<italic>Our rides take us from L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue over the Comtat Plain, to the Mont Ventoux massif, onto the Plateau de Vaucluse and into the Lubéron massif. We offer a few examples of some routes here, as you might ride them on the trip, but the programme and the individual rides will be adapted to suit the weather conditions.</italic>
On the day of our arrival, the prologue takes us up to the Plateau de Vaucluse, which rises up from the plains directly behind our base of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We can either visit the largest spring in France at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, or ride straight along the southern edge of the plateau to the pretty medieval village of Gordes. The pass of the day, the Col des Trois Termes, is not too high, but very lovely nonetheless. We then take the western edge of the plateau to return to Isle.
Right away, to begin with, we’ll cycle one of the region's scenic highlights - the Gorges de la Nesque. After we set off, the first real stage takes us northwards and the first section is largely flat so that we can get into a rhythm and benefit from slipstreaming in the group. From Mazan we turn eastwards and Villes-sur-Auzon sees the beginning of the famous Nesque Gorge, where the road winds ever higher until finally we have spectacular views down into the valley. The viewing point where the road is highest is a mandatory photo stop, as we see Mont Ventoux in all its glory, possibly still snowcapped. We return on picturesque lanes via Saint-Hubert, the Col de la Ligne, Murs and Gordes.
This ride has a bit of everything. We start off heading north again, but today we opt for the slightly more idyllic, though hillier, option which eventually brings us to Méthamis. But here we take a narrow road with very little traffic through a spectacular gorge that brings us to the Col de la Ligne. We follow the high road to Murs, arriving at the hilly terrain between the Plateau de Vaucluse and the Lubéron, where another tourist highlight, the Roussillon yellow ochre cliffs, awaits us. To get back to Isle we use the Véloroute du Calavon, which follows an old railway line.
On our fourth day, people might like to take things a little more easily today - a reasonable wish. Those who don't fancy spending the entire day by the hotel pool can explore the Alpilles. This term (“little Alps”) conceals a mini-mountain range which, being 200 m high, isn't exactly a laughing matter. Not worth it? Actually, it is, for the Alpilles are a definite scenic highlight, and the largely flat approach is worth taking on for the pale rocks and the medieval village of Les Baux.
The Giant awaits. What on earth would a cycling week in Provence be without Mont Ventoux? Once again we lay the groundwork over the Plateau de Vaucluse to Sault, where the easiest of the three ascents of the Giant begins. Nonetheless, we have to do 1200 m of climbing over around 25 kms - not an easy job in mid-April. But the first part of the climb is fairly leisurely, and when the famous rocky bleakness starts after Chalet Reynard our euphoria will give us wings. The rapid descent then takes us down to Bédoin, and hopefully a north wind will push us back over the flat Comtat to Isle.<italic>* The last part of the Mont Ventoux ascent can still be closed off at this time of the year. But we shall definitely get to Chalet Reynard.</italic>
This option does the ride clockwise, so it includes the far tougher ascent of Mont Ventoux from Bédoin. For seasoned climbers.<italic>* The last part of the Mont Ventoux ascent can still be closed off at this time of the year. But we shall definitely get to Chalet Reynard.</italic>
From the south, the Col de la Liguière takes us up onto the Plateau de Vaucluse, and we ride through a typically barren Provençal landscape, taking in great views of the Lubéron to the south. This means that, coming from Isle, we first have to ride a good way to the west until we reach the starting point at Saint-Saturnin. 600 m of climbing to the pass, then we head through the famous lavender fields which, however, are still an unspectacular brownish-grey at this time of the year instead of their bright lilac. Another highlight is the deserted, forested Route des Indochinois, which eventually brings us to the Col de la Ligne. The Col de Murs, with its lovely descent through a gorge-type landscape, takes us to the Comtat, and then the road back to Isle isn't far off.
For our final day we've set aside a long stage which takes us to the Lubéron, to the south-east of Isle. The ride there is flat: we again use the converted railway line, the Véloroute du Calavon, to ride along the northern side of the massif. Then, in Cereste, we face the none-too-difficult, and for that reason all the more beautiful, climb to a pass with the lovely, melodic name of Col de l'Aire dei Masco. A fantastic descent brings us to the south side of the Lubéron, where we ride through several picturesque villages to Lourmarin and then cross the ridge again to Bonnieux. We take the cycle path back to Isle, too.