We seemed to be awake for much of the night listening to a huge thunderstorm but by the time the alarm went, the rain was stopping and, although the bikes and Hero Bear were soggy, we were relieved that we weren't going to be riding in the rain.
Breakfast too was good and Emma squirrelled some extra rations away in a paper napkin offering the rational that 'we could have eaten it here'.
I knew that this was going to be another long hot day but my map appreciation was encouraging. The road appeared to follow the river in the Gorge for the first 20 miles and then we would be out and into flatter countryside. So, I sold the day as a long, mainly flat haul but with a day off to look forward to.
Well, the road does follow the general route of the river but it does so from over 1000ft above. So the first thing we did on leaving the hotel, expecting a flat poddle looking up at big cliffs, was to change down and head skywards. An hour of grinding upwards and we reached the Col for a sweaty photo shoot and an explanation to camera from me.
The next two hours were spent at around 1000 ft, looking out at amazing scenery and feeling an enormous sense of achievement. We sat on the edge of a cliff and ate our second breakfast, grateful for the extra and by then, much needed extra calories. Way below us groups of kayakers paddled through the gorge, which although clearly commercialised, looks fantastic and should be on our to do list.
Finally we descended, making a mental note to thank Gareth and Cycle Tec for the new brakes... A failure on one of those bends would be interesting.
We got down to the valley and despite it being not yet midday, stopped at the first cafe/ restaurant we came to. Tip 1. If it welcomes Bikers then it'll be good, Tip 2, go for the menu de jour every time, € 11.80 for three courses can't be bad. So, filled with charcuterie and salad starter, followed by 'Torros', (she seemed to mean Bull, demonstrated with bulls horns etc) and rice followed by two boules of ice cream, we were plein again.
We crossed the Rhone, a huge river and set off for Mondragon which looked like the simplest and most direct route towards Carpentras. Even through we are now hardened mountain climbers, by the afternoon even a slight suggestion of a thing not flat 'comme une gallette' can cause mental wellbeing issues. It took some moral fibre therefore to man up and take on the minor wine making area that exists around Bois de Montagne... No translation needed surely?
By this time, around 3pm, I was in 'let's get out heads down and get there' mode. Emma was in the 'gosh, that's a lovely photo opportunity' mode so just had to capture every Cypress tree, olive tree, apricot tree, distant Mont Ventoux framed by trees, and even some vineyard signs in a vineyard...and I'm meant to be the creative.
We eventually came out of our rural idyll and turned onto the main road, through miles after miles of the expensive vineyards of Cotes du Rhone called the Plain of God, as opposed to his Seat where we were previously.
I think I prefer hills to flats. We plugged along at a steady 15mph but seemed to get nowhere at all. A rather annoying hot headwind dried me like a kipper and I fanaticised about a cold Oringina as we passed endless Cavea offering wine tastings but no mini M&S type places to buy a cold drink. Come on France, where do you buy a cold, non wine, type of drink?
More slogging along until we were in a narrow pinch point of a village, cars and trucks (campions) thundering past. I momentarily lost balance and hit the wall, not a cycling term, but a real scrape along a wall with my shoulder. It really was just a scratch of course but enough to make me realise that I was properly dehydrated and needed to get some liquid on board.
Fortune intervenes and behold a hotel was open for Orangina and opposite a pharmacy for ibuprofen and antiseptic cream with added hilarious commentary from the pharmacist. Several pints of liquid later we were once again Allez Allezing.
An hour or so later we arrived in Mazan, 62 miles and a lot of climbing done in 33 degrees. We are ready for our rest day. Lots of chat from Madame of the Chambre de Hote about Mont Ventoux and how many people do it in what times etc The key point here is that the guy who has done it fastest, died. In fact, 10 die every year, but of course, 'Ventoux is very special'. On mature reflection and considering the ascents ŵe have done already, we will have tomorrow to do things very unspecial, like laundry, snoozing and bike maintenance. The very special Ventoux can wait.