LEQP Camp 2022

Words by Mark Hagan / Images by Jeroen Speelmans, Matt Payne, Bryan Tsui, Anna Rebourcet, Auke Blom, Alex Herceg, Mark Hagan and Michael Wameling

The last few years have been equal parts blur and eternal present. I’ll skip the parts we all know well, anxiety, confusion, fear and loss. What has bonded us, is a yearning for clarity. In good times and bad though, clarity comes when you least expect it. You can’t find who you are, it finds you.

L’Equipe Camp returned after 4 long years. Our last L’Equipe Camp happened in different times, in a different life. I was hesitant to do another. I always seemed to expect more out of past trips. I wanted the rides to be longer and harder. I wanted better legs and and a lighter bike. I wanted the sun to shine brighter and the rosé to be colder. There was always something I expected, and something I could never have. When trips came to an end and friends went back home, I never found what I thought I would. 

L’Equipe Provence, like myself, has needed to grow and adapt. Like many people, I was forced to ride online the last few years. I enjoyed the banter and the unorthodox relationships. Before I knew it, a small meetup turned into a community, and blossomed into a Team. Ironically, the last thing I expected from “L’Equipe”, was an actual Team.  However, some things never change. Our spiritual stomping grounds of Provence were calling, so we answered.

We arrived in Caromb. A small village at the foot of Mont Ventoux for 5 days of riding, resting and of course, rosé. A core of 8, representing countries from around the world; The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, U.K., U.S. and Hong Kong. United by cycling, we set off on our Tour of Provence. 

Day 1 was a 90km opener in the shadow of Mont Ventoux. The Giant of Provence would welcome us later in the week but today we sized up the mountain and our legs after a long day of travel. The sun went to work on our tan-less knees and arms as we snaked around the magnificent Gorges de la Nesque and blossoming cherry orchards. A quick lunch stop in Villes-Sur-Auzon cemented a fast first day with only 1300 meters of climbing. 

Day 2 was an exciting and largely uncharted one for me. We ventured north of the Ventoux and into the bordering Baronies region. Pointed, sharp climbs punctuated a day surrounded by untouched wilderness. Crisp river valleys cooled the warming air as we made our way to the medieval fortress village of  Vaison-La-Romain for lunch. We dropped past the vineyard rich saddle of the Dentelles and primed ourselves for the main course the following day.

Day 3, Ventoux Day. This mountain has given me so many memories, I can probably yammer on about it for hours. It is the reason I keep coming back, and the reason why I love bringing people to Provence. We each set off to test ourselves on this day from the classic Bedoin side, and met at the top as a Team. Gilets on and brakes (mostly) working, we slid down the bald mountain into Maulecene to grab lunch and trade our tales of conquest. My 12th ascent was one of the most memorable.

Day 4 was for the tourists. I cobbled together a challenging, but stunning route across the Vaucluse. Having worked as an actual guide years ago, I wanted to take the Team through the classics of Provence. Hilltop villages, historical landmarks, breathtaking natural formations and of course, ice cream. Lunch in Roussillon overlooking the ocre cliffs and a well timed ice cream in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse recharged the batteries on this penultimate day. 

Day 5, the grand finale. With our Stages Dash computers loaded up to guide us, we set off  for the biggest and last day of the trip. A morning transfer to Sault is where the ride would depart. We careened eastward across the open plateau toward baby Ventoux, the Montagne de Lure. Though it is 4km’s shorter in distance, this forgotten mountain holds your lungs and legs hostage on 8-9 percent gradients for much of the climb. The 30c temperatures only added to the final challenge. After the summit, we descended into Saint-Étienne-les-Orgues for a sandwhich just in time to see a small Pro bike race buzz through town. We returned to Sault to finish our adventure for the week and grab one final ice cream in the center of town.

Once the bikes were packed away and we began our long journeys home, I braced myself for the inevitable emotional crash. But it never came. Something had changed and this journey was different. I’ve struggled to define L’Equipe Provence in the past. It has always lived as an idea and a feeling more than a tangible entity. A ghost even. But not this time, now I could see it clearly. It was right in front of me, riding in a double pace-line across the vineyards, through gorges and over mountains. 

It was this Team, this group of people, which were L’Equipe Provence. It then struck me, why I was waiting for the melancholy that never came. I was afraid that after each trip, it would never happen again. I was too focused on the next one, and agonised it would never come. But that feeling never came. I was present on the trip, each day, each climb, each town line sprint. I knew this wasn’t the last time we would see these roads with this Team, because this Team IS Provence. And no matter where we meet next, online or on different roads, I know it will happen. That’s what made this L’Equipe Camp special, and unexpected. 

À bientôt 


Domestique Sportif

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US code: LEQP20

EU code: Equipe_Provence_Stages