I regret to admit I was underprepared for my cycling tour through Provence. Taking a spin class once every few weeks (well, maybe once every few months) did not ready me for the climbs, the mistral - the dry cold winds that clean out one season for the next, and the false bottoms - it looks like you are going downhill but you pedal hard like you are going uphill. I spent many nights rubbing analgesics on my legs.
It was an unintentional mismatch of expectations. At the first dinner when asked why they had come to Provence most answered to conquer Mont Ventoux, a famed stage of the Tour de France. I said I had come to eat and drink. (The only French phrase I knew then was ‘Je voudrais manger.’) And I did: calisson, lavender and cassis ice creams, pickled asparagus, pizza, breads, honey, ratatouille, saucisson, herbal apertifs, figs, jujube berries, chevre, provencal wines. I spent most of my time at the rear of the pack to defend us from attack and to work through my food hangovers.
The tour was wonderful and well organized. All the hotels and restaurants they chose were top notch. The guides waited patiently for me to finish. The bike is a great way to see Provence, from the ground and through the bucolic towns, villages, and the fields. The traffic was agreeable, always yielding to cyclists.
And when I do it next time (there is always a next time), I now know to be more diligent about setting the bike at a higher resistance when my spin instructor yells at me to do so.