even causing the Tour de France stage finish to be changed a few years ago due to the dangerous wind speeds (and that was in mid-July).

There are three routes up this impressive mountain, often featured in the Tour de France. Starting in Sault, Bédoin or Malaucène, all three roads lead to the Mont Ventoux summit at 1909m. The peak is considered by many riders to be one of the hardest climbs they ever do.

The Sault route is considered the easiest, but at 26km, it is also the longest of the three rides. The total elevation is 1147m at an average grade of 4.7%. Riders on this route merge with cyclists climbing from Bédoin at Chalet Reynard.

The Bédoin start is the preferred route for the Tour de France circuit, most likely because of the ability to organise media, emergency and other services at Chalet Reynard. The bald, rocky top of the mountain from this side provides a striking background for the TV coverage. The town is located at 300m above sea level, and from there to the top is 21.5 km, a total climb of 1609m at an average grade of 7.5%.

The climb from Malaucène is technically slightly shorter and a bit less steep than the route from Bédoin. However, there is no break at Chalet Reynard and no visibility of the summit, so essentially, it is a heads-down climb for 21km, 1535m and over an average grade of 7.3%.

Some cyclists are crazy enough (and fit enough) to complete all three ascents in a day.

Mont Ventoux Cycling Tips

Gorges de la Nesque

The Gorges de la Nesque is a popular out-and-back route or part of a Mont Ventoux loop for cyclists and motorcycles. There are not many cars and terrific vistas along the way. Park in Ville-Sur-Auzon or just outside the village and follow the signs for Gorges de La Nesque. The route is a gentle climb, with an average of roughly 3% grade all the way to the viewpoint. After that, there is a nice, well-deserved downhill to the tiny hamlet of Monieux. Beyond that, the lavender capital of Provence – Sault – is only a few kilometres away, with options for lunch or a snack. Return to Ville-Sur-Auzon is approximately 60 km, depending on where you park.

Cycling Mont Ventoux Gorges de la Nesque

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Julie Whitmarsh

Julie Whitmarsh

Julie and her husband Andy started visiting the Vaucluse area 25 years ago & over the years have increased the amount of time they spend there with their growing family. She has a deep affection for the area, finding it is a great place to visit, where the whole family can relax and enjoy time together.

She longs for the day when she can ‘up-sticks’ from her home on Dartmoor & relocate to the Luberon and spend her days cycling, walking, visiting markets & brocante fairs and of course enjoying the local food and drink.

Her blog VaucluseDreamer gives her a space to highlight some of her favourite things about the area from places to visit to particular activities that she and her family all enjoy.

She hopes one day it will be a place where she can share the process of renovating a house in France, but at the moment that will have to wait.

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