At least once a year I like to chuck the bike in the car and go and ride somewhere new.
Last spring I decided to climb the Mont Aigoual. It's the second highest peak in the Cevennes at 1567 metres. I started at Le Vigan, about a two hour drive from my place. The ride begins with the ascent of the Col du Minier, a fairly gentle climb but twenty one kilometres long. It was a beautiful morning, but rather clammy as there had been massive rainfall the day before. Every hairpin bend seemed to have it's own small stone bridge with a stream, swollen from the rain, crashing down the side of the mountain. Lots of lush vegetation and trees too, so whenever I stopped to admire the view or to take a photo my glasses steamed up. As I climbed higher the trees began to thin out and be replaced with grass and wild flowers and in places the road twisted and turned around enormous rock formations that almost touched my shoulders as I rode by. Even a gentle climb can be hard when it's as long as this, so I was glad when I reached the sign for the col. I stopped to eat a cereal bar and take the ritual pic of the bike in front of the sign. From the summit the road flattens and even dips slightly down to the village of l'Espérou where you turn left and begin the climb to the top of the Aigoual. There had been very little traffic on the Minier so I was shocked to find myself suddenly in the middle of bikes, cars and tourist buses. Rather too crowded for my taste, still, after about thirty six kilometres of almost constant climbing, it felt like being on top of the world. The big photo which heads my blog was taken about fifty metres from the summit on my way down. A shame the horizon is a bit hazy, but I really like that pic, as to me, it seems to really sum up what the freedom of riding a bike is all about.
The descent to Le Vigan was incredible. By now it was lunch time and there was hardly any traffic, it was warm and sunny with very little wind, so I had the pleasure of twenty one downhill kilometres with sweeping curves and hairpin bends. During the whole descent only one car overtook me and I counted two going the other way! After a while my hands and wrists began to ache from being constantly in the same position but with the speed and the warm air I began to feel as if I was floating, as if the bike wasn't quite touching the ground. It was easily the most pleasant downhill ride I've ever done, and I can recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in the region.