Gap to Sisteron 118km

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June 25th 2017
Published: June 26th 2017
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Bike storage can get cluttered (that's mine with the yellow seat stuck in the middle)
The wifi here is so slow I think it's hamster-powered, so I'll be writing this offline and hope to be able to post it (and photos) later.Updared June 26The first big news to report was that we had thunderstorms pass through overnight and although it remained to be seen if that would ultimately result in any moderation of the daytime temperature, the morning dawned cloudy and cool so that was a good start. Because I still had 1/2 my pizza left over from last night I decided not to spring for the hotel breakfast (where the cost is reasonable only if one prepares a lunch from the fixings as well), and was thus quite relieved to find the bakery open even though it was Sunday so I could grab a croissant and a quiche to fuel the start of today's ride.

The day opened with quite a lovely climb giving expansive views across the valley, and with the

I never did find out what that statue had to do with anything
sun not yet having crested the hills and the grades not particularly steep, pedalling was an absolute delight. The climb brought us to a plateau so the ride to the col du Villar itself was an easy roll, followed by a long, leisurely cruise downward. It being Sunday there was very little traffic, but all of it (such as it was) was oncoming so one couldn't get too caught up in the views as vigilance was still required, the roads being narrow and winding.

As we approached the Col de Foureyssasse I recognized it instantly and was therefore prepared for the long descent on the other side. Because the view is so spectacular I took what imagine to be the same photo that I took last time I was here so you could get to see it ("presented for your considration" as Rod Serling used to say). It was also a good thing I had been here previously, otherwise I would most likely have overshot the turn onto D420, especially since the sign announcing it was bent over and somewhat hidden by vegetation.

The ride along 420 was just warm (not hot), dry, (not humid), and simply very

Horse and background
pleasant, but after heading into unknown territory on D20 I was presented with totally exposed long ramps with 4-5% grades before the road tossed in a few token turns and trees to offer some relief from the sun and tedium. Then the grades increased slightly and the road passed through some really bleak-looking bits of pure rock. At one point I couldn't even tell in which direction the col itself lay. Eventually, though, the grade backed off - indeed the 1km-left-to-go sign didn't even list it, perhaps meaning it was, on average, flat? In any case, the col d'Espreaux ranks as the least attractive climb I have ever encountered.

Once down the other side, though, we were treated to a flat riverside run with a refreshingly cool headwind before once again turning back into the hills for an honest uphill climb straight into the sun to reach the col de la Bachassette, where my fully-unzipped jersey testified to the amount of heat I was generating. Then it was over the top and down into the wind again, and just as I approached Chabestan and was wondering if it might have a fountain at which to refill my water bottle,

Part of the climb
there appeared a structure that not only housed said fountain but offered shade as well - in other words, the perfect place to stop for lunch.

A couple of hard left turns later and it was back into the sun and hills, followed by a particularly twisty descent with plenty of swtchbacks stacked close together that led to Savournon, where once again we turned back for another long grind upwards. This one required some extra effort towards the end before releasing onto a hanging alpine valley that had to be crossed before reaching the sign proclaiming the col de Faye, by which point there was no view to be had at all. Not only that, but the initial descent was marred by a rough road that even required ascending in some sections, and which passed through a quite unattractive area that had been logged.

2 km later conditions improved somewhat, although I still had to pedal occasionally, while a slim line of trees obscured the view of the valley (which wasn't terribly scenic in any case). And then the bottom dropped out. At one point I rocketed into a hollow that just about knocked the handlebars out of

Where we left
my hands. Holy crap.

But at the runout I hit a T intersection and suddenly it was Sunday again with smooth pavement and even a shoulder to ride on. Stopping at the canal, I took the complement of the photo I had taken in the morning - this one looking up to the former's looking down - before heading off on yet another side road. I was 80km into things and it wasn't even quite yet 1:30, so almost without thinking I opted to take the optional route up past Claret, having seen on the map two indications of scenic vistas (and yes, I realized what that implied).

The 6km climb to Melve where one of these overlooks allegedly awaited was unshaded and demanding, although there was a brief respite in grade about half-way along. Before reaching the town I passed a slight opening in the trees that afforded views of nothing spectacular and mused "that better not be the lookout"; when the road subsequently dipped downwards a little while later I was dismayed to realize the obvious.

But there was still hope, as there was supposed to be another viewpoint in Sigoyer, one that faced another

Typical French scene: big chunks of rock
direction. So I completed the climb past Melve figuring I might at least get an enjoyable downhill run for my efforts, only to discover that 4 out of the 5kms of the descent to Sigoyer were covered in gravillon, turning what should have been pleasant into something frustrating (if not occasionally scary). At what may very well have been the lookout (it was hard to say as I didn't dare take my eyes off the road) my front wheel was doing more plowing than rolling so I didn't even think of trying to stop. Fortunately a bridge appeared shortly thereafter, on which I could safely stop and record the view before getting bounced around on the final kilometre to Sigoyer (which, incidentally, was the second town today to bear that moniker).

At that point I stopped to refuel and discovered my leftover pizza was now actually warm, so I guess at least some good came of today's sun and climb. In fact, as I ate in the shade with a breeze caressing me I found conditions were actually quite pleasant.

When I completed the descent past Sigoyer I was in for an even better treat: fresh, smooth pavement

What are you looking at?
for several kms (in fact I would have enjoyed several more had I not been foolish enough to have turned off earlier for the optional climb) accompanied by a brisk tailwind. Although the fresh pavement soon ran out, the old stuff that it led to wasn't too bad either, and with the tailwind assisting me I made easy work of getting to town, where it turns out Mesfin and I are in a "family suite", so we each have our own room. I may finally be able to get a restful night's sleep.

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 27



OCS #1

Just a nice Sunday ride

OCS #2

Part way down

Never miss an opportunity to refill

The backside of the range

OCS #3 (ugliest col ever)

Some interesting rock formations on the way down


OCS #4

Lunch stop (with water and shade)

The view from the lunch stop


Along the climb

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