Tour de France rest day
Rest day on the Med

Sunday July 24, 2011
Belmont (suburban Grenoble) to Palavas (suburban Montpellier)
132.4 km
7:19 in the saddle

Amanda writes:

The day started with us knowing not only did we have a destination but a required time goal. Emmanuel had booked a train departure from Valence and we needed to be sure we were at the TGV station in time for him to catch it. At breakfast we also determined the only TGV we could catch to Montpellier that took bikes was at 5:45 so the arrival time became a bit earlier. Emmanuel had been so gracious with all our requests for the Tour de France I was determined to ensure he didn’t miss his train. I was less concerned about ours. So we left on time at 9:00 exactly.

We finished the rest of the time trial course which was fun as it was the downhill part. After the decent to Grenoble it was climbing time. We had 1200 meters to climb which seemed like peanuts compared to the Alpe d’Huez. It was quite hard though. Maybe it was the extra 40 pounds I had or the lack of Tour de France adrenaline but it was tougher. Not impossible but hard. After two hours of climbing we began the three hour ride to the train station.

Again the ride down was a thrill. Incredible views and amazing scenery. No words or photographs can describe the beauty we saw today. It was amazing. Once through the beauty we began the flat part which was fun especially with a tail wind. We made it to the TGV station with time for a coffee. It was good for Emmanuel to be heading home to Nawal but I was sorry to see him go. He is a great riding partner and a wonderful friend. I only hope next time Nawal can come.

We took our train to Montpellier and then road about 25 km to a beach town on the Mediterranean Sea. Wow, its gorgeous. We went to the campsite and they were sold out. We were too exhausted to search further and found a hotel. We had dinner which was very hard to order without Emmanuel. We are looking very forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

The last week has been a dream vacation but we are so tired. We are so grateful to Emmanuel and Nawal for helping us plan and to all their friends for hosting us and showing us what France is all about. We really are so lucky to have met wonderful people who have opened their homes to us and been so much fun. French people rock!

Andrew writes:

We waved goodbye to Julien, Selena, Romane and Juliette, and their beautiful home at 9am. First up was 10km of wicked downhill all the way to Grenoble. We had watched all of the Tour de France riders ride this same route the day before on TV. It was kinda cool doing the same thing. Navigating through Grenoble was easier, as it was Sunday, the roads were very quiet.

Riding to Grenoble. The mountains lie ahead.

Towering above us, les Vercors.

Before we knew it we were on the ascent up Les Vercors. It was about 14km to the top, the town of St. Nizier. The climb was reminiscent of the Alpe D Huez both in length and height (From 200 to 1200m). Emmanuel and I rode together, with Amanda not far behind. We did our best not to get passed by any cyclists, and even managed to pass a few stragglers ourselves. It took us about 2 hours to reach the top and I was a bit nervous that it was 1pm when we stopped for lunch and we had only ridden 40km.

Riding up, up, up, up, up.

Celebrating our ascent. Gorgeous view of Grenoble below.

The massif of St. Nizier.

After a quick lunch of sandwiches, we started a fantastic descent through La Gorge de la Bourne. This was an old road, completed in 1872, that winds it’s way through a national park. The road appears to be carved out of the rock itself. To our left was a river, hundreds of feet below. Above us were massive rock formations. I think it must be very similar to riding in the Grand Canyon. I think that anyone coming to France should visit here and either drive, or ride their bikes through.

Note the time, and the temperature. We wore lots of layers for this ride.

Riding through la gorge de Bourne.

We came upon a town at the bottom of the gorge, just as the road flattened out into gentle rolling hills and mostly flat terrain. There were some lovely grottos, perfect for swimming, except Emmanuel said the water was very cold. He had been here once as a child.

Patios built into the rock above the grotto.

This town had an aqueduct. Pretty cool.

We had a strong wind at our backs and made it to the TGV station with lots of time to spare. We shared a few drinks and some food before saying ‘au revoir’ to Manu. It had been such an awesome week riding with him, and can’t wait to see him and Nawal when they come to show us Paris next week.

Arriving at the TGV station. These are different than regular train stations as they serve only the lightning quick TGV.

The TGV ride was uneventful with the exception of getting on board. The train rolled into the station, yet none of the conductors seemed very helpful. Amanda had saw the bicycled car near the front of the train, about 200m from where we were. We hurried over only to be told that this was for first-class passengers only. The 2nd class bike compartment was at the other end of the train we were told, and the train would be leaving on time in 3 minutes. We rode for what seemed like 500m to the back end of the train and hurriedly loaded our bikes and luggage on. No sign of any conductors, thanks France! Still, we were onboard the train, albeit surrounded by about 50 rug rats returning from camp. The TGV sped along at 300km/h and we arrived in Montpellier in about 90 minutes.

I plugged the coordinates for a campsite along the Mediterranean into the GPS and frowned. It wanted to send me in a big semi-circle to get to the campsite. I didn’t like it. I could clearly see on the map that there was a more direct route, and knew there was a bike route somewhere near the road that we could follow. What transpired was a nightmare ride through Montpellier which included several u-turns and close calls in the traffic circles. At one point Amanda choked on her water and almost died on the side of the road as cars sped past at 100km/h. She had also dropped my new tour de France water bottle which I feared for as cars nearly ran over it several times. Both my wife and the water bottle were fine.

It took us a long time to finally get to Palavas, a popular tourist destination along the sea. We made for the closest campground only to be told it was closed. The nearest one was several kilometers away back where we had come from. Tired and hungry, Amanda and I decided to stay in a hotel. We went to a restaurant and had some trouble communicating with the hostess. Having little idea what we were ordering was exciting and I quite enjoyed the oysters and steak that I ended up with. Amanda looked a little squeamish about the shrimp and salmon salad that came. The shrimp still had eyes and legs. Having been spoiled with fine French wines for the last week, I was somewhat disappointed with the wine we had. I think Emmanuel would find it suitable for cooking.

I think we will take a day off tomorrow and relax on the beach. I saw dozens of people kitesurfing when we arrived, so maybe I can rent a windsurf board and go play on the water.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Palavas-les-Flots, France

Tour de France rest day
Rest day on the Med