RideEatCamp

The Vercors

Europe

I’m combining yesterday and today into one post because they share the same theme: the splendor that is the Vercors region.

Climbing to the Vercors provided a great view of Grenoble.
Climbing to the Vercors provided a great view of Grenoble.

Carrie rides down the Gorges de la Bourne, a road carved into the cliff along the Bourne River
Carrie rides down the Gorges de la Bourne, a road carved into the cliff along the Bourne River

From Grenoble if you look southwest you can’t miss the great wall of rock that looms large over the city. On top of that rock is a plateau known as the Parc Naturel Regional du Vercors, or Vercors for short. We spent one day getting up to the plateau and another day riding a 65km loop without luggage on some of its most scenic roads.

On the first day we had the pleasure of riding down the Gorges de la Bourne, a road created by digging into the rocky cliffs that line the Bourne River. For most of its length the cliff actually acted as a roof, adding to the thrill that at any moment a roof could collapse and I’d be part of the gorge forever.

When we left the gorge we were passed by a group of roadies. At the back of the pack was a very fit older gentleman in a jersey that I instantly recognized. While researching route options in the Vercors, I came across a UK cycling magazine article highlighting velovercors.com. A former pro racer, this man now offers cottages and a B&B combined with guided day rides in the Vercors.

We caught up to the group a little while later, so I used the opportunity to ask him for some route recommendations. He provided us with a day ride route of 60km, warning us that there’d be a lot of climbing and very scenic descents. We then rode with the group into the village of Saint Jean en Royans, where we were to camp for two nights.

The following day we followed Roger’s route. For the first 40km we rolled more or less up hill. It was tough but the roads were quiet. We then descended to the Col de la Machine, where our jaws proceeded to drop. Before us was a road that probably should never have been built.

We followed this roadie on the Vercors plateau.
We followed this roadie on the Vercors plateau.
At the top of the Col de la Bataille we had 360-degree views.
At the top of the Col de la Bataille we had 360-degree views.
Descending from the Col de la Machine put us on this tiny road dynamited into the cliff with a 3000-foot drop onto the valley.
Descending from the Col de la Machine put us on this tiny road dynamited into the cliff with a 3000-foot drop onto the valley.
A roadie rides through a tunnel on the precarious descent.
A roadie rides through a tunnel on the precarious descent.

At the end of the 19th century some daring men decided they would build a road into a cliff face by hanging from ropes, inserting some dynamite, and swinging out of the way of the explosion.

Today we still travel on this road. The best word I can use to describe descending this road is exhilarating. It’s one of those roads and rides that I know I’ll never forget.