TdH in the South of France

2.3.2015 11.39.56

Mont Ventoux revisited

Over the night the dream of climbing up to Mont Ventoux bothered  all the time and so in the morning I headed back to mountain, but now from the other side. There are three roads up to mountain, one from Malaucene via Chalet Liotard and two other via Chalet Reynard from Bédoin and Sault.

I took now the road from Bédoin, climbed up to chalet and continued as long as the road was open – and further. It was easy to cross the border and go on. The road on this southern side was in fact good and maintained for the crews working at the telecom tower, and the warm sunshine kept also the asphalt visible. 

The famous Simpson’s memorial was snow covered, with only his head tipping out from the crust of snow.

Just before the summit the road became icy ans slushy, and sometimes I had to dismount and walk ahead. But finally (with some very heavy breathing) I managed to ride to the hilltop. No sausage van, like always in summer, and the souvenir shop was closed. Some walkers wondered around and according to people working for the France Telecom, I was the first cyclist up in Ventoux in 2015. 

After this it was very nice to roll down – especially because in plain sunshine it wasn’t so cold as day before.


Étape / Stage 13 - Roussillon

Later on same day I stopped in Roussillon, a pictoresque village in Provence that has been voted many times as the most beautiful village in France. It is famous for the ocra colored cliffs and being on the top of a small hill, also in ocra colour. 

Now only few tourists walked in the city that was either mostly closed or under repareation. Winter is a good season for the preparations for new seasonw with masses of tourists.

Also now in winter, the village was nice, but dormant.


Étape / Stage 14 - With FdJ cycling team

After this the route of the Tour hivernal changed from the originally planned as I was invited by the Finnish Pro cyclist Jussi Veikkanen to join the Francaise des Jeux cycling theam training camp. Of mostly follow in on one day. In any case I started on Friday 13th (with no bad luck at all!) in the morning riding with Jussi and two other team members (and a scooter!), but had to give up only after 5 km. Pros are pros, and Pelago Sibbo is now made for racing; it’s a heavenly touring bike with sporty behaviour, but it’s not a racer. And I’m not a racer.

So, I made a tour on the hills of Provence all by myself, returned to base and talked with the mechanics of the team – all admiring the nice forms of Sibbio – and waited for the team to come back.

On next day I did a ride with Jussi from his home near Aix-en-Provence in superb lansdcape, perfect for cycling up and down the hills, but unfortunately the cloudy and almost rainy weather made the ride less spectacular – but in any case a very memorable one, as I have never before been riding with the pro cyclist and Finnish champion! Thanks, Jussi!


Stage 15 - Séte

The next stage was a relaxed Mediterranean village of Séte, famous for it’s holiday homes and fishing port. The ride begun in hald cloudy and very windy weather, but the wind blew the clouds away and finally the city and the sea were really charming. I’ve been in Séte before, and will surely return there again – it was nice also now with temperatureof about 15°C and sunshine, but beach and the terracess are definitely better in summer.


Tour Hivernal, almost halfway

19.2.2015 10.14.10

Étape / Stage 9 - Champagne

Another quickie! 40 km windy ride along the touristic wine route with lots of bubbly names and views that everyone recognises. The ride ended up to Epernay and small village called Ay near it. 

For the travelling Finns Ay is of course something very dear: AY is the company code for Finnair. And when the Finnair planes bank to final approach to the Helsinki Airport on the eastern side of the runways, they do it above a town called Sipoo, or Sibbo in Swedish. So, it was an honour to ride Sibbo in Ay.


Étape / Stage 10 - From Dijon to Beaune via Nuits-Saint-Georges

Next ride had even more wine as it went along one of the best wine regions in the world. Cote d’Or of Burgungy is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

But the ride started from Dijon, known for it’s mustard, and the bike needed a new bolt. Cobble stones of Roubaix took their tax and the crank fastening screw was missing already in Champagne, making the ride interesting as the crank needed to be fastened several times. Luckily the capable crew of Valandro bike shop fixed it and charged a horrible price of five euros. Merci!

After leaving Dijon, I rode fast on the main national road to Nuits-Saint-Georges, the hub of the wine area, and then down to Beaune. From there I strolled along the wine route that followed the hill, going from village to another with names that make all wine lovers weak: Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin, Fixin, and so on. I resisted tasting but had some local fermented grape juice with my meal after arriving to a hotel around sunset.


Étape / Stage 11 - Alpe d’Huez

After a long drive to mountains, I found myself in winter wonderland in Bourg-d’Oisans just below a Tour de France classic, ski station of Alpe d’Huez. I changed the winter tires, put the heavy clothes on and started the first real climb of this Tour Hivernal.

It WAS cold, but wasn’t any more after some kilometres of peddling. I had to do twice roadside stripping before I managed to go on without excessive sweating. And it was so beautiful! The whole landscape was bathing in streaking sunshine and the temperature in sunshine was very, very nice. 

Mountain riding in this kind of conditions is pure pleasure!


Étape / Stage 12 - Mont Ventoux

After a classic Tour de France mountain it was a time for another Tour classic, the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux.

I have been riding up to this almost two kilometres high mountain many times in summer, spring and autumn, but never in winter. Or in fact when staring the ride up, I wanted really to put the word winter in brackets, because the temperature was over 10°C – meaning that in Finnish scale it was like spring or cold summer day.

This time I knew how to dress for the winter ride up to mountains and had some warm, wind stopping clothes in backpack. 

Anyway, there was a winter up in the mountain. The ski station was open and the last part of the road up to the famous observatory tower of Ventoux was closed. And it was not only impossible to ride with narrow tires, but also strictly forbidden because of the danger of avalanches.

The day was again sunny and nice, and the ride was extremely smooth and good. Up to now, Tour Hivernal has been really lucky with the weather as the only rain day was the first one in Bordeaux. And funny enough during the sunny rides in northern France the south was cold and suffered traffic chaos because of snow - snow that now when I’m here in south remains only in the mountains.