If only we had the weather
Cycling in the Black Mountains

It was my privilege to have the opportunity to bring my trusty steed on our family holiday this year to France. Cycling in France for all that may not have tried it is a completely different experience to cycling in the south east of Essex. The roads are empty and the drivers (because of  Le Tour) give you all the time and space you need.

We started our trip with a stop in the Loire Valley but were only there for one night as a rest bite for the next destination, the Black Mountains near Montpellier. Having reached our destination by 11pm (car trouble), I set up the bike ready for an early start the next morning. Being a father of three young children means the rides have to completed by the time they have had breakfast so we can go out for the day, so on that note, I set out at 6am to see if I could better my time from last year from the In-Laws house to the summit of Pic De Nore, the highest point of the Black Mountains. It is a beautiful route of  just over 27 miles from the start of the foot hills to the summit, 1197m above sea level.

The first ten odd miles are flat with only 80mt of climbing but after that it starts to hurt! It was 26 degrees when I set out at 6am in the dark so by the time I was 17km from the top it was very hot to say the least. Riding past the bottom of a wind farm in the middle of a mountain range is an image all should experience. But to then later look down on it from another peak is breath taking. The climb is only about 5% average but the last 13 miles have earned a “HC” listing due to the 13-15% ramps on the switchbacks. I did manage to beat myself by 4 minutes which up there is an eternity.   

The only problem with a mountain climb that starts flat is the return journey is also flat at the end. 54 miles with 1280m of climbing in the first 27 miles is harder than it sounds believe me!

I chose to ride the same mountain again two days later but the long way. It took me through some of the most beautiful terrain I have ever seen. You get to see a lot of it as when you are climbing on average 100m per mile for 10 miles, you don’t really move that fast! I also went out for a couple of smaller rides just to explore with only my Garmin as back up if I got lost. Found myself on a road that I could swear was going downhill but was finding it incredibly difficult to keep pace. I looked to my computer to find it was actually a 7.9% gradient. Amazing landscape.

Our next stop was St Hilaire de Riez on the east coast France. Managed to get out for the one ride in our for day stop. Chose a point on a map to head for and went! A small Island called Noirmoutier-en-L’lle.

What an amazing place to ride to. It has miles of designated cycle paths that run adjacent to the main roads but then when it maters place you in the thick of things to see all. Even the bridge connecting the Island to the main land had a two fenced off cycle lanes.

Words sometimes do not tell the story so here are some pictures to help the imagination.
Russell Whitford.

A long way to go
Above the clouds
Why would you want to come home?
900m above sea level, the only way to get there is down the cliff.
7am and the sun has hit the castle in the centre of the picture
It's the one in the middle
It can get lonely at the top, but if you wait long enough someone will join you
That is the wind farm I rode past with the Pyrenees in the background
Cycle path, French style
With an amazing view


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