Imagine cycling through Provence on your road bike with your final day challenge being the ascent of the Toru de France legendary climb of Mont Ventoux, well on this road bike based cycling holiday you can do just that. On this bike vacation, you can enjoy the beauty of Provence from the saddle. Discover the countryside and enjoy the colours and lights which have attracted many famous painters. You will head out on your bike from historic Avignon to visit some of Provence’s highlights. Passing Pont du Gard and through the flatlands of the Camargue, so famous for its wildlife. Explore medieval hilltop villages such as Les Baux, Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux as you head back towards the might of Provence. Passing through the stunning scenery of lavender fields and vineyards you reach the base of Mont Ventoux. Now with anticipation, you wake on your last day with the thought of cycling up the mighty Mont Ventoux. This is an experience that will last in your memory forever.
Avignon – Hotel Boquier
Uzes – La Taverne de Sophie
Saintes Maries de la Mer – Arcades
Arles – La Regence
Isle sur la Sorgue – Les Nevons
Bedoin – L’Escapade
Avignon – l’Angleterre
Uzes – Hostellerie Provencale
Saintes Maries de la Mer – La Palunette
Arles – Le Forum
Isle sur la Sorgue – La Prevote
Bedoin – Hotel des Pins
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Hooked on Cycling that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the chosen activity and for emergency evacuation and hospital care.
During the day arrive at the city of Avignon. If you have time to explore the many attractions on foot, walk through the little streets as you take in the wonders of this fortified city.
Your journey begins by bike northbound through the Barthelasse island, two branches of the Rhône framing a paradise of country lanes and orchards of all kinds. An out and back detour to the village of Châteauneuf du Pape is temping before you head westward to Tavel, Tavel is France’s capital of rosé wines. Beyond Tavel, you cycle through rolling hills of pine forests and shrub vegetation. You shall some across some easy hills to get your legs warmed up. Soon, you reach the majestic town of Uzes, with its regal stone mansions, castle of the Dukes, and Placesdes Herbes square.
With the dominant Mistral winds normally at your back, the day’s ride is almost entirely southbound to the Med Sea. Today you visit the Pont du Gard, a 2000 year-old bridge spanning over the Gardon River, part of an aqueduct of awe-inspiring Roman engineering. Now why not take a break by the river’s edge, pain au chocolat in hand, wondering at the bridge’s seemingly impossible architecture and beauty. Now leaving the Gardon river, you have some rolling hills amongst vineyards, eventually dipping down to the plains, where open fields and salt-flats lead the way, extending into the horizon. Now you cycle through the Camargue where you reach the town of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, on the Mediterranean Coast, its white-washed homes set in the otherwise wild marshlands.
As the day is short you can spend the morning on the coast. As flat as a pancake and windswept by the Mistral, you leave the Mediterranean through the heart of the Camargue Nature Park on a seldom-used road. Dotted with sparse bull and horse farms, graced by the overhead flight of thousands of flamingos, the lands of the Camargue seem desolate, with sparse tufts of hearty plants surviving the salt-rich soils. The rounded, north-facing walls of traditional white Camargue homes, as white as the region’s horses, deflect the powerful winds. At the ride’s end, you cross the mighty Rhône River to reach the Roman town of Arles, the gateway to the Camargue, a lively town whose streets are set around a 2000 years-old Roman coliseum. You should have time to explore the wonderful Roman town.
Now leaving Arles by bike, you head northward, passing the very spot where Van Gogh painted his “Starry Night over the Rhône”. You are riding towards the first chain of mountains, Les Alpilles, a jagged limestone massif heading east to west. Cycling up into the heart of the mountains, you reach the perched medieval village of Les Baux, hanging defiantly on its rocky crag, overlooking its prized olive groves. A freewheeling descent takes you down the north face of the Alpilles and to the artists’ village of St. Rémy. Van Gogh spent the last year of his life here, from where he did his most prolific and acclaimed work. Heading eastward you then cross the Durance Valley. You follow small country lanes across the fertile plains, lined with fruit orchards, to reach the town of l’Isle Sur la Sorgue.
Today’s loop ride takes you to visit the most beautiful of the region’s hilltop villages! And they call them the “perched” villages of Provence for a reason, high above the plains, and sometimes set dizzyingly above the rock upon which they were built. With each climb under your belt the beauty of each village is unveiled, Gordes and its rings of homes sweeping upwards towards its castle, Roussillon and its village homes painted in a palette of colour from pale yellow to deep red, Bonnieux and its labyrinth of winding streets to its Romanesque church, huddled below majestic cedars, and the village of Lacoste, crowned by the ruins of Sade’s castle. Night Isle.
On most trips, we simply follow the arc of Ventoux’s plains, and towards Bedoin. But that’s not enough of a challenge, so in the sleepy village of Méthamis, you take a seldom-used road winding eastward and upward, gaining 500m in elevation to the St. Hubert farm. With an overhead view of the vast lavender fields, you reach the village of Monieux. Then the real fun begins, with arguably the most spectacular cycling road Provence has to offer, les Gorges de La Nesque. Set above a spectacular canyon, a slow and winding 20km descent twists through limestone arches, at times the gradient barely discernible if not for your roaring speeds. Exhilarating, you touch down in the village of Villes Sur Auzon, back in the plains. With the summit of Mont Ventoux staring at its closest, you defiantly head closer to its base, to the village of Bedoin.
You’re now at 300 metres and Mont Ventoux is higher than 1900m! Now from the Med brush to a moonscape landscape above the tree line, with an average grade of 7.5%, you’re facing 22km of pure uphill. Often touted as the hardest climb in France, Ventoux is a true test for your climbing legs, attracting amateur cyclists from all over the world. The first 5km are the easiest, a gradual uphill through the orchards and vines, passing the hamlet of Sainte Colombe. Soon you reach the bottom bend where you turn upwards, as you climb through the oak, cedar and then beech forests. These slopes are at their most severe. By the time you reach the Chalet Reynard, with only 6km left to go, the gradient is more forgiving. You shall see its summit in the distance and you cycle the final kilometres, passing the memorial of Tommy Simpson who collapsed and died on a stage of the Tour de France. The final hairpin turn towards the summit stands before you like a wall, but with the goal, in view, you find the energy to surge over the top! There are several options to return to Bedoin, but it’s all downhill from here back to your hotel in Bedoin.
Optional ride. 59 miles 95km 1600m up/down.
Should the summit be closed due to the weather we have an optional ride. It’s a complete circumnavigation of Mont Ventoux at its base. The Gabelle road is magnificent as you climb up from Flassan, winding at a regular incline on a seldom-used road. You reach Sault and admire the vast expanse of lavender fields before tucking in behind the mountain, along the Toulourenc valley. Here you cycle through forgotten villages, far from the tourist radar, including Reilhanette and Brantes, the latter deserving a lengthy visit. You reach the tiny village of Veaux and cross the Toulourenc before a winding road leads you to Malaucène, and then back to Bedoin.
Departure after breakfast
Plane: Avignon or Paris, Marseille, Nice airports
Train: To TGV station Avignon
Car: A7 highway to Avignon
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