Despite living in this cyclist paradise island of Mallorca and all that the Sierra de Tramuntana offers, sometimes it’s just good to escape and see what is out there for the cyclist. It was this desire to spread my cycling wings further that made me set off for the big daddy of mountain cycling, The Alps. Getting there was far easier than I thought as Corsica Ferries have a boat from Port Alcudia to Toulon (south of France). From Toulon onwards is just gonna be me and my bike.
Note that the boat trip was very enjoyable and my cabin had everything I could need.
After a punctual arrival in Toulon at 8 a.m., I was ready to start the first stage of my alpine adventure, with my route map stuck with adhesive tape to the front of my bicycle. I wanted this to be a retro adventure without GPS, Google and other Hi-tech.
This first stage took me along the southern coast of France, through quiet little villages. Traffic was minimal and I had planned my first pit stop in the town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. Arrived there at 12.30 pm, an ideal time to settle down for lunch in the town square.
The afternoon was quiet, the sun was shining. However, on the road to Manosque I had two flat tires. Therefore, I retraced my steps and went back to Rians where with a little ingenuity and glue from Carrefour I was able to repair my inner tube in a makeshift fashion. I then decided to make the most of my situation and spend the rest of the day in the enjoyable surrounds of Rians.
I knew my repair in the tube was not going to last long, and it could not make the 30 km. to the next bike shop. In fact, I had to hitchhike the last 10 km, something that was easy given the friendly folk of the area. It was in the main town of Manosque, in a store owned by the Bachelas family (a mother and three brothers, who provided an efficient and friendly service) where I was able to replace the inner tube and continue on my journey.
So far, I had been surprised by the lack of traffic, and I realized that the area had a great potential for cycling. I was in the Natural Park of Luberon, its cycle routes being one of the treasures of the area.
I had to continue the journey to reach the objective that was the town of Serres then I entered the Alps. The road was wide with a shoulder, and although it was used by trucks, it wasn’t dangerous. There are some hills, yet a moderate level cyclist can overcome these. Once in the Alps, the tranquillity washed over me, as I continued on my journey to Serres.
This was the day I was going to conquer the Alpe d’Huez and when checking the 140 km route, I realized that it wouldn’t be easy. Cycling in mountainous areas always demands respect for the challenges ahead.
Leaving the town of Serres at dawn with perfect weather, I crossed a river and admired a landscape that boosted my strength.
I was facing a significant climb and my arrival at the Alpe d’Huez base was not easy, it was 120 km long and I had 13.8 km left, at an average of 8.1% ascent.
I had not really studied the climb, the beginning of which was the most difficult part. The first five curves had an average 10.4% ascent and I was unable to sit on the bike during the whole ordeal.
The remaining sixteen curves were comparable to the ascent of “Sa Calobra” climb in Mallorca, but the summit was worth it.
On my 14 km descent, heavy rain made it necessary for me to brake intensively the whole way, with no respite from the great tension in my arms. Completely soaked I reached the base village of Le Bourg d’Oisans, where I stayed overnight.
I decided that this was to be a day of relaxation and rest. My destination, Grenoble was just 30 km away, and my accommodation, the Okko Grenoble Garden Hoche Hotel had a sauna. On the way to Grenoble, I turn off to have a look at the area next to Lac du Verney, the artificial reservoir in the department of Isère.
There were still 4 days remaining till I boarded the ferry in Toulon, so I decided to take a route through the mountains. My final destination was Veynes, a small town in the middle of the Alps, where I was to stay in a family-house prepared for holiday rental, very clean and equipped.
In the morning, the family surprised me with a big breakfast, which included “pain d’epice”, a sweet local bread made with honey and spices.
I decided to continue discovering the mountain villages around, and found lodging in the village of Beaumont de Pertuis, an idyllic place surrounded by peaks and bicycle routes.
The village has only one bar and a post office. The owner of the guest house “Roger” escaped from the city of Marseille where he ran a hairdressing salon. He had been rehabilitated the house for three years and now give shelter to visitors and cyclists.
The area surrounded by mountains is part of the Luberon valley, a cycling destination, near Mont Ventoux.
I left the mountainous area and entered the urban mass that is Marseille, where all peace and tranquillity ends. This part of the route I liked the least because I had to cross the entire city of Marseille. I would not recommend it.
The last day of cycling seemed like a formality, Marseille – Toulon. However, I was surprised at the start of my journey along the Col de la Gineste, where I had to spend the last of my remaining strength. All the way to Toulon there are continuous ups and downs following the steep coastline, passing through several towns and beaches.
The Corsica Ferries boat was waiting in Toulon with a comfortable cabin.
To conclude, cycling in the Alps has been a unique experience. Life offers lots of opportunities, you just have to grab them when you can.
Next bicycle trip “Mont Ventoux”
Corsica Ferries www.corsica-ferries.co.uk
Okko Hotels Grenoble Jardin Hoche www.okkohotels.com