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European Cycling Holidays in France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The BEST value tours on the market! Personalised, affordable, fun, challenging and social. Provence, Alps, Tour de France, Italian Lakes, Dolomites, Giro Climbs. A magical mix of challenging but social cycling in some of the most spectacular regions of Europe. See the Tour de France 2019!

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NEWS

Milan to Venice: Lakes, Alps, Dolomites 2019 Tour Wrap

Clare Holdsworth

We’ve just finished an incredible ride across northern Italy - 13 days, 15 cyclists (including our WOR Crew), around 1000kms of cycling as we pedalled the long, mountainous and “bellissimo” way from Milan and Venice!

We cycled the shores of Lago di Como on Day 1 and climbed from Bellagio to the historic Madonna del Ghisallo cycling chapel before descending for gelati (Onno Lulu of course!) and our first overnight stop in the beautiful hamlet of Pescallo, which was voted “most scenic” afternoon tea location, set beside the lake with aperol spritz's and antipasto in between lake swims.. absolutely stunning! The optional ride up the fearsome Muro di Sormano tempted some… but defeated most - 2.5kms and almost 20% - no wonder even the Pros struggle and protest!

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On day two it was a ride through the hidden food and wine valley of Lombardia, the “Valtellina”, despite a flat-ish profile and beautiful off road cycle paths in the earlier part of the day, the riding was still challenging, the steep valley walls flanked with vineyards posing sharp rises as we made our way in to the Alps. At our Locanda in the evening, we ate the menu “Valtellina” - bresaola, pizzocheri and sciatt regional dishes washed down with local Nebbiolo. We won’t mention the dessert…!

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Bormio presented us with our first “Passo” - the mighty Gavia and Stelvio, famed climbs of the Giro d’Italia. An incredible effort by 3 of our riders conquering their first ever “true mountain climbs” - Bravo to James & John on ticking off the Gavia and Brava Gillian the Stelvio - what memorable mountains to make your “first”. We somehow dodged Europe’s heatwave and avoided rain on both Passes - the cooler conditions perfect for climbing two of Italy’s most iconic passes. For me, the Gavia was a first (the mountain/weather/circumstance defeating me on 3 prior attempts) - a tough climb with no real rhythm - steep pinches and false flats - so rewarding to finally reach the top, with the tiny windy road passing cows, glaciers, lakes and mountain streams - a true alpine climb and a thrill to have finally completed it (thanks Alfie for the water stop - we needed it! Oh, and the support on the way down…!!!).

We rolled through apple orchards on the Via Claudia Augusta (old Roman Road) sealed cycle path, drank the delicious wines of the Alto Adige as we moved in to the germanic influenced regions - where Italian language gave way to German and strudel and schnitzel featured on menus and we sipped more Spritz in the piazzas of beautiful Bolzano (and a spot of shopping under the porticos for some!). Another “steep pinch” of a climb for lunch and everyone learned that I will do anything for a good restaurant - the views and food were top quality at Haidenhof and the 10% gradients quickly forgotten as we tucked in to smoked trout, canederli (regional soft bread dumplings with cabbage) and goulash.

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It was an epic day as we rode from Bolzano in to the Dolomites - 4 iconic climbs and over 3500m vertical gain - the beauty of the scenery - blue lakes and rocky pinnacles and massif of the Dolomites. We rode the Costalunga (“cough-a-lung-up”), Pordoi and Campolongo Passes - becoming experts in hair-pin descents, to arrive at our spectacular chalet for 3 nights in the heart of the mountains. (Brendan nailed the ride - apparently fuelled by 4 Apfelstrudels… perfect cycling food!). We enjoyed the Ladin cuisine at our hotel and a few members of the group played billiards with the locals after a big evening meal, learning a little more about the Ladin language! With 2 days to enjoy the Dolomites the group chose a few different “off-bike” activities - cable cars, paragliding (Pip!!!), mountain walks, mountain ‘refugi’ for lunches (typical hearty mountain dishes such as polenta con funghi) and for some… more cycling!

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For me, the Sella Ronda loop was a favourite day - the best mountain cycling you can fit in to 55kms, in my mind - anywhere. 4 Passes - Campolongo, Pordoi, Sella and Gardena - circling the rocky Sella Massif, every direction a different spectacular view and the gradients a mostly kind 6-7%. A stop on the top of every Passo - spritz, strudel, coffee (and Skittle and Pip is a Negroni at 10:30am a good idea…?). So much fun and such beautiful riding - an absolutely memorable day.

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It wasn’t downhill yet - we rode over the Valporola and Falzarego Passes to glitzy Cortina d’Ampezzo - rolled along an old railway route (now a rail-trail) along the Cadore valley, flanked by more Dolomites peaks. Another “steep pinch” for a beautiful lunch - house made beetroot filled ravioli with poppy seeds typical of the region - a food highlight of the tour for me. The final climb of the trip took us in to the rural Nevegal mountains in the Province of Belluno - forested switchbacks and rolling farmland before the eerie descent of the Passo San Boldo (hairpins in tunnels…?!?!?!) - well done Gillian, you are now a true mountain descender!

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A swim in the pool and a big evening meal with some of the best risotto (funghi) I have ever eaten at our beautiful hotel Cadelach. Bon Compleanno celebrations for John and Alfie with a magnum of something delicious made for a wonderful penultimate night.

The group rolled through the vines of Valdobbiadene (pronunciation please Skittle, Italian expert!)… and the flat farmland around Treviso to arrive in Venice - the way one should - by boat along the Grand Canal! A group meal at a new restaurant for WOR proved worthy of final night celebrations (fritto misto… yum!) and we bid farewell to our tight knit little group of friends.

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A huge thank you to our amazing mechanic Alfie, our Italian expert (& negroni expert!) Skittle and Pepe for being such wonderful Crew! Thanks and congrats to all the riders - well done, a huge effort - a big ride and a lovely bunch! See you soon be it on, or off the bike!

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Bordeaux to Barcelona 2019 Tour Wrap...

Clare Holdsworth

We've just said Adios to a group of 25 (and for a short part of the Tour, 26), who have cycled from Bordeaux to Barcelona on the ride of a lifetime across the Pyrenees.

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It feels like more than 15 days ago that we pedalled out of Bordeaux along the Garonne river, through the famous vineyards, savouring the delights of the Entre Deux Mers wine region including sweet Sauternes and for some, a long… long… lunch. The first few days were relaxed riding with rolling hills, bastide towns, a cycling museum and unpretentious, typical “Pays du Gascogne” towns in the evening where locals played pétanque and we drank beers under the WOR marquee and ate at local Brasseries.

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It was great to have a number of past riders return, feeling more like a group of friends on Tour rather than a “tour group” of strangers. We also had our first e-bike rider, Sarah - who apparently doesn’t like cycling much but seemed to love whizzing along on her e-bike!

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Day 3 and the rolling hills became bigger as we approached the foothills of the Pyrenees, and the beautiful mountain village of Laruns. Our first climb of the Tour, the famous Col d’Aubisque was shrouded in misty clouds - while we missed the views we had an eerie experience riding in the cloud, the tinkling of cow and sheep bells and the whirr of our pedals the only sounds. “So much more rural” than the Alps.. “The roads so remote and quiet”… were the words of the cyclists.

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With 3 days in the gorgeous Pyreneean hamlet of Saint Savin riders had an opportunity to do their own thing - while some went to the Tour de France ITT in Pau, others climbed the Hautacam (and some went for a spa at the famous Thermal springs!). And Tony, well… he just climbed every mountain he could!

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“Tour Day” on the Col du Tourmalet did not disappoint - the buzz and atmosphere of thousands of cyclists and camper vans, with lunch 2/3 of the way from the Summit where we waited for the crazy mayhem of the Caravan and then finally the excitement of the riders! “Perhaps the best TDF experience in WOR history” suggested WOR Legend, Frank. The next day we followed in the path of the pros and conquered our own Col du Tourmalet!

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It was climb after climb as our legs got stronger, the roads rural and friendly, more cows, sheep and horses than cars - Aspin, Peyresourde, Val Louron Azet… we ate the delicious local soup “Garbure” and the cows licked the salt from our bikes & bodies as we crossed the Cols.

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From the famous Bagneres de Luchon we crossed Col du Portillon to take us in to Spain - where the coffee was better and the beers cheaper and while we thought Cava was local, it was buckets of Gin that we joined the locals and drank. We had a Pintxos Party in Arties before conquering the mighty & beautiful Port de la Bonaigua! Switchbacks and rivers - swimming (and floating!) in the cool waters of the Noguera Pallaresa beside our camp.

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The quiet Col del Canto (photos of butterflies and bees), majestic Seu d’Urgell with dinner on the portico. We rode in to the wilds of the Sierra dei Cadi where tortilla bocadillo in Tuixent filled our bellies for more climbing up and over the Col de Port (and for those feeling strong, the Port del Comte). A wine degustation dinner at a campground? Yep! Thanks Jordi and Anna - an absolute highlight - over 10 courses and 5 wines… some wondered.. is this a foodie tour or a bike holiday?

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And finally the mysterious and mythical Montserrat - the views so superb as we cycled to the rocky massif and stayed overnight, the monks chanting and bells in the morning.

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Some thought it would be downhill to Barcelona - but the lure of Tibidabo lookout tempted us (true climbers now!) - and we conquered our final climb (& a final sting in the tail!)! The Mediterranean sea and the sky-line of Barcelona, punctuated by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. We’d made it! Over 1000kms and countless thousand meters of climbing! A celebratory Pica Pica dinner and speeches from all - thanks for a memorable trip - what felt like a family of friends enjoying (as Melissa put it so eloquently) #foodiebootcamp !

With thanks to our Crew - we couldn’t have done it without you - Michelle, Alfie, Mick and Brian. Top notch! And to Pepe - Directeur Sportif … or should I say, “Co” Directeur Sportif! Thanks to Di for making this possible - without her, we’d all be at home with Max! Thanks for coming, see you next time - Clare

 
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Foodie moments on a WOR Tour...

Clare Holdsworth

It wouldn’t be a WOR tour without plenty of good food and wine - regional produce, local artisans markets, the “terroir”, seasonal dishes, food traditions and wine regions are all a huge focus of any of our tours. I wanted to share a favourite foodie spot from some of our Tours - to give you an idea of some of our favourite places we visit on Tour, but also a few tips for those travelling independently to these regions. These places I think represent typical restaurants of the regions we pass through - where local cuisine is showcased usually in a family run establishment.

Nice to Alpe d’Huez: Au Plaisir Ambré in Briançon

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Briançon is reputedly Europe’s highest “town” - a UNESCO world heritage site, the historical centre is strongly fortified, built by Vauban to defend the region from the Austrians, with a pleasant series of cobblestones streets and the spectacular backdrop of the Alps. A visit to Briançon wouldn’t be complete without dinner at Au Plaisir Ambre, run by the super friendly chef Michael and his partner Nancy. Awarded a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin guide, Michael’s cuisine is refined yet still relaxed and accessible (with portions that are cyclist friendly!), with a focus on quality, fresh seasonal and regional products - it’s always a highlight group meal night on Tour when we book the cosy restaurant out - usually the evening that we have conquered the famous Col d’Izoard - so cause for celebration! Think of a velouté of green asparagus to begin followed by lamb from Sisteron and then a dessert to die for! We’ve fallen in love with Michael’s cooking so much that we’ve organised him to cook for us in our private chalets for additional group meals on Tour. We can’t wait to get back to Briançon soon - for the cycling and the eating!

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Barcelona to Nice via Sardinia & Corsica: U Funtanonu in l’Ospedale (Corsica)

Corsica is an island of contrasts - the spectacular coastline with roads and scenery to rival any coastal cycling destination on the planet (I challenge you to name better!) - where crisp vermentino complements the freshest of seafood, enjoyed at beach-side restaurants watching the sun-set over the Mediterranean. But Corsicans (who see themselves as Corsican, not French!) - would say that it is the interior of Corsica that represents the true identity of the Island. “Sauvage” in French - wild & rugged - where the food is all about charcuterie, heavier meats, pastas and stews and spectacular cheeses. On our first day’s cycling in Corsica, we ride from Bonifacito to Zonza, in the mountainous interior. It’s a 15km climb, averaging 6% with views to the Mediterranean as we enter a beautiful pine forest around Zonza. Nearing the top of the climb a popular lunch spot is U Funtanonu - a traditional Corsican restaurant where wild boar stew or cannelloni with brocciu (fresh ewe’s milk cheese) are perfect to replenish the belly after the climb - washed down with a Pietra - Corsican chestnut beer!

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Milan to Venice: Locanda et trattoria Altavilla

Bresaola

Bresaola

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Day 2 of our Classic Northern Italy Tour takes us through one of the lesser known foodie destinations of Italy - the Valtellina. It’s a flatter ride (before we hit the Gavia and Mortirolo the next day!) with some rolling hills as we pedal along the valley, flanked by alpine peaks and vineyards, well known for its red wine grown from the Nebbiolo grape - DOC Valtellina. Bresaola (air dried beef) buckwheat and bitto (cows milk cheese) are regional foods and all feature in our group meal at Altavilla - where we stay the night and are well looked after by Anna and her family. For dinner we eat the “Menu Valtellina” where the cheese and buckwheat are expertly made in to fritters called sciatt and plates of bresaola are just for starters! It’s an absolutely stunning setting with a degustation meal and matched wines that do the region justice (and of course, tiramisu for dessert!) La Dolce Vita!

 
Sciatt served with radicchio and bitter greens

Sciatt served with radicchio and bitter greens

Milan to Venice: OnnoLulu Gelateria

No day on Tour in Italy is complete without gelati! On Day 1, the bar is set pretty high, at Onnolulu gelateria, located on the shores of Lago di Como. Having conquered the famous climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo cycling chapel (and for those that are game - the fearsome Muro di Sormano), we descend to the lake shore where this cafe gelateria awaits in the tiny hamlet of Onno. Cioccolato, nocciola, pistacchio, fragola, limone,…. 1, 2, 3 or 4 scoops? Oh the tough decisions one has to make on Tour!!!

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Bordeaux to Barcelona: Camping - Wine Degustation Dinner

“Who would’ve thought you’d get a meal like this in a caravan park?!?” - Yep, that was what one of the members of our Bordeaux to Barcelona Tour said during our wine degustation dinner at a regional campground. When we organised the first one of these dinners - I must say that I was a little apprehensive, too. But Chef Jordi has over 30 years experience and creating memorable gastronomic events in this out-of-the way campground in rural northern Catalan spain is his specialty. A true highlight on Tour, the menu is carefully curated to highlight regional cuisine - Think foie, Iberian ham, baccala (salted cod) canneloni, veal carpaccio…. It’s a private dinner just for our group with a winemaker who joins us to talk us through the local biodynamic wines which are matched to the meal. A perfect evening in the most unexpected of locations!

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Photo stop in northern Spain

Photo stop in northern Spain

Vic Alps Tour Featured in Cyclist Aus Magazine

Clare Holdsworth

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We were thrilled to have Cyclist Aus join us on our November 2018 Vic Alps Cycle Tour! Top cycling photographers Beardy McBeard and Bob Barrett cycled with us for the four days and captured the tour with beautiful imagery and wording that appeared in the March 2019 edition of Cyclist Aus mag. Check out a few of the pages below and make sure you head to your local newsagent to pick up a copy! And of course… we’re running this tour again in November 2019, so if you like what you read and see - join us! We too, can’t wait to get back to the beautiful Victorian High Country!

It’s Thursday afternoon when Beardy (Marucus) and I arrive in Porepunkah. Clare, Pepe and Rob from Wide Open Road (WOR) are ready and waiting with all the pre-ride essentials: beer, wine and the BBQ just getting fired up.
— Bob Barrett Cyclist Magazine
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All in all, this was a weekend to remember. There’s so much to see in the area, and blasting through on a one-day event simply doesn’t do it justice.... Being able to set your own pace and roll out when you’re ready makes for a very enjoyable and relaxed experience
— Bob Barrett Cyclist Mag
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Vic Alps 2018 Tour Wrap & Cyclist Magazine Australia

Clare Holdsworth

Ouch! The top of Hotham hurts! Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Ouch! The top of Hotham hurts! Photo: Beardy McBeardy

To fuel our bodies, we stuck to the WOR model with a foodie-focus: high quality local produce inspired afternoon-teas, a gourmet picnic lunch & wine degustation dinner at Feathertop Winery to make sure our riding was rewarded with all of the wonderful food and wine of North East Victoria.

Check out some of Beardy and Bob’s beautiful photos below and if you’re interested in joining us in 2019 on our Vic Alps Tour - register online!

Rolling towards Omeo. Photo credit: Beardy McBeardy

Rolling towards Omeo. Photo credit: Beardy McBeardy

We’ve just come back from an awesome 4 days cycling in Victoria’s High Country as part of our Vic Alps Cycle Tour!

The weather was perfect, cycling sublime, beers cold and to top it all off we had Beardy McBeardy and Bob Barrett Photography along for the ride to capture the whole thing for Cyclist Magazine Aus.

A group of 17 in total - we conquered 4 of the 7 Peaks Ride Climbs over 4 days: Falls Creek, Dinner Plain, Mt Hotham and Mt Buffalo - as well as Tawonga Gap for good measure!

Photos on this page all thanks to Beardy and Bob!

Mt Buffalo in the morning light. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Mt Buffalo in the morning light. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Thanks heaps for the high country tour. Good to ride with a new crew and bag a few hills too.
— "Rocket" Rod
Rolling out of Bright on Day 1. Photo Credit: Beardy McBeardy

Rolling out of Bright on Day 1. Photo Credit: Beardy McBeardy

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Night 2 accommodation in Omeo. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Night 2 accommodation in Omeo. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Tawonga Gap. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Tawonga Gap. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Beardy smashing Mt Hotham in sub 1:30!!! Photo Credit: Bob Barrett

Beardy smashing Mt Hotham in sub 1:30!!! Photo Credit: Bob Barrett

Thankyou Clare and Pepe for a great tour, supplying us with detailed information, keeping us safe and rewarding us with great settings. Love the pics.
— Margaret

Thanks to those who joined us - it was great to have along WOR regulars (Rocket and the “Jerilderee Gang”!) as well as meeting some great new people from around Vic and NSW. A big shout-out to Zoe who conquered her first ever true mountain climb (and managed to tick off all 4 over the weekend and made it looks easy!) and Ryan who came without any training in the hills and rode (most of the way) with a huge smile on his face!

Picnic Lunch at Dinner Plain. Photo Credit: Beardy McBeardy

Picnic Lunch at Dinner Plain. Photo Credit: Beardy McBeardy

The final kilometre of Falls Creek. Photo Credit: Beardy McBeardy

The final kilometre of Falls Creek. Photo Credit: Beardy McBeardy

Crew Member Pepe enjoying a post-ride cold one! Photo: Beardy

Crew Member Pepe enjoying a post-ride cold one! Photo: Beardy

Rolling hills near Omeo. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Rolling hills near Omeo. Photo: Beardy McBeardy

Beardy nearing the top of Hotham! Thanks Bob Barrett for the pic!

Beardy nearing the top of Hotham! Thanks Bob Barrett for the pic!

Thankyou all ....Wide Open Road...great biking, accom, food and blessed with weather...great journey and support! And wonderful cycling partners!
— Jenny

Nice to the Alps 2018 - Tour Wrap

Clare Holdsworth

24 cyclists, 2 weeks, 1000+km, 18,000+m altitude, famous climbs, Le TDF & over 360 croissants!

It's been the ride of a lifetime from the Mediterranean to the Alps!  24 cyclists rolled out of Nice along the Promenade des Anglais  - farewelling the coast and climbing in to the hinterland of the Côte d'Azur.  We cycled the spectacular Verdon Gorge, rolled through lavender & sunflower fields (dodging bees!) & drank crisp rosé in Provence's honey coloured villages.  

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We enjoyed a group lunch in a Provençal auberge, hidden deep in the Luberon mountains and then relaxed by the pool on Rest Day in the spectacular hilltop village of Gordes.  With fresh legs we set off in perfect conditions and conquered the Giant of Provence - Mont Ventoux! 

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 We pedalled in to the Alps and climbed the classic French Cols - the Bonette, Vars & Izoard to arrive in Briançon and join the street parties as France won the World Cup!  We continued over the epic Col du Lautaret and Col du Galibier before a final rewarding ride over the Col de la Croix de Fer to climb the 21 hairpin bends to Alpe d'Huez!

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We stayed in a private chalet and joined the party atmosphere of the Tour de France on Alpe d'Huez & the Stage Start in Bourg d'Oisans.  

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As always, food was a huge feature - from afternoon teas under the WOR marquee (with plenty of 1664) to local bistrots and degustation dinners with our own private Michelin chef!

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It was sad to say "Au-revoir" to the group - we'd become a close group of friends by the end - and we celebrated hard on our last night with DJs Chivers & Marasco keeping the party going!

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Thanks all for a wonderful tour - and a huge thanks also to our 2018 N2A Crew who ensured that our bikes kept rolling, our luggage was transported, we ate delicious local produce inspired afternoon teas & of course that the beers were cold at the end of the day! 

More Photos Below...

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Mont Ventoux: The Giant of Provence

Clare Holdsworth

Cycling Mount Ventoux

By Clare Holdsworth
3 Feb, 2007, 14:21  

[Note: It's hard to believe that this article was written nearly 10 year ago now and published by an online travel site - since then, I have cycled Ventoux a further 8 times and hope to tick off #10 on Wide Open Road's Nice to Alpe d'Huez cycle tour this European summer.  Le Mont Ventoux was one of my first ever true mountain climbs on WOR's Bordeaux to Alpe d'Huez in 2005 - a tour that inspired me and captivated my cycling and travel imagination all those years ago...]

Rising from the Rhone valleybelow, a real mountain standing alone and crowned by its bare white summit, Mont Ventoux has such striking physical presence and historical significance in the world of cycling that I could do nothing but look up at it with great respect.

Tom Simpson memorial, approximately 1km from the Summit

Tom Simpson memorial, approximately 1km from the Summit

I had spent a couple of weeks cycling across Southern France as part of an organised tour.  The trip was any cyclists dream ride – quiet winding roads,  vineyards, chateaux, honey coloured villages, local markets, prehistoric caves, long lunches with carafes of rose, medieval pilgrim towns, sunflower fields and indulgent dinners.  But one of the most anticipated days was the ride up Mont Ventoux.

The mountains and mountain passes of the Alps and the Pyrenees have become the Holy Grail for cyclists since they were added to the route of the Tour de France in 1910, 7 years after cycling magazine editor Henry Desgrange organised the first Tour in 1903. 

The mountain stages in the Tour de France are often where the race is won or lost, and they have come to define the event that is France’s national sporting obsession.  The mountains are legends in themselves, and names such as Tourmalet, Col d’ Aubisque, Alpe d’ Huez, Col du Galibier and Mont Ventoux create feelings of awe and respect in cyclists.

The views are spectacular - if you have the energy to appreciate them!

The views are spectacular - if you have the energy to appreciate them!

Mont Ventoux is the last bulge of the Alps before the Mediterranean 100 kilometers to its South.  Its 1902 meter high summit can be seen from hundreds of kilometers away throughout Provence, rising up from the flat dry planes and vineyards that surround its base.  Mt Ventoux is considered by many cyclists as the toughest mountain to cycle in the world, due to its 22km length, harsh climate and steep gradient.

The top of the mountain is a treeless lunar landscape that provides no relief from the weather.  On a hot summer’s day, the last 7 kilometers can be brutally hot and still.  The sun bears down oppressively from above, reflects off the bare white rocks from the side and steams up into the cyclists face from the tarmac below.  It can make any cyclist feel like they are pedaling in a solarium.  But when the famous mistral (strong North-West wind) gets going, it can blow a cyclist off his bike!  I had heard stories of cyclists pinning themselves to the ground and pulling their carbon frames tight to their chest to stop them blowing away.  Record speeds of 320 km/hr have been recorded at the summit, the windiest place on earth! 

The locals are superstitious about the mistral (‘the master’ in Provencal), and claim they can predict it by feelings of dejection and depression.  But it is also attributed to part of the beauty of Provence, blowing away the coulds and smog and bringing rich colours and crisp air.

Lyle and Lana in 2011 toughing it out in the forest

Lyle and Lana in 2011 toughing it out in the forest

On a blisteringly hot day in July in 1967, Mt Ventoux claimed the life of one of Britains most famous cyclists.  Tom Simpson was nearing the top on the stage of the Tour de France on a blisteringly hot day, when he fell of his bike out of exhaustion.  The crowd rushed to help him and his final words were “Put me back on my bike.” – he cycled a few more meters and had a massive heart attack.  Partly attributed to amphetamines but undoubtedly confounded by the harsh climate on the treeless mountain and the absolute exhaustion any cyclist feels to ride it, let alone race it.

So, after an energy laden tart au framboise in the township of Bedoin at the mountain’s base, I set off on the 22 km climb.  The initial 4 kilometers are relatively easy, and then the road takes a big turn at the last village and immediately kicks up at about 9 percent as it enters the forest. And it stays that way, with a few kilometers greater than 10%, peaking at 17% for a short distance!  There is a short section in the forest where it flattens out for a few hundred meters, but basically it is 10 kilometers of hard, hot, knee-breaking work.  Sweat flying off me, face full of heat and jersey drenched it was only stubbornness that kept me pushing, my speed dropping to 7 km an hour for a lot of it.  I felt like I was standing still, my tyres just sticking to the ground, the next bend never getting any closer.

Steve, a regular to WOR, pushes up the final stretches towards the summit

Steve, a regular to WOR, pushes up the final stretches towards the summit

Clare with a WOR Regular, Frank, conquering Ventoux for the 9th time in July 2017

Clare with a WOR Regular, Frank, conquering Ventoux for the 9th time in July 2017

I tried to think of things other than the burning pain in my legs and lungs, to get into a rhythm to the tunes on my i-Pod.  FINALLY I emerged at a few wooden huts and then the restaurant where the tree line officially ends and the road begins to zig-zag its way up through the bare white rocks to the huge summit tower that looks like a space station.  There are brilliant views to a misty valley below, although I was mostly too tired to look.  I made a pilgrimage to Tommy’s memorial and pushed through to the Summit in a little under two hours.  I’d done it! I’d cycled the Giant of Provence. A killer, but a ride that is an achievement just to get there!

 

A hot and sweaty Clare with crew member Paul on her most recent ascent of Mt Ventoux as pat of Wide Open Road's Nice to Alpe d'Huez cycling holiday in 2013.

A hot and sweaty Clare with crew member Paul on her most recent ascent of Mt Ventoux as pat of Wide Open Road's Nice to Alpe d'Huez cycling holiday in 2013.