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Skiing in retirement
9th May 2016 - 17th May 2016 - Iberia & France by bike 2016
Gorges of southern France

With Andy & Nicky.
A night in a riverside camp allowed us to sample the delights of Avignons Papal Palace and famous half-bridge; it also allowed some scurrilous NDF to nick Stevens saddle bag which he unwisely left attached to the bike. Fortunately this contained only easily replaceble bike tools, but still.....

In improving conditions the 4 intrepids set course north for the Ardeche, easing into our stride on flat roads to arrive at camp near the bridge at St Martin. From here the road climbed slowly to the top of the gorge which in rain and mist looked not at all like it does in the tourist brochures. Still, the roads were quiet and we arrived at Vallons at the far end in time to check into the first of a number of mobil-homes we came to use quite often. At an average 50 euros a night these provide good value and comfort for 4 when the weather discourages tenting.

From Vallons the route followed the course of the river through verdant countryside dotted with small villages and farms taking us up gentle climbs and descents as far as Les Vans. And then the first of the noticeable ascents: 13 km at about 5% slowed the groups progress a little up to the top at 860m before whizzing down 300m to the market town of Villefort. With the town campsite closed we were left with a final 5km climb to find a delightful 2star site and a chilly night in the warmth of a wooden chalet. 

The weather staying chabgeable it was with wet-weather gear to hand that we set out for a yet longer climb of 20km to reach the watershed at the 1132m Col des Tribes. It was here that the wind and rain finally got the better of us and we bailed out at Baignols-les-Bains, some 20km short of the target destination of Mende. But Mende was still there the following day, providing a suitable coffee stop before making a decision to avoid the third of the noticeable climbs to Marvejols, opting for the river side road instead. This turned out to be a good call as we made good progress following the river as far as the little village of Banassac where for the princely sum of 7euros per tent we camped by the river and spent the rest of the budget on dinner.

With the river our constant companion the rest of the ride to Figeac was mostly on gentle downhill gradients in glorious spring weather. Skirting the northern edge of the Cevennes and then climbing a little away from the river into the Aubrac we enjoyed the best of cycle touring conditions. Overnight halt in a mobil home in Espinol with pizza for dinner was an alternative to Debs and Nickys mobil-home cooking and a pleasant day time halt in Entragues before another chalet  by the river at the Dutch-owned Camping de Coursavy. 

The final day for A & N took us to Figeac, finally leaving the Lot at Capdenac for a last uphill section. The intention was to enjoy a final supper before A & N boarded their midnight sleeper to Paris. But on checking boarding times at the SNCF it was revealed that due to a mouvement social the train would not be running and the only alternative was to catch the train leaving in 10 minutes from platform 4. Never have 2 folding bikes been knocked down and bagged so quickly and with hurried farewells we waved them off to an uncertain fate and made our way to the campsite for a night in a tent.



Next: La France profonde
Previous: In the South


Diary Photos
9th May 2016  Avignon
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9th May 2016  Le Pont, or what's left of it
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10th May 2016  Le grand depart from Avignon for Andy & Nicky
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11th May 2016  Ardeche gorge with rain
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11th May 2016  Pique-nique a la tunnel, Gorge d'Ardeche
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11th May 2016  Searching for a view of the gorge
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11th May 2016  Ready to ride
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11th May 2016  Cheesy at the Pont d'Arc
Cheesy at le Pont d'arc

12th May 2016  Nicky grins and bears it. Half way up to the 830m
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12th May 2016  Top of the Col
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12th May 2016  Debs reaches the top in style
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13th May 2016  Leaving Villefort bound for Col des Tribes, 1132m, the Atlantic/Med watershed

13th May 2016  En route to Col des Tribes
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13th May 2016  One of many orchids by the roadside
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13th May 2016  Preparing for the last 5km to the Col des Tribes
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13th May 2016  Andy taking a well-earned rest
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14th May 2016  Degustation by the Lot
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15th May 2016  Aubracs in the Aubrac
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15th May 2016  Spring greens in the Aubrac
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15th May 2016  Lunch belvedere Saint Genieze d'Olt
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15th May 2016  Sometimes cycle touring is best enjoyed horizontal....with eyes closed
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15th May 2016  View to the Lot valley
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15th May 2016  Espallion
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16th May 2016  Estaing, and a coffee stop approaching (well, beer for Andy)
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16th May 2016  At Entragues. Look Ma, no hands
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16th May 2016  Camping de Coursavy. Keeping in touch with home
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17th May 2016  In the valley of the Lot
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17th May 2016  Leaving the Lot. View from Capendac-le-Haut
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17th May 2016  5 minutes before the train leaves Figeac
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