The region around Mont Ventoux is wonderful for cycling. The natural beauty and the beautiful villages follow each other in the wide surroundings of the mountain. The mountain gorges, vineyards, views, hairpin bends, rock formations and typical picturesque villages alternate continuously. We were in the region in mid-September and rode several beautiful rides from camping le Voconce in Saint-Marcellin-lès-Vaison near the picturesque Vaison-la-Romaine.

Today we take you on an advance tour of the Gorges de la Nesque, the second of our three hotspots in the Vaucluse that we report on.

Over the Col de la Madeleine

From Saint-Marcellin-lès-Vaison we set off for this roundtrip via Entrechaux, through Malaucène, to Bédoin, on to Villes-sur-Auzon, before cycling through the beautiful Gorges de la Nesque via Monieux and Sault to Chalet Reynard. From Chalet Reynard we descend at breakneck speed to return to our starting point via Bédoin and the Col de la Madeleine. So in this round trip we ride up and down part of the Ventoux. However, our main concern is the beautiful Gorges de la Nesque.

But the beautiful Col de la Madeleine is also well worth mentioning. The beautifully winding road, which runs between pine trees and greenery, from Malaucène to Bédoin is not too difficult. Above all, the col lets you enjoy the scenery, the smell of the pines and the well-run asphalt.

"It looks like the gorge was made for the bike!"

The Gorges de la Nesque

The Gorges de la Nesque is a deep river gorge in the shadow of Mont Ventoux that you can bike through. The rugged landscape is impressive to say the least.

The gorge is up to 400 meters deep in some places. The river Nesque, which rises on the eastern slope of the Ventoux and dries up in the summer, has dug deep into the limestone rock. The Nesque winds through a majestic rocky landscape for 17 km between Villes-sur-Auzon and Monieux. The D942 leads through this unique and uninhabited gorge. It is a beautiful road with spectacular views of the river winding – sometimes up to four hundred meters below – through the landscape. At the Belvédère at the highest point, you have an impressive view of the opposite rock Rocher du Cire and the 350-meter-deep gorge. Downstream, la Nesque joins the Sorgue at Pernes-les-Fontaines after seventy kilometers.

This bike ride, which is simply stunning from the first kilometer, becomes magical from Villes-sur-Auzon, however. The geological spectacle builds up from this point and becomes more beautiful and stunning the higher you go. Although the Gorges de la Nesque is quite deep, the road along the river is not steep. This makes the route great for enjoying the natural beauty here in a very recreational and touristy way. The road is fairly narrow, which has its advantages because freight traffic is prohibited here, which makes everything safer and more relaxed. The altitude difference is only five hundred meters which makes it doable even for the less trained cyclist. It seems as if the gorge was created for the bicycle!

A good kilometer before we reach the highest point, just before one of the tunnels that go through the rocks, we see a beautiful spectacle high above us. Hundreds of swallows are amusing themselves in the firmament. Like aerial acrobats, they are hunting for insects. With their recognizable wing beats and beautifully forked tail, they are incredibly agile. Wonderful to watch them. But suddenly, still a little higher up, dozens of vultures come swooping before our eyes. The whole scene in this majestic setting is magical. A unique spectacle with great artists who each excel in their role around the overwhelming scenery.

Via Chalet Reynard back to camping Le Voconce

After this cycling delirium through one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in France, we continue to Sault where the foot of Mont Ventoux is located at an altitude of 702 m. From here we climb steadily to Chalet Reynard and an altitude of 1408 m. We thus cover 706 altimeters and this over a distance of more than 18 km. A very gentle climb where we cycle slowly up with the beautiful images of the Gorges de la Nesque still on our minds. With a maximum ascent and an average of 3.9%, we slowly begin to come back to the present and kick back from the Gorges. We begin to realize the beauty of cycling here as well. Once we arrive at the Chalet Reynard we stop for a well-deserved coffee and cake. This way we store some new fuel and recuperate a bit, because the ride is not over yet.

After the proverbial batteries have been recharged, we ride at breakneck speed to Bédoin and from there over the Col de la Madeleine to Malaucène via the D 938 back to Saint-Marcellin-Lès-Vaison and camping Le Voconce. After 125 km and 2,068 meters of altitude, we plunged once again into the river behind the campground to release the welcome refreshment and running water of the Ouvèze on our tired muscles.

Wow, what a ride! Wow what a day! Wow, what a beautiful region!

Text and photos: Patrick Van Gansen

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