Sunday broke clear and cool, which helped a lot with my decision to get out of bed. Also, Mike was downstairs whipping up some croissants, so I had obligations. When I walked down to the kitchen (I had exclusive access, I’ll have you know…don’t expect the same treatment!) I was happy to see my Bianchi sitting pretty by the front door.
And here’s some of the breakfast Mike had been slaving over for the previous 45 minutes or so, bless his heart.
After a little logistics meeting we all agreed that, instead of doing a loop back to Pepieux today, I would get more bang for my Euro by doing a long meander to the south, then finally finishing back at Narbonne station, where Mike would graciously meet me with my backpack. So, I left Le Vieux Relais, hooked around the massive church next door, and found a nice little tailwind to take me south.
But not 5 km out of the village and I found myself needing a ‘nature stop’ (3 coffees can do that) – here, in fact – an aqueduct of indeterminate age.
Le Vieux Relais is in a pretty good location, being close to 3 major cities down here (Béziers, Narbonne and Carcassonne) and it is also a stone’s throw from the Canal du Midi, a World Heritage Site and major tourist draw. Next time I go back I’ll take a spin along it (I have already, here, here, and here, if you’d like to see it), but I only had enough time to cross over it this weekend, I’m afraid.
Travelling south meant away from the mountains, but not the climbs, I found out. It also brought me past the A61 autoroute that runs east-west along this part of Languedoc and, according to Val, is near an easy border marker (the D6113 just to the north) between the Minervois wine region of yesterday and the Corbières (get some if you see it…it’s awesome!) to the south.
As I rode along I kept seeing a little mountain that looked to be in my way, and it was. The climb up was really ideal, though, with a winding road and even grade of 6% to 8%. Oh, and not ONE car the whole way up.
This climb was followed by a gentle descent into a wide, empty valley – well, empty except for vineyards. Soon enough I came across a sign that can either make you smile or bring on the dread. I was feeling good and the sun was shining, so I had a grin on.
As it turned out, the road was squiggling down, not up, so I had a most pleasant 7km of a 2% descent, which ended in the pretty and famous village of Lagrasse, which is just as nice coming…
As it is going.
After a little saucisse frites in the center of Lagrasse, I was reloaded, but hoping for terrain that would aid in digestion, and luck was with me again because, although I did have a little climbing left to do, I also got another tailwind that carried me effortlessly the 40 km or so back to Narbonne.
It all went off like clockwork, with Mike showing up well before my train was to leave and the train actually being nearly on time (the day before it was 25 minutes late…today, only 10 or 15).
Aude always impresses me when I get down there – which is all too rarely – and there are really countless opportunities for guided rides. Now, we just need to convince somebody of this and we’ll be set! Many thanks for your kind hospitality, Val and Mike, and all the best in the coming season!
Le Vieux Relais, 1 Rue de l’Etang, Pepieux 11700, Aude, France. +33 4 68 91 69 29