Back in Le Cheylard, Danny who runs the tour had organised for the group to have a tour through the Corima factory. The Corima factory is located in Loriol-sur-Drome, a nice long decent through the valley from Le Cheylard. A nice cruise down to the factory, we were introduced and taken into the showroom. Most bicycle companies have a showroom either in or next to their reception area which usually displays memorabilia and displays key products that they sell. After looking around the showroom, we were taken to a small theatre to watch a film on the history of Corima and the wheel building process. From there we were taken to the factory where you can see the wheels being built. There are staff are cutting carbon and some laying the carbon into the moulds for the wheels. So you can actually view the process of the rim being built. Post tour it was lunch time, and we found a restaurant in nearby La Voulte to fuel up for the return trip home!
When leaving we took the opportunity to check out another old Chateau. We rode up a short climb to the chateux which provided beautiful views, you could the see Alpes in the distance and another photo opportunity next to some of the beautiful old buildings and ruins J The ride back was uphill through the Valley winding through all the gorgeous little villages on the way.. The boys took off at pace that I couldn’t hold and the group behind me wasn’t quite riding at the pace I wanted to hold. So it was a 50km time trial by myself all the way to Le Cheylard! The heavens decided to open up just coming in Le Cheylard and I was drenched from head to foot! Thankfully it was only a few minutes from home, amazing how drenched you can get in a short period of time…
Mount Ventoux - We made it!
Mount Ventoux was something Russ talked about a lot.. a lot. It his favourite climb, and after completing I can understand why.. It’s another climb where you don’t want to have incorrect gearing. If you can make it easier on yourself, your legs, knees you… get the gist, the better. Mount Ventoux stands at 1,912meters above sea level, the climb is not quite like the other Alpes.. It tends to head straight up more often than wind, that’s where the challenge is… We jumped out of the bus and started the ride just before the town of Bedoin which is located at the base of Mount Ventoux. A little bit of a warm up before we hit the climb… You think you are on the climb, and then you definitely know when you are on the climb. A few gradual corners and then it goes up! The first part of the climb makes it way through a forest section which is very protected and gets very little air flow or wind (it would tough on a hot day!), lucky it was reasonably cool. I found the key to riding Mount Ventoux is to get yourself into good rhythm. I found a gear that I could constantly turn over and made damn sure I turned over as quickly as I could each revolution.. It was working well and I had pretty good cadence going up the climb. I was passing a lot of people, dropping a lot of people who tried to stay with me……..except for Russ and the young guys who were up ahead. Russ said to me the climb gets easier when you hit the moonscape, I was waiting for the moonscape! He was right, I’m not sure if it’s because of the surroundings, as it really is quite unique and nothing I had see before. So high up that nothing grows up there, just rocky terrain and an amazing view.. I am convinced though that the gradient much change a little as I managed to change to harder gear and climb quite strongly to the summit.. A huge cloud formed as I was approaching the top and it started to drizzle. This was okay while climbing, but upon arriving at the top and meeting the Russ the temperature dropped dramatically and I was forced to put the layers back on. Another photo to prove we made it :-)
It was then time for the was super fast decent down to Malaucene. The decent has long stretches into some hairpins and slightly wider corners, with a set of Zipp 303’s on my bike I was gaining speed so quickly that I found myself clutching on the breaks to slow myself down! The last time Russ was here climbing Ventoux he managed to clock 100kph on one of the sections.. Yep it’s fast!
Finally at the bottom it was that time again, food. As mentioned in a previous post, the one thing you learn pretty quickly in France is that everything shuts from 12.30 and only a few restaurants stay open.. Finding it hard to find somewhere suitable, we managed to grab a hot coffee and lucky the Super U supermarket was still open to stock up on supplies.. When everyone had regrouped at the bottom it was time to jump on the bus and head back to Le Cheylard. Russ and I have worked out that next time we come here that we will ride to Mount Ventoux. It would be quite a good commute to ride from Le Cheylard to a nearby town like Saint Paul Trois Chateux where I stayed when I was 18. Stay the night and then the next day ride to the climb and up Ventoux. So it’s on next years agenda!
The remainder of our trip was riding around the Ardeche region from our base in Le Cheylard. We had some amazing rides around the area, experiencing all the towns and villages that are nestled into the mountains. The roads surrounding Le Cheylard are very quiet and when there are cars on the road they are extremely patient and respectful towards cyclists on the roads. Something that I miss a lot now that I’m back home in Australia. Sometimes you would hear a car horn toot, but it’s usually to say hello and the drivers are waving at you as they go past. Unbelievable! I really want to move there :-) Russ decided that we would do a ride to Privas, which is a major university town and a lot bigger than Le Cheylard. Our legs were pretty tired from some of the major climbs we had been doing, but the ride started off with the decent down the valley road. But like everything around there, for every downhill there is a uphill, then a downhill, then a uphill… you get the theme. After climbing for 20+ kilometres we descended down into to Privas where it was market day! Wondering around we checked out the markets, and came across the biggest block of nougat I have ever seen!
Out of Privas and we were climbing again, for which seemed like an eternity. My legs were hurting… A nice head/cross wind to contend with along the ridgeline all the way to Mezilac, yep that hurt too. And then nice long descent back into Le Cheylard. Ahh descending.. It’s something that you look forward too.
The following day we road to the town of Tournon, where we followed the theme of ride coffee, pizza, ride :-) Russ, the young English boys and myself rode through many small towns climbing and descending, a long day in the saddle in perfect weather. Lunch was in Tournon and a bottle refill in Lamastre on the way home.. Stopping for many photo opportunities throughout the ride. The ride finished with the nice gradual descent from Les Nonniers into Le Cheylard.
Wind turbines leaving Saint Agreve
On one of our final days we did a long ride that took us up through Saint Martial, up to Gerbier de Jonc, across the plateau through Fay-sur-Lignon all the way to Saint Agreve for lunch. It was great to ride a long the plateau giving the legs a rest from climbing.. Saint Agreve ended up having the cheapest coffee in France. 1 Euro!! Leaving Saint Agreve we seemed to hit a patch of road that was being resurfaced with lots of loose stones. Cars were passing slowly thankfully however, when almost at the end of the resurfacing a truck was coming the way and not slowing down!! I waved to the drive to slow down but he didn't seem to notice and I got machine gunned with hundreds of loose stones!! The return trip home was past the massive wind turbines that are just out of Saint Agreve and another super fast descent down into Les Nonniers and home :-)
The remaining days at Le Cheylard we went through some of the other small villages that we had experienced earlier in our trip like Lamastre, Chalencon and Les Nonniers checking out the old buildings and beautiful scenery of the region.
We experienced and saw so much in the 3 weeks that we were there, and the trip went by at nice relaxing pace, it felt like we had been away from Australia for a good length of time. Russ is heading back there next year to do the tour and I will also spend some time there in between my races in Europe. I can’t wait to go back! It’s definitely somewhere where I could see myself living. The lifestyle and relaxed pace of life suits me :-)