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The Mistral Tour 2015


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You will soon know why it was so named. ;)

 

I had a brief ride in France with a German friend of mine. We agreed to meet in Serres and to ride together from there.

 

I entered into France from Italy, through the Col d'Agnel, a very steep little pass not much lower than the much more famed iseran and Stelvio:

 

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It was a great day, with fantastic weather:

 

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Yes, the views are nice, but I am more interested in the road. ;)

 

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From here I decided to ride the Col de Vars. While highly famed for being a classic Tour de France climb, it's actually a superb riding road, and it has been freshly resurfaced.

 

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Yes, there are still plenty of GTS1000's around. ;)

 

I must confess during this particular tour I really "let it rip" and my fuel mileage suffered accordingly. However the first day was nothing compared to what laid ahead. :grin:

 

Anyhow, we met at our hotel in Serres, had a dinner in a nearby restaurant nad prepared for the next day, which turned out to be high speed mayhem.

 

To be continued.

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And day two brought with it the true insanity.

 

First on the menu was the well known, very fast Serres-Nyons road.

 

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Apart from a handful of villages such as this it's about 40km of deserted road, very fast and flowing. It was mostly resurfaced this Spring and this allows for serious shenanigans.

 

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Oh yes, did I mention my friend came on a brand new KTM Superduke 1290? Keeping up with it is not hard, as long as the road is really curvy and mostly flat, but once the power-to-weight ratio comes into play, it's good night.

 

Now comes one of my favorite part, the Gorges d'Ardeche. Apart from a handful of restaurants and the usual feral goats (which have a habit of sunbathing behind blind turns... luckily the smell gives them away), there's literally nothing to slow you down.

I know this road well and you could tell from the fact even that KTM could not pass me. ;)

 

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Pictures cannot give the road and the place justice. This place has its own feeling and its own microclimate. The road you see right now was only opened in 1960: before the only way through was by flat-hulled boats. The place was truly desolate, so much it was used in the past to house leper colonies.

Intriguingly enough, many of the numerous caves in the area give the idea in a remote past (Aurignacian) the valley was far more populated than right now, at least during the hunting season.

There's a famous cave (Grotte Chauvet) decorated with paintings but due to having being closed to the public since its discovery it's not as well known as Lascaux and Altamira.

 

Anyway, back to us...

 

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Apart from fuel mileage, this magnificent butterfly was the only casualty of the trip.

 

To be continued.

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After the Ardeche we took a series of backroads to get to the Alés, a city you couldn't pay me enough money to live in.

From there we took the N106 to Florac and it was the first surprise of the tour. It's fast, it has little traffic and it has a lot surisingly good and well surfaced curves.

next up on the rich menu for the day were the Gorges du Tarn and the Gorges de la Jonte. The hotel was booked in Meyrueis.

 

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This is the off season and thank God for that: during July and August caravans and the like can literally drive you insane.

 

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The road is nice but surface is a mixed bunch: some tracts are bone rattling terrible, others are literally silky smooth. Caution is advised!

 

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Plenty of these small villages on the banks of the river: as with the Ardeche once upon a time boats were the only way to travel between them. You can still board one in the village of La Malene.

 

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There are two castles in the valley: both have been turned into high end hotels. As you can imagine prices are in the heart attack region!

 

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The Jonte is not as varied and technical as the Tarn, but surface is constantly good and it's very fast. Another pleasant surprise.

 

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A view from my hotel room in Meyrueis. Minutes later I hit the shower and upon emerging I found it was literally pouring down.

After an excellent dinner wholly made of local products it was time to hit the hay and prepare for the next day... though nothing could prepare us for what laid ahead.

 

To be continued.

 

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Next morning the rain had stopped and we had our sights on the next leg of the tour: riding to the famous Cirque du Navacelles.

 

The weather was cool but not cold and there was some wind blowing... nothing to worry about, right? :grin:

 

Our first stop was at the Abime du Bramabiau, a cave from which a waterfall sprouts:

 

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Nice, isn't it? And not a soul in sight on the road.

 

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While we were busy snapping pictures a pair of vultures started circling over our heads, like in a Spaghetti Western.

I said to Toni: "This is a bad omen". I had no idea how right I was. ;)

 

A little after leaving Bramabiau, the road conditions started to worsen, the temperature started to drop and the wind turned into a full force Mistral.

Undaunted, we proceeded towards our next stop, the Mount Aigoual with its weather observatory.

 

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It cannot get worse than that, right?

 

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It sure can.

 

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The Aigoual is just 1500 meters high but it was wrapped in low clouds/fog and swept by a gale force Mistral. I didn't even trust getting off the bike to get a picture.

 

So we rode down that cold rock as fast as conditions allowed. The temperature and road conditions remained not exactly ideal until, all of a sudden, the skies opened, the Mistral turned into a gentle breeze, temperatures rose and tarmac suddenly became spotless.

This part of the ride was nigh on exhilerating.

 

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If you squint hard enough you can see the Mediterranean Sea. :grin:

 

The ride to the Cirque was mostly uneventful.

 

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One of the few things of note:

 

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A stone circle (cromlech): the area is literally filled with them.

 

And finally we got to the Cirque:

 

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Yes, it's not the Grand Canyon but it's a great place nonetheless. I was struck by how quiet and peaceful it is. off season makes sure apart from the very occasional bike and the odd couple walking their dogs, there's hardly a soul in sight.

 

To be continued.

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Very nice tour report. I have a GTS 1000 in Milan and will be going back to ride next May. I would love to see this route on a map so we can incorporate it in our travels.

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Picture uploads will follow "shortly".

 

Very nice tour report. I have a GTS 1000 in Milan and will be going back to ride next May. I would love to see this route on a map so we can incorporate it in our travels.

 

The problem is I conduct all planning like Rommel and Patton did: with paper maps and atlases. It's far funnier than using a computer and part of the experience. :grin:

I can give you a detailed breakdown of the most significant routes if you will, however: from there you can use a route planner or an atlas as you prfer.

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