Welcome to Belgium

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21st July from now on must be celebrated. Belge day.

Setting off after last nights monsoon, the high sided Gorges continued for the morning, stunning scenery in itself, but on a pretty fast section my rear tyre just exploded on a very quiet road. The rear sidewall in a week old tyre had  a bad split in it. I’d hit a couple of train track crossings pretty fast in the last 30 minutes, I can only guess that the carbon rim had snakebit the sidewall and weakened it, eventually the tube forced its way out and pop!

After the initial thoughts of walking, hitching and general doom and gloom, I set about sorting it out. Luggage off and a fix with lots of duct tape (always wrap you pump with this sticky gold) and a piece of plastic toothpaste tube and it all worked even if it didn’t look pretty. In fact the most stressfull part was when I put my gloves on a wall and they blew off, I then looked over the edge to see there was a 50 ft drop with my gloves resting precariously on a bramble bush, doh! More tape and a fishing rod made from branches finally allowed me to chill out again and get moving.

After another steady grind over the Col d’Ey it was a steady relaxing day, then the strange transformation as I crossed into Provence rain gave way to heat, vegetation became recognisable as very South of France like, I was clear of the Alps. A great days riding this was a nice area, I was in no rush and enjoying a leisurely 80 miles with plenty of food stops.

At the first bike shop I bought a new tyre. It was at Malaucene, and I was in Mamil country, skinny race tyres only even in this major shop. He luckily found a 25mm Michelin race 3, not a great tyre and maybe a bit hasty as I didn’t realise how much of a cycling meca this area was. I was to see many shops in the area eventually. As I climbed the final road for Bedoin their seemed to be Dutch and German cyclists everywhere.

Using my new found price experience I headed for the Municipal camp site at Bedoin, luckily this sprawling baron site was full because it led me to finding Camping Le Pastory. This was run by a Belgium couple and Herman watched me devour an ice cream while I waited to check in. He then stated that as an Englishman I would not be interested in a night of real beer starting soon, how wrong could he have been. What a great find, a night of great chat and some of my favourite Trappist beers, Maredsous especially, ice cold perfect.

The other great thing about this site was it being the first I’d seen with a more traditional tent only area. A quiet wooded section, something deeply missed. The chance to interact with like minded touring campers rather than being herded into a specific plot was great.

I’d underestimated how far I would get on this tour, this was just the end of week 1 and my rough plan had ended, I quickly decided that this was to be my final stop for the rest of week 2. The whole of Provence to the South and West and the Ardeche valley to the East, would keep me busy. There was that little lump of the Beast of Mount Ventoux in view too.

Pulling up a handy discarded broken chair the planning started for a week of exploring, great cycling without the burden of luggage. My ripped tyre fix looked good, so I kept the 28mm comfort option on for now.

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Camp JP with comforts

Bedoin and the local area was buzzing with cyclists, the food was plentiful (many great pasta restaurants) and the incredibly hot weather continued to make this a great holiday. Recommended as a great place to spend a cycling week, I will definitely return.

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