The Provençal dream

Julien El-Fares’ cycling guide in the Région Sud

“My whole life is linked to my territory. It’s probably the best place in the world for cycling”

 

Julien El Fares is an expert in all things French, so we decided it would be wise to ask this cycling veteran about his favorite routes in the country. He’s been globetrotting as a pro for well over a decade, and yet he continues to reside in his hometown of Manosque. Clearly, there’s something special about this place that’s keeping him there.  

 

For one thing, El Fares is still struck by the beauty in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. This area borders Italy and the Mediterranean Sea and is also referred to as the “Région Sud.” It’s famous not only for its breathtaking landscapes and vineyards, but also their prolific olive groves and pine forests. The region is diverse, both culturally and ecologically with towering mountains to the north and wonderfully lush coastal towns to the south. El Fares’ hometown is particularly prominent for having lavender fields that stretch as far as the eye can see.

“Being from the region, I am still surprised by the beauty. On a short ride, you can end up with maritime landscapes or even mountains,” said El Fares. The Région Sud stretches from Marseille to Nice — and there are plenty of cycling adventures that one could embark on here. Julian El Fares would know as he’s been riding around this region since he was six-years-old and has witnessed many of its awe-inspiring routes. 

 

So without further ado, let’s hear from our team’s expert on his top five cycling destinations:

Julien’s first route is a lake and reservoir in the Regional Natural Park of Verdon. “It’s always nice to train in this really beautiful area. The road is not so hard and the landscape is so beautiful,” said El Fares.   There are roads all the way around the Lac de Sainte-Croix, and though they are quite a distance from the lake itself, you can bring your bike there and can always enjoy the views of the countryside en route.   

 

“You don’t have time to get bored,” said El Fares. We hope to one day prove that to be true. 

“This is my favorite spot for recovery road training,” said El Fares. There are plenty of places in the Région Sud that offer unspoiled nature and unforgettable views, and this region is certainly no exception. Étang de la Bonde is a lake in Vaucluse, France and Cucuron is a delightful village that’s only a 6.7 kilometer ride away.  

 

“I like the tranquility of the roads and crossing all the small villages of Luberon,” said El Fares. The Luberon valley is quintessentially Provence and the so-called “Provençal charm” is on full display here. Here you’ll also see views of its three major mountain ranges: the Petit Luberon, the Grand Luberon and the Luberon Oriental. Simply put: it’s filled with beautiful artitecture, great cuisine, and rich history. And it’s begging to be your next cycling destination.

“This village is situated at the start of Mont Ventoux mountain. This is the most famous mountain in the south region and the deepest. The landscape on the top is lunar,” said El Fares.

 

Sound familiar? Surely you’ve seen this mountain featured on our channels a few times this summer. Lachlan Morton and our Tour de France team not only saw it up close, but got to climb up it. Twice. It’s just that good. We recommend adding it to your cycling bucket list.

 

“You can admire this beautiful port and cove from the route des Crêtes which overlooks Cassis and La Ciotat,” said El Fares.  

 

Cassis is a Mediterranean fishing port in southern France and is in close proximity to Marseille. It’s known for its beautiful beaches and iconic limestone cliffs. The village has plenty of pastel-colored buildings to be enjoyed, not to mention their local vineyards where one can sip some Cassis white wine. And of course, it’s the perfect place for one to hop on and ride their bike while taking in the splendid sea views.

“My whole life is linked to my territory. It’s probably the best place in the world for cycling,” said El Fares.   While the other two places are more specific routes that El Fares trains or recovers on, you simply can’t go wrong cycling anywhere in Provence. Divided up into six large regions from Luberon to Riviera, you can find a region here that suits you and your interests. Quiet country or sprawling city? Medieval architecture or coastal views? You’ll find it here.   

 

“There’s something for everyone,” said El Fares.