Cycling Les Gorges de la Nesque

gorges de la nesque

CYCLING LES GORGES DE LA NESQUE

The cycle through Les Gorges de la Nesque is almost my favourite ride of the region. It might be 17kms up hill, but it’s not steep (well only a couple of bits) and the scenery is awesome . Who cares if you take all day, have a picnic half way up and sit on one of the walls and contemplate the sheer majesty of it all?

The best route is to start on the Route du Mt Ventoux (D974) out of Bédoin but then veer off onto the D19 to Flassan. Take your time on this road as the views south over the hills of the Vaucluse and west towards the Dentelles de Montmirail are worth a little breather. At Flassan turn south, still on the D19, towards Villes sur Auzon. This is one of the best ‘freewheels’ in the area, 5km of downhill, fast enough to feel the wind in your hair but not so fast to scare the children.

In Villes sur Auzon follow the one way system round and then take the D942 out of town – you’re on your way. The first 6kms or so are an easy ride past the quaintly squared off box bushes and through the woods of the kermes oak that are typical of the region. Then the road picks up the edge of the gorge and follows it to the summit. As you climb so the gorge deepens until, at the summit, you are staring down into a 600m defile and millions of years of geology, to the valley floor below. To add to the drama, it’s an unusual day that the Royal Eagles aren’t circling above you, catching the thermals as the sweep up from the gorge.

Having paused to take in the view you then have two options; either to turn round and freewheel for half an hour back down to Villes sur Auzon and have a celebratory beer in the Café du Soleil. Or, if you’re feeling bold you can press on for Sault, the lavender capital of Provence. It’s another excellent freewheel down through the hamlet of Monieux and then into the open valley at the bottom of the hill.

For those of you who like a challenge I can offer an alternate route to Sault. At Monieux leave the D942 and take the road into the village. Continue through the village on the Chemin du Moustier and keep going until you hit the main road (D1). If you make it without stopping you’ve just climbed 230m in just over a kilometer – a gradient of 23%. To put that in perspective, the steepest part of any road up Mt Ventoux is 12% – or half as steep. At the top you can turn right onto the D1 and make your way to Sault, glowing with the pride of your victory or weighed down by the shame of your defeat.

The ride up to the village of Sault is a little steep but worth the effort. I recommend lunch at Le Promenade, it has excellent views over the valley towards Mt Ventoux.

THE RETURN JOURNEY

There are times when you just have to take a main road and this is one of them. There’s no avoiding the D942/D1 out of Sault and the climb out of the valley is a relatively busy highway. However, don’t despair. After about 7kms there is a turning to the left (D1A) which follows the main road but takes a more beautiful, meandering route along the ridge and away from the traffic. As it avoids the infamous hill at Les Abeilles on the main road it’ worth the detour alone, but its outstanding views and hardly any traffic repay the slightly longer distance.

At the hamlet of La Gabelle, fork right onto the D217, cross the main road and still on the D217, enjoy a lovely freewheel back into Villes sur Auzon and the Café du Soleil.

Sandwich time
at the summit of Les Gorges de la Nesque