Thursday, 24 March 2011

Lost Boys Tour of Europe 2010: Cruising to Corbières

If you want wine, this is the place...
June 22, 2010

Another beautiful day in Languedoc-Roussillon and it was time to try riding in a new direction. The insistent wind out of the north seemed to have finally lessened somewhat so we decided to take a ride southwards, knowing that a headwind would face us on the return. Not ideal, but the route looked promising. It would be another fine day of sunshine, vineyards, quiet roads and rolling hills and postcard-view vistas.

Climbing towards Corbieres
Most of our group rode the first 20 or so kilometers from Laure-Minervois along the D57 through Aigues-Vives and Marseillette to Capendu, but we split up here, near the famous Canal du Midi, with some riders going west towards Trebes and then northeast to our start but three other brave souls joined me as we pushed further south into Corbières, continuing on the D57 as it climbed over a high ridge and then took us down into Montlaur. The climb was at a reasonable grade but gave fine views in all directions and the descent was enjoyble.

From Montlaur, we struck out eastwards along the D114, a tiny road that brought us to yet another of the region's gorges. The wind was blowing hard here and particularly so as we left the gorge and ran into a mini-hurricane for a moment, probably a wind tunnel effect. Our continuing downhill ride brought us to Camplong d'Aude, surrounded like so many towns here by vineyards, and we turned right to get on the D212, which had recent chip-and-seal repaving done but was fine to ride on. I had been a bit concerned as the road was marked in yellow on the map and I prefer the lighter-travelled white roads, but the D212 was almost completely devoid of traffic this Wednesday midday so we raced, albeit with some climbing, through Ribaute and on to Lagrasse.
Much like Minerve, Lagrasse is a compact town distinguished by arched bridges. It boasted cobbled and extremely narrow streets in the centre of town, and a small commercial section on the main road, where we found a snack bar and had some sandwiches and where some of us also enjoyed my favourite ice cream treat, the Magnum bar. We enjoyed our lunch, sitting in the shade and watching the traffic, which included an old MGB and an older green-and-cream Austin-Healey 3000 sports car.

The big sprint finish

Deciding that the yellow roads would be fine, we changed our ride plan slightly and switched to the not-very-busy D3 out of Lagrasse, riding another beautiful scenic road albeit it into a rather stiff headwind. Greg quickly overtook a mountain biker, who latched onto his rear wheel, and we soon we able to catch up and pass the mountain biker as well. The wind was a bit tiring and we were all happy to see the small road that would lead us directly back to Montlaur and a retracing of our route back over the ridge and down to Capendu. We had hoped to find a café for a post-ride celebratory espresso, or stop in at the pastry shop in Aigues-Vives for something, but everything was closed, so we finished our day cruising back to the gite.

81.59 km | round trip
Altitude range: 261 Meter (59 Meter to 320 Meter)
Total climb: 855 Meter Total descent: 855 Meter

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