THE GIANT OF PROVENCE
For this remarkable retreat, RAID is partnering with Mill Valley’s local bike shop, Studio Velo. Groups of 10-15 riders will stay at Le Grand Banc, a private hamlet on the edge of the Luberon valley, one of the most untouched and tranquil parts of rural Provence. The riding here is special, not just because of the quiet roads and tough climbs, but also because of the rustic scenery, local culture, food and wine.
A typical week will see you ride the incredible Gorges de la Nesque, the Montagne de Lure, the rolling Luberon hills, and climb up to the famous white scree slopes of Mont Ventoux, arguably the most hallowed climb in the history of road racing.
Our experienced ride guides tailor each day to be different and with varying degrees of difficulty and route options, depending on how you’re feeling. A 60 mile loop taking in a quiet winding climb on the first day could be followed the next with a 90 mile journey up to the summit of Ventoux.
Called Le Grand Banc, this private hamlet overlooks 400 acres of farmland, scrub oak, lavender and cypress trees in the heart of the famed Luberon Valley. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the region, and is serviced with outdoor dining terraces, a swimming pool, and interiors decorated with classic furniture and collectable artworks. Our private chefs will prepare hearty local Provencal cuisine each day, paired perfectly with our select rosé.
Day 1: PLATEAU D’ALBION
30 miles / 1,700ft
France’s southeastern interior offers an unimaginable amount of quality riding. While our trip will focus on one of the greatest climbs in the cycling world, Ventoux, we’ll also explore the surrounding area and see what makes this place so special.
Our first day will consist of a quick spin to explore some of the region’s stunning plains and farmland to stretch the legs and prepare for the rest of the trip. The day will begin with a gradual climb up onto the plateau, and from there we’ll ride through lavender fields and charming French villages for a perfect shakeout spin.
Day 2: GORGES DE LA NESQUE
50 miles / 3,500 Feet
We’ll make a large loop through the beautiful countryside in Provence, getting off the beaten track for a great roll. We’ll start our day in the higher country, riding through fields and small, charming villages. We’ll climb briefly into more mountainous terrain with stunning geology before enjoying a long descent into the valley.
The long, steady climb back to our starting place is simply magnificent, with cliff-side roads that boast views of mountains in every direction. In the lower hills, these mountains are covered in green, but as we make our way up, things will be more exposed— sweeping panoramas around every bend in the road. This ride is a perfect way to celebrate a fantastic trip, to be followed by great food, wine, and company.
Day 3: CINGLES DE MONT VENTOUX
86.5 miles / 14,500 Feet
A truly unique opportunity: to climb the great Mont Ventoux from three different sides. We will begin by passing through the village of Sault, and then begin our ascent from the East. One benefit of climbing Ventoux three ways is that you can descend the mountain three times as well. After climbing from the east, we’ll be able to see our next climb on the way down. The difficult approach from Bédoin is the one taken on by pros in the Tour. When we’re through the dense vegetation, we’ll be repeating the last section of the first climb. Hopefully the windy mountain will not live up to its name on this day.
The third and final climb of our day, from Malaucene, is similar to the Bédoin side in terms of difficulty. There is less coverage on this side, so the views might even be more enticing. From the top, if the weather is clear, we will be able to see all the way to the Mediterranean Sea down below.
Day 4: VOLCANO VILLAGE - KONA
92.5 miles / 4,300 Feet
A long day is in store for us today, all the way to Kona. As we depart from the volcano we begin our long gradual descent on Hwy 11, passing through the Kaʻū Desert on the southernmost district of the Big Island. Made up of mostly dried lava remnants and volcanic ash, this desolate descent sees us hitting the black sandy beach at Punalu’u where the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles bask in the sun and swim in the waves. We have the chance to witness these stunning creatures before beginning our rolling ride through Naalehu, the Southern-most town in the US. From here we pass through the hillside Kona coffee plantations above Captain Cook. One last rapid descent towards the calm and clear waters of the historic town of Kona.
Day 5: KONA - CAPTAIN COOK
67.6 miles / 7,912 Feet
On our last day, you may just want to attempt one of the hardest climbs on the island, known as Koloko, a little-known brute out of Kona, with serious pitches and 10 brutal switchbacks, this is an incredible challenge for the advanced rider-of course this climb is optional. We then ride through upcountry Kona through the coffee plantations, stop in for a Kona coffee before we dip down to the sea and visit the Pu’uhonue O’Honaunau historical park before we enter Captain Cook and a beach side lunch of fresh tuna poke straight from the sea! A short climb brings us back towards Kona. For our celebratory dinner tonight, we will dine at the remarkable Holuakoa Gardens, a slow-food restaurant with seasonal menu, it is among the best on the island.