Bienvenue to favorite bicycle ride in all of France. One that I did so often while living in Provence that my friends called it my 'church.' Aptly named.
Depending on which direction you're coming from, you'll probably come through the small town of Villes-sur-Auzon to begin the climb. Be sure to fill up your water bottles at the public fountain across from the Cafe du Soleil; the perfect place for that final espresso. As you follow the signs for Sault to leave town, you'll quickly turn right onto the sleepy, 22 km road up and through the winding canyon that follows the Nesque river. There have been times when I've been on this route when over the course of three hours I've see only one or two cars. It's the ideal place to just pedal and savor. On a weekend you'll only see fellow, smiling cyclists.
You begin in the lush, green valley and gradually start to see Mont Ventoux in the distance behind you, on your first few switchbacks. The grade of the climb is gentle, then grows tougher as you get toward the middle section and the final stretch, but it's a comfortable challenge. Soon you're above the tree line and large exposed faces of limestone tower above and around you. You'll pass under a few small archway tunnels as you hit the last few kilometers and finally, you see the summit and viewpoint. There's always a local selling honey and dried lavender and it's important to soak up the cathedral canyon, before layering up for your return descent the way you came up.
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Riding a dream
Completing a 13-mile ascent of Mt. Ventoux from Bedoin, we thought we had reached the pinnacle of beautiful views at its peak. After we descended to the lavender fields below and through the quaint town of Sault, we found ourselves climbing once again, this time to the Gorge de la Nesque. In silence and awe, our bike tires caressed the curvy road on the gorge’s edge for miles. We rested and marveled at this magnificent canyon, discussed the beauty of France and what this ride meant to all five of us. This photo was taken as my fellow Velocureans began to depart and continue this inspiring ride.