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Talk to any serious cyclist and they will be familiar with Mont Ventoux in the Provence region, south-east France. Standing alone and towering to 6,263 feet above the surrounding countryside, one could say any self-respecting (and keen) rider should have a crack at climbing to the summit by one of three routes. And that, in essence, was the formulation of a plan. We could cycle there from home – getting fit on the way – stay in a hotel/B&B in the village of Bédoin at it’s foot, strip the Pino down of all superfluous gadgets and accessories etc. and have a go at riding up it. Even if we didn’t make it to the top, it would be an adventure to get there and back.
We live in the south, central part of the UK. South of us is Southampton, and the ferries to Caen and the Cherbourg Peninsular. We could get to the port with an overnight stop halfway. An overnight ferry would have us in France for the second morning of our trip. From there, the most direct route is less than 600 miles.
However, there are some serious lumps towards the end of that route and while we relished the thought of having a crack at Mt Ventoux on the stripped down Pino, climbing almost as high with a fully loaded bike and trailer was not so appealing! An alternative route was needed – one that would avoid too many climbs. The mountain is not too far from Avignon which sits on the river Rhône and it’s possible to use the network of rivers and canals to navigate around France.
And so I devised a route: From Ouistreham, the ferry port near Caen, we would take the cycle path that follows the ‘Canal de Caen à la Mer’ as far as Pegasus Bridge then head across Normandy to reach the Loire at a town lovely called Beaugency where we have stayed before. We would follow the Loire east then south to Digoin where we could follow the Canal du Centre to Chalon sur Saône. It’s a bit of a dog-leg but is almost flat. The Saône flow south, and joins the Rhône at Lyon. That continues south to Avignon, passing close by Mt Ventoux, then flows out into the Mediterranean.
Then the International Tandem Rally (ITR) was announced by the Tandem Club and it would be held at a place called Marciac, some 80km west of Toulouse. If we were in the south of France anyway, we could continue to Marciac, spend the week at the ITR then cycle home from there, possibly up the west coast of France.
I used Memory Map to plan the route on the IGN 100,000 map of France:
I earmarked potential campsites at about 35-40 mile intervals using the ‘Archies’ app.
The trailer carried it’s own spare tubes, extra 1.5 ltr water, Camp chairs, tent and bedding, a small burner for tea/coffee and hard boiling eggs. On top were two solar panels to charge two small powerbanks during the day to recharge our phones/camera in the evening.
At the back of the bike in loose bags were food for lunch and snacks, utensils, helmets, and in the shade a FRIO bag with Karon’s insulin. This works by keeping it wet/damp and the evaporation keeps the contents cool. In the rear panniers were evening clothes and Karon’s medication. Tools and tubes under the crossbar, water behind the seat..3 x 0.75 ltr bottles and a 2 ltr Camelback. In the Arkle recumbent bags was cycling clothes, money, passports and sketching kits. The front bag held Karon’s blood-sugar test kit and her phone. My phone was mounted on the right handlebar to navigate with. There was another powerbank in the front seat-top bag which I could hook up to my phone if needed. There is also a front hub dynamo connected to a Busch + Müller Lumotec IQ2 Luxos B Dynamo Front Light with a USB outlet for powering small devices.