September 14, 2014

Col de la Cayolle ... the ride to Entrevaux

Easy. No, I won't tell you that. Piece of cake. Nope. But, the ride of a lifetime, yes! A long, picture-perfect climb up to Col de la Cayolle, with no average grade for any kilometer over 8%. The first 20 miles, a climb of 5500 feet. Through the most beauiful valley you could imagine!

Today's ride started so very gradually, with climbs of 4, 2, 1, percent. Leaving Barcelonnette, somewhere up above this I knew there would be a col, a pass, but I had no idea where until I was almost there.

Looking back, there was evidence of a climb.

The beginning of my route followed the Gorge du Bachelard, very pretty, wild, one of the many little gorges that enhance the southern France landscape.

And the road. It was perfect. Well, almost. Descending it would in places be rough, a bit gravelly. Climbing, no problem. No trucks. I saw bicycles, motorcycles, a few cars, no trucks.

Like climbs in the Alps do, I went up, and up, in and out of the forest.

This ride was so gorgeous, no wonder my time is always slow, I am always stopping to gape.

Often along the most beautiful little river, with water so clear the bottom was always visible, the rocks shimmering in varying hues.

Some of you at home know that when on a bike I am always on a scale between wary of and afraid of dogs, because too many riders I know have been bitten. These three elicited none of those emotions. They had a job to do, knew how to do it, and had no energy to harass me, had no interest at all in me. It is actually, in the end, not the dogs I have a problem with, but the owners who either don't care to or cannot train or control them. Watching sheep dogs work is a thing of beauty. These sheep were, headed down the road, but the shepherd, and his dogs, moved them off to the side so I could pass by.

Two of the three looked like the Great Pyrenees I see in the ... ah, you know where ... but were much smaller.

Knowing it would be stupid to run out of food, I had two sandwiches along, and stopped to eat one for lunch, when I was about 9K from the top.

Eventually the route led me out of the trees, though there were amost always great views,and into marmot land. Forgot to mention them yesterday,but from time to time, their sharp calls pierced the air.

The top, the col ... not so exposed as Bonette, not so high. But equally beautiful. There were motorcyclists there who kindly took a photo for me. Most everyone on wheels spoke German or Dutch (though one spoke some French also, and another some English also.)

All of the hikers I met were French. For the past few days I have heard almost no French, which is hard for my ears. But this photo reminds me of friends who likes to hike the Alps.

The descent. Yummmmm. For 35 miles downhill, I had almost never to push a pedal if I didn't want to. I mean literally, it was 7700 feet of descent over 35 miles. Yes, there were a few sections I needed to pedal to move forward, and of course, I always did pedal. Unless I was braking.

The top was, as expected, pretty steep from time to time, with some tight switchbacks. But nothing scarily exposed, nothing cramping up hands or arms with braking.

And I road through the most beautiful gorge, the Gorges de Daluis, where the sides are steep, and the rocks dark dark red.

I was often above the wide floodplain of the Var. It must be extraordinary in the springtime.

Dinner tonight, in Entrevaux. Tomorrow, Nice.

This was not the most challenging day's ride I have ever succeeded at, but it was certainly one of the most rewarding and certainly beautiful. 58 miles, 5600 feet climb, 7700 feet descent. Beautiful varying scenery. Little safe roads. Sunny blue skies. Perfect as it gets.


  1. Replies
    1. Fabulous it was ... this day's ride especially!

  2. Suze, that is one of my favorite climbs, hands down. I'm glad you had good weather for it (any rain today?). Still not sure about Nice, btw. Enjoy your last day on the road!

    1. Definitely now one of my very favorite of all routes. Totally excellent.

      No rain until just this afternoon in Nice. Hope you can get over this way, it would be fun.

  3. Entre vaux: between valleys - and then Nice... This morning, thought of your périple: a grand tour, nearing completion. Feels sudden, somehow. Your legs must tell a different story. Hope all is well in Nice.

    1. I didn't know that about aEntre vaux, and so will have to look. Probably between the valleys that come out of the Alps from Col de la Cayolle and Col de la Bonette. The ride into Nice definitely felt like a finish, though I hope to ride along the coast over the next few day. La boucle est bouclée, as JJ once told me.

  4. What a day. You are doing well to regard 58 miles and 5600 feet of climb as not very challenging. All you Mt Ventoux vets are the same, nothing else is hard. Congratulations once again on a superbly planned and executed ride.

    1. You know, it was truly just so beautiful, and much less hard than Bonette, that it was just enjoyable. Not to mention 35 or so continuous miles of downhill! Hard for me is more like today's ride, into Nice.

  5. Magnificent scenery! You were so fortunate to ride through such beautiful territory, I now have just one question for you – how hungry are you after all this intense riding?

    1. Short answer: very. And I eat all the time. A lot of people have told me that their clothes shrink. Oddly, there must be balance in clothing, or closets, because mine have been stretching.

      I think you have ridden this. If not, give it a try. You would love it!

    2. Now that is the kind of recommendation one cannot ignore. Once you hit that big lake all the way to Nice I have not been in those mountains ever (but now I feel like you have taken us all there) - stunningly beautiful. Thank you!


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