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Col de Vence

Vence – Sigale Loop

June 21st, 2010

72 miles, 4 hours 45 minutes ride time.

View this ride on MapMyRide.

What a difference a day makes! Today I set out to do the ride I had intended to do yesterday. The very cold weather, the rain, the wind, all contributed to my decision to cut that ride short. Today things couldn’t have been more different. The skies were blue, the sun was out, the weather was warm and wonderful. Altogether it was a picture perfect day and what turned out to be easily one of the ten best rides I’ve ever done.

I left Vence around 8:00AM and headed up the Col de Vence, now for the second time in two days. It’s a very nice climb, not too long (about 9 kilometers) and not too steep (about 6-7% grade overall), enough to make you work, but not enough to wear you down too quickly. One very nice thing about this Col (which is French for mountain pass) is that is is very well marked. At each kilometer there is a sign with information about how far you have left to the summit, the average grade of the next kilometer and more. When I reached the peak yesterday the rain was coming down, the temperatures were in the mid 40s and behind me was thunder and lightning. Today it was clear, warm and absolutely gorgeous. I descended the other side quickly, zipped right past Coursegoules and headed on to Bouyon. Now, yesterday I had continued on from Bouyon to le Brock, heading back towards Vence. Today, I headed north to the village of les Ferres. It was a nice gentle climb along a wonderful mountain road running along the side of the mountain. I passed a few other cyclists along the way.

Stopping in les Ferres for some nourishment I put in a call to Carole. It’s absolutely amazing to me how well my French cell phone works over here. I’ve been able to place calls to the US from just about any place I’ve been, no matter how remote. As we were talking I saw a group of about ten riders coming up the road the way I had just come. I quickly hung up, jumped on my bike and headed after them. They didn’t seem to be moving too quickly, so I was pretty sure I could catch them before too long. Turned out to be a cycling club from Nimes who were here on holiday. They weren’t moving too fast, so I moved on ahead of them.

I stopped briefly in the next village, Conségudes for water and then headed off towards Roquesteron. It was mostly down hill from Conségudes to Roquesteron and the road passed through some beautiful, heavily forested woods. A really nice descent.

Roquesteron sits right at the bottom of this valley, just to the side of the l’Estéron river. At this point you can turn east towards Gilette and Vence, but I decided to make one more little climb up to Sigale, about 5 kilometers. A great little village with a huge, majestic clock tower. I stopped here for some Orangina and then headed back down. Immediately out of town I broke my front derailer cable. Not a huge deal, see my other post. Zipped through Roquesteron and set off on the road to Gilette. Pretty much up and down the side of the valley, climbing some then descending some. A nice ride indeed, very scenic and very charming.

GiletteWhen Gilette came into view I was quite impressed. A very, very cool little village situated at a break in the cliffs. I pulled into town, found a patisserie and bought some Organia and a piece of flan. The flan in France is quite good, I end up eating a lot of it (and it’s very different from the flan served in most Mexican restaurants in the US). From Gilette it was all downhill to the Le Var river, a big river that runs from way up in the Alpes down to the sea. I followed the river for a short spell and then turned up towards Carros Village. A great climb, a passing glance at Carros and then down the road to Gattières and home to Vence. See the image on the left of Gilette. Click for a larger verison.

All in all, an absolutely wonderful day. The weather was perfect, the route was beautiful and I visited three more new stops on my list of mountain villages (les Ferres, Sigale, Gilette).

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