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July 2003 Cycle Tour from Nice to Nimes

5 Members of Norton Wheelers Cycling Club took part in this tour; we flew from Stanstead Airport to Nice, returning back to Stanstead from Nimes. The following detail is extracted from notes taken on the tour. The map used is the Michelin no. 528 Provence Cote d' Azur.

Day 1 Nice Airport to St Jeannet Nice Airport-took wrong route out, very busy roads, went in a circle back to the airport before getting onto the intended route. Weather extremely hot, stopped every few miles. Eventually decided to stay at a campsite in St Jeannet, this was a good site with a swimming pool just across the road which we made good use of. We were all tired from the journey, none of us had slept last night on the way down and the hot weather was hard to cope with. Only 15 miles covered although quite a lot of uphill.

Day 2 St Jeannet to St Auban The St Jeanette site was good, but next to a busy road, so had broken sleep, got up at 08:00, very hot from the start. Col de Vence, lunch stop at Coursegoules, then over Col de Bleine, , we are all suffering with the heat which meant having lots of stops, sometimes just to take advantage of shade or to fill up with water. Made our own food. Very tough day, but only 40 miles covered.

Day 3 St Auban to Comps St Artuby Had a cooler nights sleep in St Auban. Easy day, still hot, but not as hot as yesterday. Minimal climbing, stopped at Chateauvieux for coffee, continued to destination. Stopped at a bar in centre of Comps, arrived at campsite at around 2pm. Went onto a bar in the village in the evening after we had eaten (cooked ourselves) 30 miles covered

Day 4 Comps St Artuby to Les Salles Pleasant temperature overnight, Very hot again today. Stopped at Balcons Dela Mescla for coffee at the start of the Grand Canyon Du Verdon- fantastic views into canyon, very blue river in the bottom. Continued on scenic road, stopping to look at the view occasionally. There was a long, tough climb at the end, then a good descent to Aiguines. Stopped for ice-cream, then to campsite at Les Salles by the Lac De St Croux- swam in the lake. Cooked for ourselves again. 30 miles covered.

Grand Canyon Du Verdon

Day 5 Les Salles to Thoard We had a big storm last night, very loud, but only for about 15 minutes. Cooler after the storm. Cooler start, went past the bottom of the Canyon Du Verdon, it looked great, we should have found it last night and hired a pedallo- too late now. Had a coffee stop at Moustiers, then turned right onto a minor road, long steep uphill which turned into a rough track, eventually came out in St Jurs, then to Estoubion, stopped for a drink and sandwich (goats cheese), via Mezel, then continued to Thoard, cooked meal ourselves, nice campsite.

Lac De St CrouxTrack to St Jurs

Day 6 Thoard to Sisteron Hot day, but not as hot as previous days, 2 cols to start with - including Col De Font Belle at 1708m, stopped at the top for a snack and continued through an area of geological interest, good views, eventually ending up in Sisteron. Decided to stay there in order to take in Signal De Lure tomorrow. Excellent site. Cooked meal ourselves Now reached 200 miles in total.

Day 7 Sisteron to Forcalquier Took the road via Thor from Sisteron to Valbelle, then onward to the road up Pas de la Graille at 1597m, then Signal de Lure at 1700m. These were long, steady climbs, then excellent descent down to St Etienne. Had lunch, then to destination at Forcalquier. Cooked for ourselves again. Good campsite, had huge field to ourselves 47 miles covered.

Pas De La Graille

Day 8 Forcalquier to Sault Left Forcalquier via St Michel L'Observetoire - had coffee there. A hot day again, slightly more comfortable than previously. Continued via Simiane a Rotonde, and on to St Christol for a drink and food stop eaten outside a church. A steady climb followed up to just over 1000m followed by an excellent descent clocking 50mph. Soon arrived in Sault, then to campsite. Ate out at pizzeria, then had early night (10:00)

Day 9 Sault to Bedoin Left Sault via Gorges de la Nesque- very picturesque- strange rock formations and rock tunnels over the road. First glimpses of Mt Ventoux. Long descent to Villes St Auzon, stopped for coffee, then climbed out to Col Des Abeilles, U turned back down to right turn via Flassan (good long descent) then onward to Bedouin. Arrived at around 2pm- went into town for beer, and then cooked meal.

Early view of Mt Ventoux

Day 10 Bedoin to Bedoin via Mt Ventoux Stayed on the same campsite at Bedoin, did a circuit via mount Ventoux. Nice to have a day cycling without the panniers on! The first part of the ascent is through woodland, very hot and sweaty, not very steep at first, but soon gets harder. Lots of other cyclists doing the same. Near the top, stopped at memorial to Tom Simpson, photo stop. Continued up, there is no woodland or other vegetation on the higher part, the landscape is barren and open. Summit is at 1912m. The climb took around 2.5 hours. The descent was excellent down the other side- clocked 52.1 mph. Arrived at Malaucene for lunch, then back to the campsite via the Col de Madeleine on a minor road. 36 miles covered.

Near the top of VentouxTom Simpson Memorial
Lynn on Ventoux

Day 11 Bedoin to Mondragon Pleasant ride through numerous vineyards of the Cote du Rhone region, hot day again. Nice quiet campsite, cooked for ourselves, 38 miles covered

Day 12 Mondragon to nr Vallon Pont D'Arc- Ardeche Gorge Travelled up the Ardeche Gorge- had a coffee stop at St Martin D Ardeche, lots of good views- camped by the riverside ready for kayaking in the gorge tomorrow. Had a 10 mile round trip to get some food supplies. 40 miles covered.

Ardeche Gorge

Day 13 No cycling Kayaked down the Ardeche- 25k from our campsite just below Pont d'Arc to Sauze. We had 2 x 2 man kayaks and 1 single. Took it in turns with the single. Water was quite low, but frequent 'rapids' I turned over on one of them and lost my cycling sunglasses - never found them. Went past a naturist campsite which was an eyeopener! The trip down the river took us about 7 hours and was an excellent way to spend a day. The campsite minibus drove us back up to the site in about 40 mins. Ate at the onsite restaurant.

On our way down the Gorge

Day 14 Ardeche Gorge to Uzes 2 of our group split off here to continue their tour for another week or so, the other 3 of us had to head to the airport at Nimes . We said goodbye, and went on our separate ways. Stopped at Barjac for coffee, then onto Lussan for lunch which was a nice old town built on a hill. Had a steady pleasant ride to our destination Uzes. This was a busy town, clearly having a festival day (or week?) . There were high barriers up either side of the main street which we were puzzled by at first. We went into the town in the evening to find out what was going on. The festival is something to do with a 'coming of age' for the young people of the town- a bull is escorted down the main street by men on horseback and the young men have to chase behind and grab its tail. This happens numerous times during the evening, it was a little strange to us, but was very popular with the locals.. Festivities went on all night which we could hear from the campsite about half a mile away!

Day 15 Uzes to Nimes Steady ride via Poulx and Marguerites, then Bouillargues where we saw another bull tormenting fete in progress. Then onto Garons village near the airport. We found a local park to eat our sandwiches, then went to the airport (5 hours early). There was nothing to see or do at the airport, it was pretty much shut, so we cycled down into Nimes town. We sat in the sunshine at a small park in the centre near the bull fighting arena to kill a couple of hours. Cycled back to the airport, arrived back in Stanstead at around 5am.

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