Distance: 21.3 miles. Elevation: 2974 ft.
I’d had this route to Les Tourres planned for a while. It was in a similar vein to Villeplain and Sauze, rides going to a dead end, usually up to a remote village, based on loads of squiggly switchbacks on the map, just leading off the main road into the hills.
Just before leaving I added another section on to the planned route, leading further off the beaten track. I had no idea if it was rideable, although I think I saw some vehicles on there, looking from satellite view.
The day was mainly sunny. 18°C. Shorts./short sleeves. Arm warmers available but didn’t wear them. At Les Tourres I put my snood and rain jacket on for the descent.
The ride turned out way more interesting than I could have imagined.
I rode north from Guillaumes on the D2202 towards Col de la Cayolle. Two and a half miles later came the turn off for Châteauneuf-d’Entraunes. A series of ten tight hairpins took the road high above the Var valley.
After the ‘lacets’, the gradient pegged back from 7% to 6% as the road opened out onto a lovely section through pastures, with the odd tree scattered about – I love that kind of landscape.
The road led to Chateauneuf (Newcastle) d’Entraunes, but didn’t actually pass through the village, which was up the hillside to my left. I could see the rocky mountain way on the bare mountainside ahead.
Shortly after that the tarmac turned to gravel.
The road wound round the edge of the mountain on just gravel and scree.
The surface was a mix of smooth earth, gravel, larger rocks and massive ruts here and there. It was fairly easy going round this bit. Gradient not too steep. Then it entered a more wooded section.
The road got very bad in places but I could still keep going, paying close attention to steering between the larger stones.
Then around one bend I came to a short balcony section of road leading to an eerie looking tunnel with a visibly steep gradient inside. I hadn’t been expecting this.
As I approached the tunnel I was hoping that I’d be able to see light at the other end. Fortunately I could.
After getting some photos I rode into that dark hole in the mountain. It was very spooky. I still had my shades on and I couldn’t really see what was in there. I couldn’t see the road surface nor what was to my left or right. I just focused on the far end, and was glad once I was out of there. The other side of the tunnel was just as intriguing. The road emerged into a small shaded circular dip, around the edges of which the road still clung. Rock faces were all round except for a slit to the outside world.
The road climbed to a short bridge then looped almost back on itself before exiting through a gap in the rock.
Out into the ‘open air’ again, the route varied between wooded sections and open track on the edge of the mountain.
Leading up to another tucked-in bridge, was a short stretch of smooth tarmac on a pretty steep gradient.
Presumably this had been metalled for safety reasons due to the steepness. Still it was very welcome, but only lasted about fifty metres or so to the bridge, after which it was back onto the rocky surface.
I eventually arrived at Les Tourres.
I saw my ‘optional’ addition to the route veering off to the left. I’d already half-decided that I wouldn’t take it; I’d been reminded how slow-going and tiring riding on stony tracks can be. My decision to not take on the extra section was justified further by its very bad surface and, decisively, by the ‘private’ sign, prohibiting its use.
I carried on towards the hamlet which I knew was now not much further.
This is one of the most obscure inhabited places I’ve reached on my bike. A handful of buildings surround a small church, Eglise Sainte-Anne, with further buildings scattered up and down the hillside, within earshot of the church bells no doubt. Talking of bells, I could hear faintly the jangle of cow bells from a herd being led home on the hillside opposite, possibly a mile away . I didn’t see a soul in Les Tourres, although a door was open and there was one car there.
I ate my croissant with creme patisserie; again the airtight bag almost exploded because of the altitude. I donned my rain jacket and took my shades off because there was lots of shade on the descent and I wanted to be able to clearly see the obstacles on the very rough road surface.
On the way down, my forearms began to ache because of being on the hoods/brakes the whole time, riding over the rocky surface.
The tunnel was less scary being able to see inside.
I read somewhere that the hamlet of Les Tourres is only inhabited during the Summer months. That seems sensible and it explains the presence of the gate just as the road turns to gravel after the road surface warning sign.
So it had turned out to be a surprisingly exciting ride for such a short excursion.
- One energy gel on way up.
- Croissant with creme patisserie
- 1 bidon
GalleryClick to enlarge / see slideshow