Thursday, July 15, 2010

The transition from the Alpes to the Pyrenees via Mont Ventoux

It's very early Friday morning as we write. The sun is coming up over the mederterrrainian sea - well over the large Herualt oyster lagoon sout west of

Montpeillier. The last few days have been a mix of sight seeing and heading down to the pyrenees.

Just as the tour de France started to make it's transition from the Alpes to the Pyreenees, we also said Au Revior to the beautiful French Alpes. Las time we

wrote we were waiting for the tour at a sprint point at the side of the road 19 km out from Chambery.

A lovely Britt who was out for a morning ride had pulled up to enquire as to how Cadel was going. The rumours from the day before was that he had

fractured his arm. We couldn't get the translation right, but his enquiry had confirmed it. Lost for great British cyclists, he'd been following the Aussies on the

tour for the last few years and had also been out to tour down under and was a huge fan of Stuart O'Grady and saxobank (or is that Sansobank). He also

suggested that we weren't too far from Mont Ventoux for our next stay and after some quick suggestions we had a little plan.

After lunch, the spectacle that is the tour quickly conitnued. At the sprint marker, we saw the brief tussle amongst Pettachi, Husovd and our Robbie and then

the peleton roll through. Cadel was back in the world championship jersey and at the back of the peleton. As in previous occaisions, just as the spectators

had arrived slowly, they rapidly disppeared. Camping only a few km's from the motorway it wasn't long before we were heading to Mont Ventoux.

Again, Mark did a sterling effort driving the car through the narrow winding roads. We made our way down through the Alpes Valleys with some most

spectactular views! We couldn't capture it on our little digital camera but nor could we find a place to stop - In Australia, with views like this there would be little

look out points available for you to stop and admire the view. Oh well... it's certainly etched in our memory.

The tour cars were whizzing past us, taking the alternate route to Gap or Sisteron. We had funny little stops - Jac dislikes the cheap toilets where you have to

back up, put your feet on the feet plate, and squat over the ceramic plate below - however the bar in the middle of the north Provence valley in a small

country town was lovely. Jac had walked in with her HTC jersey on and they immediately wanted to know that was my team. They like us were cycling fans

and after clarifying we weren't Americans, we were welcomed with a seat to watch the big screen TV for the tour, an icy cold orgagina (we need this drink in

Australia) they loved Pineu and Chavenel. We also knew it was hot wen the locals said it was hot. There was a breakaway that had 11 mins on the peleton

and looked as though it was to stay away.

Arriving in Vaison sur romaine - we quickly realised this place was popular amongst the tourists. The camping grounds were full and after finding an

average one that we eventually sought a refund on because we couldn't fit the campervan in, we headed for the campervan carpark 100 m from town.

Looking for a place to eat we wandered throught he busy streets - it was bastille day - we'll tell you about the terrible meal we had when we return - we

climbed the oldruins, watched the sun set, the fire works and headed to our car park home.

We awoke early to head to the Malachene at the base of Mont Ventoux, breakfast, a change annd Mark was heading off to the top and Jac behind. Jac

quickly rounded up the cyclists.Ventoux is magnificent. Beautiful views, vegetaion, quickly wide roads. In the last 2 km there were some 15% gradient parts,

but by this time as Jac had passed the flying dutchman who'd passed her earlier, the 15% felt like 7%.

At the top we found our Bega cycling friends and the other aussies we saw in a campervan on Col de Madeline. If I ever go to Bega, I know who I'll be

cycling with. Mark was up there too with the camera and watching the cyclists come in. There was even a runner!!

Jac descended behind Mark and watched the cars trying to whiz and squeeze past him with impatience. We headed onto Carpentras for food and fuel - but

the one way streets prohibited us getting to a large supermarket - we eventually found a no names brand. The next town on we tried for fuel, however the

pumps didn't accept our cards. We headed to Avignon and eventually found a total that was open and had service (it was now lunchtime with many places

shut). The plan at Avignon was to have lunch at the famous Pont du Avignon. Not to bee, again another tourist mecca so we headed back to McDonalds

and headed inside fro free Wifi and a reasonable french cappuchino - yep the Italians are much better at coffee than the french.

Which then means we are here south west of Montpellier in the Hinualt lagoon and Bouziers. Our seaside stop over where you can see the oyster and

muscle beds from the shoreline. The people managing the campground are lovely and helpful. free washing machine, free wifi access, organised boules

competitions good amenties block. We watched the last 20 km of the stage with Renshaw and Tyler Farrar head butting close the the finish. In a bar, drinking

orangina over looking the marina. Ahhh this is the good life.

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