Monday, September 1, 2014

Day 8: Le Mistral

The big story about today's ride was the mistral. I had always assumed that it - an extremely strong wind that blows down out of the mountains and has long been associated with Provence - occurs only in the winter. I was wrong. Granted, when I asked the young woman at the reception desk of our hotel whether the wind we were experiencing was truly a mistral, she thought for a moment, then said, "Oui, un petit mistral." "Normally," she went on to say, "the wind blows much stronger in a mistral.

This was after Mark and I had gone for an "easy" ride through wine country near here, looping around some jagged peaks called the "Dentelles de Montmirail," and nearly getting blown off our bikes more times than I can count. 

The first part of the ride wasn't bad because we had the wind at our backs. We went through vineyards, up to the village of Séguret, where the above picture was taken, then passing by Sablet and Gigondes. There is apparently lots of good wine-tasting in the area, but we weren't interested. 

It was when we started heading back north and east - and uphill - that we encountered the full force of the winds. We kept riding up and up (and I kept swearing) until we reached the spot from which the above photograph was taken. It really doesn't do justice to what we saw, but one can clearly see the dentelles - teeth - on the right.

We descended down into the town of Malaucène, which is one of the three traditional starting points for the ascent of Mont Ventoux. There, we had lunch, and were nearly clobbered as I ate my salad Niçoise and Mark his pasta carbonara by a large patio umbrella that came crashing down a few inches from our table. Yes, it was windy.

The wind is supposed to die down quite a bit by tomorrow morning, which is when a number of members of the tour are planning to do Mont Ventoux. Mark and I ascended from Bedoin a couple of years ago, then descended into Malaucène, from which point he plans to ride up tomorrow, then possibly descend to Bedoin before climbing back up and zipping down to Malaucène. Others are going to try to earn the distinction of doing each of the three ascents.

I, meanwhile, will be enjoying the Vaison Market in the morning, followed by some shopping in the afternoon, perhaps then followed by a nap.

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