- LA MAISON
- LA VIE
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER #7 : LA CLUE DE LA CERISE
I still haven’t seen any of summer. I’ve spent the past few weeks on the European circuit, where I did manage to pick up a few nice wins. The feeling of returning home knowing you’ve accomplished your goal is a beautiful one. Coming back to my house, my family, my mountains, the sunshine, is a pleasure that I always savour. Today’s ride is a celebration of these things. The plan? Head inland, hop on my mountain bike and explore new routes, hurtle down new paths, soak up the sun, the sensations and new adventures.
I know these parts well - my long hours of training often brought me here. The winding roads of Bouyon and Coursegoules aren’t a secret to me anymore. I come here to find peace – there are hardly any cars. Many riders neglect these roads in favour of the more well-known cols overlooking Nice, but they are wrong to do so.
I promised myself to come back to La Clue de la Cerise on a machine equipped with suspension and big tyres. It’s 11 in the morning and swimmers have flocked here early to get the best spots. It’s an extraordinary place, nestled in a valley. The water is heated upstream as its snakes over boiling limestone rock, and it offers an ideal temperature to those who brave the 1-hour walk down. I sped down its bumpy valley side in just a few minutes.
For sure, I’ll swim on the way back. But right now, I’ve got to tackle the sloping path which isn’t very wheel-friendly. It’s dotted with big rocks which forces me to use my arms and push myself back up constantly. My aim is to reach Les Ferres, 600 metres higher up, before midday. I am literally soaked in sweat when I come out on the little tarmac road that leads up to the village, with two kilometres to go.
Climbing the steep alleyways which lead to the village square, I can’t escape the thought that, in centuries before, my peers knew how to tame the climate – it’s noticeably cooler along these stone walls. I plunge my head into the fountain: ecstasy. My body cools to a more acceptable temperature. Now, for the rocky summit which towers over the village. A local recommends that I take a break at the little church en route, to catch a glimpse of the view over the village: it’s superb.
The rocky cliff I ride along is as hot as an oven, it hasn’t rained here for days and choking dust blows up at me. I change path, heading towards a shadier northern slope which, to my surprise, runs through a forest of chestnut trees. Again, the path gets tricky, it’s punctuated with steps, which proves demanding on the arms.
As soon as I reach the bottom of the valley, the heat is stifling. My face is covered in dust and trickles with sweat. I’ve lost my way. I have to carry my bike to reach the riverbed, climbing down a slope and holding onto the tree roots that poke out.
I need to find a way out to get back onto the road where I left my car. But that’s a problem for later. For now, this deserted corner of the river, and the cool of its sparkling blue water, is waiting for me.
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