Monday, July 11, 2011

Mont Vinaigre etc.

Training rides, Summer 2011

As the blog address suggests, the original purpose was to keep track of my long-distance bicycling pursuits, and I intend to keep it that way. But it is the prerogative of old men to reminisce about the old times (when they were stronger and faster than now); and so I will include more and more often some flashbacks as they present themselves.

As soon as I arrived at the Côte d'Azur in Fall 1970 (a scholarship of the French government allowed me to pursue my studies of Mathematics at the Université de Nice), I used the weekends to discover the mountainous surroundings. I had brought along my new Goëland custom randonneuring bicycle and did put some mileage on it, but not nearly as much as anticipated. One reason was that I got caught up in rock climbing (mainly on the Baou de St. Jeannet):

- the other reason was that I got caught up in meeting my future wife (who neither climbed rocks nor rode a bicycle). Somehow, rock climbing soon moved into the background and eventually all but disappeared from my life, whereas the future wife moved into the foreground. I did maintain the desire to ride my bicycle and still collected some good memories from rides with high elevation gain through spectacular scenery, over the years; but many destinations I had located with the finger on the map remained unreached, even some that were rather close - like the Mont Vinaigre, the highest summit in the Massif de l'Esterel.

Fast forward to early June 2011. We just arrived in Cannes after a lengthy trip from California with a good week of stopover in Germany. I urgently needed to get back on my bike and to get my legs moving in preparation for the Big Eight. No need to do long distances; conventional wisdom mandates tapering under those circumstances, just a little bit spiced up with some shorter efforts to keep the juices flowing. And so I decided to rediscover the Tanneron - it must have been well over thirty years since I was last time on those roads on a bicycle!

It was a revelation, and I was enthusiastic. I had forgotten how smooth the roads could be (20 years in California do that to you), the vistas breathtaking, the air delightfully clean - and no traffic! If only I could start out from Mandelieu (where we used to live for a couple of years, in the eighties)

On my Tanneron loop - view towards the Lac de St. Cassien

... instead of from Cannes, which requires to ride a couple of miles on a dense stretch along the beach. Granted, the beach pictures are good for bragging and for associations with a life of vacation and leisure; but my personal feelings are more than mixed - I am not a beach person (my wife is ...), and I would rather not be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of tourists and vacationers.

Posing for Cannes' Office of Tourism
(Note: This was in early June, before the onslaught of the tourists)

But, no complaining! For the following two weeks, I repeated that same loop nearly every other day, alternating the direction to vary the pleasure. And I was satisfied to come close to my personal best (from over 30 years ago!) of 35 minutes on the 4.7 mile 1400 ft climb to the Grand Duc - not too shabby by my standards.

Immediately after coming back from the Big Eight, the urgency to train was subdued for a couple of days. I needed a new stimulus. What if I finally tried to find the road to the summit of the Mont Vinaigre? - Oh yes!

What can I say: Now I have a new favorite ride, and I already returned twice there. I let the pictures speak for themselves!

From 0 to over 2000 ft

The last portion is kind of steep

But - here we are! (The tower is off-limits)

From the Institut Géographique National

View towards Fréjus

At the end, I had to carry my bicycle ...

... in order to climb as high as possible

... while it's muggy down there!

I think I need fatter tires  ...

... to continue my exploration of the "Route des Cols"

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