Day 9 : Climbing all day
We paid for the campsite in the morning and cycled back to Entrevaux. There we had our standard breakfast of bread with some spread and some nice pastry from the bakery. The 7 km we had to cycle to reach the route was made easy by another cyclist. He overtook us so we could use him to stay out of the wind. Without much effort we were back on track. We started with the Gorges du Cians, it wasn't very steep but 28 kilometers long.
The Gorges du Cians are completely red
We often passed through tunnels
Waterfalls in the Gorges du Cians
Near the end of the Gorges we arrived at a few tunnels for cars, we had to go around and use the old road.
The old road around the tunnels
It was warm again today, so we needed a lot of water. I couldn't carry more than two liters. Sometimes we would drink six a day. We couldn't buy water until we descended the col de la Couillole. We both couldn't pronounce the name. Before we got to the top, we bought some ice cream which made cycling much easier.
View from the col de la Couillole
After that col followed a pretty dangerous descent. Over a small road, with decent asphalt, we went down very steep right next to a cliff. The road was just wide enough for two cars. There were many tunnels and corners we couldn't see around. The col was 1678 meters high. We descended at least one kilometer, and the village we ended up in lay at about 600 meters of elevation. We would climb the Bonette during the evening. That climb started 40 kilometers away and at 1120 meters. The route description didn't mention a climb, but this clearly involved climbing another 520 meters.
Down in the village we wanted to buy food, but it was lunchtime. The French always close all the stores between 12 and 3. We had only eaten a few muesli bars and some ice cream since breakfast. The next village, Isola, was 13 kilometers away. It wasn't flat at all, so it took 45 minutes to get there. It was 2 o'clock by now. In Isola we found a restaurant where we bought a sandwich and some soda. We also needed to find someone to give us a stamp.
Another half an hour of cycling later, at the base of the Bonette, we finally found the first grocery store of the day that was open. It was 16:00 by now. We had planned to start climbing by then, so we might reach the other side of the mountain around 20:00. That wasn't going to happen, just before 17:00 we set out. Nearly every time a car came down the people waved, honked, clapped, or put their thumbs up. That hadn't happened on all the other mountains.
The climb was pretty steep, and nearly 30 kilometers long. The higher we got the colder it became. A few kilometers before the summit I got off my bike to put on my jacket. I also got an apple and a bottle of lemonade to get some energy. Bram was still cycling in his shorts and cycling shirt, he wanted to make it to the top without stopping. At one point we had the option to descend right away, or climb some more to make a loop around the summit. That meant another kilometer of very steep climbing. With half-frozen legs it seemed even steeper than it actually was.
The col de Bonette is the highest point of the 100 cols tour. Because it was already 20:00 and we were at 2800 meters it was freezing. Now we understood why all those people had been honking. Before we took pictures we put on some extra clothes.
Bart with the 100 cols shirt
There was a walking path going uphill a little higher. Before we stopped I had planned to walk to the actual summit, but after taking photos I just wanted to get down and warm up as fast as possible.
Bram quickly put on his waterproof pants
I had a 9 day old beard
The descent was freezingly cold even with all our clothes on. Halfway down we saw a cyclist going up with luggage, he was even crazier than us. It would be well passed nine by the time he would reach the top and even colder. The village on our side of the Bonette had a campsite according to the route description. Fortunately, that was the case and we found it right away. At a parking lot was a pizza stand. After descending the bare 2800-meter-high mountain in the cold, we were now in front of a warm pizza stand with good music. Three guys were baking. The music can best be described as super happy instrumental Ska. That made us happy. We both ordered a pizza shoarma and in the meantime visited a bakery and registered at the campsite.
The front desk was just someone's home with a sign 'camping' in front. You had to go around the house to find the campsite itself. In the hallway of the house stood a table where an old French guy helped us. After quickly throwing our stuff down we headed back to get the pizzas. They were delicious. After dinner we showered and had a good night of sleep. We cycled 145 km today. That was a bit less than average, but we did climb about 3500 altimeters. This was also the day with our lowest average speed, only 14.6 km/h. At night it was cold because there were few clouds and we were still pretty high up in the mountains.
Distance cycled: 145 km.