Friday, September 10, 2021

Le Cirque de Combe-Laval, France

 The Vercors Mountains lie to the east of our base in Tain l'Hermitage. The French refer to them as "massifs" which is appropriate as they are massive and vertical and in your face.

There lies one of my favorite rides, the Cirque de Combe Laval. While cirque can mean a circus or circuit in this sense it means a gorge where the end and sides encircle you. I'll be attached to the side.

I am starting in St Jean en Royans and as it is a Monday, a quiet day in France, I am able to park "en centreville" next to a boulangerie - always a good option for the end of a ride.

There is no warm up, I climb 2k feet in the first hour and then it levels off onto a breathtakingly spectacular balcony road cut into the vertical face of the massif. A road that was built in the 1890s to transport lumber down from the Lente Forest. The pictures say it all.

I ride and walk for a while taking in the view. I meet a couple from Holland and ask the gentleman to take a picture for me and hesitatingly point out that it is a fine picture of his finger which was in front of the lens. His wife finds this highly amusing and takes the picture for me. Somehow I've not offended the gentleman who is also laughing.

Leaving the gorge behind I continue to climb up through the Lente Forest until finally the fun starts - 18 miles back to St. Jean en Royans nearly all downhill. I stop for a Crepe Bretonne (a large crepe folded over ham and an egg) in La Chappelle en Vercors. Then continue down to the Grand Goulets, another road cut into the side of a gorge, but unfortunately closed since 2000 and replaced by a tunnel. It goes a mile through the mountain and is well lit built with cyclists and walkers in mind. With no GPS signal I have no idea of my speed but it was quick which is good as it was a cold.
Down, down I go through another gorge called the Petits Goulets until there are just a few miles of flat through fruit and nut farms back to the car and the boulangerie for dessert.

For route information click here.

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