Gorge de la Bourne to Bois Barbu: When Shortcuts Go Bad - French Alps 2017 - CycleBlaze

May 26, 2017

Gorge de la Bourne to Bois Barbu: When Shortcuts Go Bad

Today, we planned a day of unloaded touring to explore a little more of the Vercors. We started off with a breakfast with Antoine and Laurence, featuring a fresh sunny side up egg and lardons, croissants, bread, 6 kinds of home made confitures, O.J. and coffee. We had arranged to leave the panniers and pick them up at the end of our loop.

The descent started right outside the chambre d'hote and continued all the way to Pont en Royans, about 25k by the time we arrived. It was an exhilarating ride to Pont en Royans, especially along the balcony roads.

Downhill ride to Pont en Royans.
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The balcony roads are always a thrill to ride.
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We were in Pont en Royans about 20 years ago. It's just as picturesque today as it was then. No houses have fallen in the river from what I can tell.

Pont en Royans is one of the most scenic towns in France, in my opinion.
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Pont en Royans.
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These little villages are easily overwhelmed with traffic. Today, it was the MG car rally and a local tractor who snagged things up. We waited and watched to see how everyone would deal with it. "Pas de problem"! A fellow from the rally directed the traffic and everyone was totally chilled as they waited their turn to be eventually squeezed out the other end of town. Once they were through, the tranquility returned then the motorcycle club had their turn. We stopped at a park for an Orangina and look who poked her head out at me from behind a big tree trunk. The French really do have a sense of humour!

This skinny lady poked her head out from behind the tree and beckoned to me for a photo.
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The scenery changes in each valley you enter, but the main features are there: escarpments reaching skyward, verdant valleys and a small river burbling away somewhere under the treed banks. We stop often to take in the gorgeous views as riding requires you to focus on the road.

Scenic Vercors.
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The Vercors is full of beauty at every turn.
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Flower of the day.
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There's something thrilling about riding through tunnels and there's an abundance of them here. Thankfully, we came prepared with a powerful set of head and tail lights that we've used frequently on this trip. This is a shot of the old road through the Grand Goulets, which we rode when we were last here. The rock has become very unstable so they built a replacement tunnel that extends for 1700 meters through the mountain. The old Grand Goulets tunnels are no longer accessible.

These are the old roads of the Grand Goulets, now blocked off due to crumbling rock.
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The new 1700m long tunnel is an engineering marvel and there was just one car in the tunnel while we were there. Yes, it's cold in this tunnel!
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The other end of the 1700m tunnel.
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The old and the new tunnels of Grand Goulets.
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This new tunnel was actually pretty easy to cycle through, although it was uphill the whole way. There was little traffic anywhere we went today, except for Pont-en-Royans so it was a glorious ride through St Jean en Vercors and back to the chambre d'hote to pick up our panniers.

The cows have it made here. There's something peaceful about seeing them chew their cud as their bells jingle jangle while you ride past.
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Rappelling is a popular sport here.
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We were headed for that road way down there. Weeeeeeee!
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Bridge over the Bourne river in the Gorge de la Bourne.
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Gorge de la Bourne has to be one of my favourite rides.
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Mirror pond at the head of the gorge.
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We picked up our gear and then headed off to our gite for the evening. It was not far from Villard de Lans, or so it looked on the map. I'm always sniffing out small roads and it looked like there was a one that would take us directly to Bois Barbu without going through Villards de Lans. It turns out I'm not so good at reading elevations because it was a shortcut alright, but it kept getting steeper and steeper until we were at the top of the mountain! We found ourselves pushing our bikes a couple of times where the grade reached 20%. Surely, there was accommodation somewhere on the valley floor but it's a holiday weekend and this is all we could find. Now, if we (I) had only known what a breathless gut up the hill it would take I probably wouldn't have chosen it. I thank my lucky stars for an understanding and capable partner.

OK, I knew it was steep but was this necessary?
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Our room on the mountain top at Bois Barbu. It is a very popular spot for nordic skiing in winter.

Our hotel at Bois Barbu, a cross country ski centre in winter and fabulous hiking in summer.
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Today's ride: 55 km (34 miles)
Total: 205 km (127 miles)

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Scott AndersonIt’s nice to see this country again! The Vercors is on my short list of places I’d most love to see again.
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