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Published: March 22nd 2018
Fears of another bakefest prompted some folks to leave early today - myself included, albeit for another reason: my roomie's snoring kept me from sleeping and since I was already up and still full from last night's megadinner, I figured I may as well hit the road. And what an unexpected day it turned out to be: we had
480 metres more climbing than yesterday, but it was less taxinga col with 284 metres more altitude than the previous one we climbed, but which took less effort to reach, andmore heat forecast, but much less delivered: it was at times cool, even chilly.
The difference between the normal and alternate routes today was only 5.5km - the distance required to scale the rocky protrusion in Sampzon, just down the road; naturally I chose to endure this pre-breakfast leg and lung-buster (while the average
grade is 6%, at one point it pitches upwards at 17%), and was quite disappointed to discover most of the descent on the backside had loose gravel on it, which prevented proper enjoyment of the altitude I had worked so hard to gain. However, I did find a lovely spot to eat breakfast in before continuing on through an entire gamut of conditions, from coarse and bumpy pavement snaking its way upwards through rocky outcrops, to sublime valley crossings, ultimately culminating in a smooth descent into Les Vans. All the while I had been keeping a wary eye on the skies, which were becoming increasingly threatening.
After satisfying myself that rain didn't seem imminent I finally left the shelter of Les Vans and headed off up the climb to the Col de Mas de l'Ayre, which while not particularly steep, went on endlessly before finally easing in the final 2 kilometres. I endured a few sprinkles on the way up but nothing really developed, and I was able to enjoy a brake-free descent for quite a long stretch before the road dropped away below me at a 10% grade - the electronic speed sign in Villefort actually complained I
was speeding. By then the sun had returned, so I rode a bit further to find (after several aborted attempts) a delightful riverside spot at which to enjoy lunch.
Then it was off through varying conditions - including one stretch where the road was so bumpy I almost got bucked off my bike - before I finally had to seek refuge under a tree from a passing shower. After fighting a bit of wind and a lot of flies on the long slog up to the Col des Tribes, which although higher than Col de Mas de l'Ayre has a shallower approach, it was off into sunshine again on the other side, although the descent was equally so far from steep that it offered hardly any benefit all.
Then there was one last little climb to pick up the main highway into Mende at Col de la Tourette, the requisite difficulty in navigating city streets to find the hotel (I got very slightly off course only at the end, but was easily redirected by two helpful pedestrians "just turn right over there and go down the hill - you'll see it") and me voici.
Update: I finally
experienced an Ile Flottante (meringue floating on a sea of creme anglaise i.e. vanilla custard).
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