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Italy - Day 3 : Mountain stage

While planning the route, I expected today to be the toughest, with the most challenging climbs. After breakfast, we first went to the same bakery and supermarket where we had been yesterday. Afterward, it took some searching to find the right road. We began immediately with col des Robines, which was relatively easy.

col des robines

The col des Robines.

Next, we cycled past the Verdon river and Lac de Castillon. The temperature was still bearable.


Lac de Castillon

After the lake, we relatively easily made our way up Col de Toutes Aures.

col de toutes aures

Col de Toutes Aures

We went downhill a bit and then arrived at the Gorges (canyons) de Roussillon. In the southern part, the riverbed was more than a hundred meters wide.

gorges de rousillon

The start of Gorges de Roussillon

The further we climbed, the smaller the riverbed became and the steeper the cliffs.

gorges de rousillon
gorges de rousillon
gorges de rousillon

Gorges de Roussillon

During our 100 cols tour part 2 trip, we cycled through Gorges de Cains. Those were 50 km to the East and ran parallel to the Gorges de Roussillon. The Gorges de Cains are all red, but the Gorges de Roussillon didn't turn red until farther north.

gorges de rousillon
gorges de rousillon

The red part of the Gorges

The road we were on wavered just next to the edge of the ravine. The way up had been totally exposed while the descent sometimes passed through tunnels.

gorges de rousillon

A bridge over de Gorges

At the end of the Gorges, we descended towards Valberg. It was more than 35 degrees. We bought a bottle of water at a gas station in Valberg for 2,50. Ten meters further, we noticed a public fountain. Climbing the Col de Valberg felt like one of the most challenging climbs of the vacation. Not because it was incredibly steep or long but because I wasn't used to the heat yet, wasn't in good enough shape, and already pretty tired. Bram was in better shape and was cycling a kilometer ahead of me. We were climbing in the hottest part of the day, around 2 o'clock.

col de valberg

Climbing the Valberg

A cyclist was walking up somewhere at the bottom of the climb. I asked if everything was ok, and he said he was fine but was tired and felt like it was too warm. He also said, 'Your bike is very loud'. I guess from Italian it makes sense to translate 'heavy' to 'loud'?

col de valberg
col de valberg

Col de Valberg, 1672 meters

A car passed us when we were nearly at the top. In the trunk lay somebody with his bike waving at us. It was the Italian. At the summit, we didn't descend much and quickly arrived in Beuil. I had made a schedule of places we needed to end up every day to finish the trip within 12 days. Today that would be in Beuil, but it was only 16:00 in the afternoon. After two days, we thus were already half a day ahead of schedule. We bought some pastries at a bakery.

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A church in Beuil

In the descent, we passed a fruit store where an old lady was working. The store was so cramped that we could barely fit between the racks. Outside were gas cylinders, wood, and vegetables. Inside was a showcase with year-old cheese and meat. We bought two nectarines, they were nice and juicy. We had already climbed the next col, the col de la Couillole, during our 100 cols tour part 2. We still remembered it not being super tough because there were only a few hundred meters of height difference. That turned out to be correct. We arrived at the top relatively quickly.

Col de La Couillole

Col de La Couillole, 1678 meter

Col de La Couillole

Bram at de col

I still remembered the descent from Col de La Couillole to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée as one of the prettiest from the 100 Cols tour. It started with many hairpin turns before the road meandered down the mountain. It was pretty steep, with many sharp turns but none where we needed to slam our brakes. Near the end of the way down the road passed through a few short tunnels, hacked out in the rocks.


View during the descent 

Once we got down, we were again in the river valley. Bram said he remembered we descended another 20 kilometers during the 100 cols tocht, along a river leading to Isola. That's where the last climb of today would start, the col de Lombarde. Unfortunately, Bram was wrong, and the 20 km was uphill.


We wouldn't be able to make that in one go, as we were hungry and tired from the four mountains we had already climbed today. We quickly ate and continued to Isola. There was a campsite, but it wasn't late enough to stop cycling yet. We decided to eat again at a restaurant, to have a decent meal before starting the col de Lombarde. We couldn't order until 7, so first had a few drinks. We were both entirely cooked by the heat and cycling.


We wanted to order tartar, but the waitress explained that it would be raw meat. That didn't seem like a good idea, so we got fries and a hamburger instead. When the dinner finally came out, I could hardly eat because my heart rate was still 180. After an hour, I still didn't feel rested, but we needed to continue.

The Col de Lombarde had the largest height difference of the entire vacation. It was steep but not horrible.

col de Lombarde

Bart climbing

We continued until it got dark. It wasn't easy to find a place to sleep on the slopes. There were only a few side roads and not a flat piece of ground insight. Fortunately, we found a dirt road closed off to cars. After 100 meters, it reached a dead end with some trees and rocks. That was ideal.

camping on col de Lombarde

The campsite

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Bram's selfie

We could hear the river flowing below. That night didn't sleep that well, because I was too tired.


The route of day 3


Today's height profile, col des Robines, col de Toutes Aures, col de Valberg, col de la Couillole,
and part of col de Lombarde. The last section contains some errors.

Distance cycled : 132 km.

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