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Published: June 26th 2017
This entry by Tom.
It finally looks like we’re going to get a day with something like average temperatures. It’s actually a bit cool this morning and somewhat overcast.
I was down in the lobby of the hotel early trying and mostly failing to connect to the wifi. Dave and Linda were there; Dave had an early train to catch to wherever he had to go for work. We will very likely see him again in Nice in a few days, though.
Very decent breakfast spread at Hotel du Cours; I loaded up including a pocket sandwich. I thought I heard someone say that there was a 40% chance of rain at some point along the route today. That might actually be a good thing if it turns out to be a cool sprinkle in the middle of a warm afternoon.
The plan today was to ride the alternate route straight out of Sisteron with Caroline as far as Malijai. It is a modest climb along D951 south of town to Châteauneuf-Val-Saint-Donat then a pleasant descent to Les Mées where we would see the Rochers des Mées rock formation on the way to Malijai where she would get picked up by Luce and Donna in the van. Then they would continue to drive the route which will feature fields of lavender around Valensole, at least.
We shoved off just before 9am and everything went to plan. The roads were quiet, the surfaces were smooth, and the views were better than average. Saw signs for road closures on July 21st for the Tour. It was a bit slow on the way down as Caroline was being cautious on account of a steep drop-off on one side of D101 on the way to Les Mées.
The rock formation at Les Mées was worth the extra few kilometres on the bike.
There was no trouble meeting Donna and Luce in Malijai. With fewer bags but one more bike (Dave’s) in the van, there was still plenty of room for Caroline’s bike. I got a refill of my bike bottles plus a Coke from the van and I was on my way.
The climb along D12 south of Malijai to Puimichel was relatively straightforward at 4% to 5% for about 6 km, which at this point of the trip was no problem at all. The surface was fairly rough, though. There were even signs every kilometre like you see in the Alps and the Pyrenées with the elevation and the grade of the next kilometre, but oddly no sign at the top--or so I thought: I was informed at dinner that there was one, but it was not obvious.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I went over the top since this is fairly remote territory and much of it isn’t on Google Street View, but it wasn’t patches of bright purple lavender in full bloom as far as the eye could see across the valley. It smelled as good as it looked.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at Entrevennes, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere a few kilometres down the other side of Col de Puimichel, but it wasn’t a modestly busy café plus a school with a bunch of kids running around. Normally towns like this have no signs of life whatsoever. I pulled over in the square between the school and the café, ate my sandwich, downed half my Coke, and reloaded my bike bottles at the largest public spring I’ve ever seen in any French town that I’ve ridden through.
There were some very steep, very tricky descents plus a short, steep climb to the perched village of Brunet before I got on D8 to Valensole which was a fast run-out with a slight downhill and a tailwind. Also, there was a bit of pleasant cooling drizzle.
Caroline and the van ladies had stopped in Valensole for lunch and lavender shopping. I picked my way through Valensole but didn’t stop. There was some kind of big party going on there today, which is a bit odd since it’s a Monday.
More ups and downs to Riez (made a quick stop there; finished my Coke) then Moustiers-Sainte-Marie followed, where I caught up to Don on his way back to join the group from his excursion to Mont Ventoux. We stuck together to the finish in Les Salles-sur-Verdon with a brief stop at the bridge between Lac de Sainte-Croix and the Gorges du Verdon for a photo of the multitudes of paddle boaters, kayakers and swimmers there.
Reached the hotel, went up to the room, more or less crashed after 120+ km and 6+ hours on the bike. Felt good, though, not burned out or over-extended. Just spent.
Woke up about an hour later, cleaned up, dressed up, and went out. First move was to head down to the lake. Ran into Dan and Don. The water looked pretty good and wasn’t cold, really. Dan went in.
Went back up the hill to town and found the clutch of half a dozen or so restaurants and bars. Saw Michael, Luce and Linda enjoying some drinks so I joined them for a bit before returning to the hotel to collect Caroline for dinner.
The gang had gathered for dinner at a restaurant that had an attractive €17 menu so we joined them. Great move. Caroline had the pasta bolognese and I chose the fish soup--frankly outstanding, with crouton, cheese and spicy mayonnaise on the side--and a generous portion of falling-apart beef stew over noodles. Washed it down with a tall, cold Jupiler beer--hadn’t seen that one in a while--and finished with some ice cream.
We’d been hearing thunder in the distance since the main course, and it seemed to be getting closer and closer (even saw some lightning) so after we downed our ice cream we paid the bill and headed back to the hotel for the night.
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