Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cycling in the Ardeche

French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhona Dolce Via l'Ardechoise
Me in the Ardeche September 1998
This time next week we will be off on our bikes again exploring the craggy terrain of the Ardeche, an area we first visited in September 1998 as a young married couple, a mere five months after our wedding. We didn't even own bikes then, but have fond memories of the week we spent in a rural gite in St Julien Labrousse and of touring the area in Gizmo, our Mini Cooper that we still own and enjoy road trips in France with. 

French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhona Dolce Via l'Ardechoise
Adrian in the Ardeche September 1998

Looking through our photo albums (remember them) we look young, we have no grey hairs, but if I’m honest we are probably fitter now than we were then. It would be many years later when Adrian would reignite his love of road bikes and I would discover a love of cycling, but our love of France and especially rural France was already there. We are really looking forward to returning, re-living a piece of our youth and rediscovering this area with our bikes.

On Saturday Adrian will be taking part in the Ardéchoise, which will be the biggest organised cycle event he has so far taken part in. The small town of St Félicien will host over 16,000 cyclists for this four-day event that is now in its 25th year. With courses for adolescents, cyclo-tourists and sportives there is something for all levels. 

French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhona Dolce Via l'Ardechoise
Course profile of Le Doux - look at those hills!

Adrian has signed up for Le Doux an 85km route around Le Doux valley that climbs 1,525m on hills that will be far more challenging than anything we find here in south Deux Sèvres. This event is exactly half the distance of the Prudential Ride London Surrey 100 he is doing at the end of July and will be great practice for the three big climbs he will have to tackle in the Surrey hills.

On Sunday we will take the tourist steam train from Tournon-sur-Rhône up to Lamastre in the hills and after a small detour down memory lane to St Julien Labrousse, we will start cycling the Dolce Via, a 50km cycle route that takes you from the Ardeche hills to the River Rhône via safe off-road pathways that is perfect for family cycling. We will then complete a section of the Via Rhôna, the cycle route along the Rhône from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean, to return to Tournon. For me at least, the cycling and the distances shouldn’t be too challenging and add in a spot of wine tasting, Côtes du Rhône has always been one of our favourites, and it is looking to be a rather nice few days away from home.

French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhona Dolce Via l'Ardechoise
Wine tasting with Gizmo Tain L'Hermitage 1998


French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhona Dolce Via l'Ardechoise
Wine tasting with Gizmo at the same place, revamped in 2008

For more information about the Ardéchoise event see here and for cycle routes in the Ardeche see Freewheeling France here.

Thanks to the generosity of our family and friends we have already managed to raise £433 on our Prudential Ride London Surrey 100 Just Giving fundraising page. If you would like to give Adrian a virtual cheer on and give his training a morale boost you can make a donation by clicking on this link. We would love to raise £500 for Epilepsy Action. Many thanks.

This post has been linked to the Dreaming of France blog link up at An Accidental Blog. See here for more posts including a cover reveal for a new novel set in France.