The Suque of Quintillargues
La Suque de Quintillargues, 325m high, is called in reality only "La Suque", but it is very common name in southern France, and I chose to name it so as it is close to the village of Ste Croix de Quintillargues. It is a small hill like the Pic de Saint Loup, but far more modest. It rises in the foothills of the Montpellier backcountry, and we can recognize it easily from almost everywhere including the seaside, partly thanks to the antenna at the top. From La Suque, views towards the Pic Saint Loup and L'Hortus are also superb.
This ride, not described anywhere in any mountain-biking guide, is a genuine finding of mine so I intend to describe it accurately !
Starting from Vendargues, there are several ways to approach it by bike but none is perfect as in all cases we can't avoid to ride a bit of asphalt near the large roundabout at the level of the D68 and D21 roads (near Malarive). We have the the choice to do the outward and/or return East or the West D68, using :
- One part of the Castries loop reaching Malarive by the D26
- A piece of PR on the heights of Teyran, taking the tracks of Les Fourques, and leaving them north from the Equestrian Center. A tunnel under the D68 allows to reach the roundabout and Malarive.
Tracks north of Malarive are not of any use, do not bother trying to borrow then to avoid a stretch of road, they all end to some fences, reaching the Mas du Garde straight is impossible.
From Mas du Garde, take the road to the quarry. It is not very nice until it exceeds the mentioned quarry, real landscape monstrosity and crying mountain. There is a path parallel to the quarry road opposite from the creek, but cycling it up seems difficult ... may in the descent ? A short but severe climb leads us to the top of the ridge where landscape starts to get nice, with a trail running along a crest with panoramic views all around. Some markings with a bee logo appear, it is the "path of the Serre Rond". It leads us to a first small summit (212m), probably Serre Rond (although not mentioned on the the IGN Top25 map). Short stairs allow to access a small overhang where there is a panoramic table and remains a WW2 stronghold.
It descends Serre Rond continuing north, a bit up and down till an unnamed peaklet (199m), then cross a road that connects Montaud. It continues on the ridge trail, always beautiful, if we ignore the fact that June 2012's fire scorched a lot of trees ... but nature seems to bounce back very quickly. After a point marked 225m high, we arrive at Serre des Pierrasses, on the foot of La Suque. The ridge trail is over : the idea is now to ride around and climb the summit on the backside later. The track that seems to follow steadily the slope towards the pylons is shown as non-existent on the IGN map between the two towers so we won't try it: instead we take a tiny singletrack descent in dot lines on the map and leading to the ruins of the "Bergerie Reboul." Beware at the crossing of a tiny stream, do not miss the right path. Crossing the road D1, we go to Peyregrosse Trouseiller. It is a small magnificent detour that shows a neighbor mountain surrounded by cliffs named Puech des Mourgues. We get back to the road near the point "97" but it is not obliged to ride on it, a trail goes also below till Les Amas Luquiers.
We cross the D1 and go into the hamlet of Quatre Ponts, and when we pass the last house we take the track right dot lines, which cuts the forest towards Ste Croix de Quintillargues, more precisely the locality Les Clausses. This is an absolutely beautiful piece of trail not to miss, a singletrack sneaking in the forest with many nice bends to negotiate. We visit the center of Ste Croix de Quintillargue and its nice church. Then take the street leading to the Mas du Greffier, but we do not go there: the black trail that cuts right towards the Combe de Vitrolle spares us asphalt and a little unnecessary distance. La Combe de Vitrolle is the steepest portion of track to reach the top of La Suque, which we climb with the easiest gear. The panorama on the top of La Suque is just extraordinary. The antenna is not very nice, but hey we've seen worse ones.
We ride down, but only till the junction of Pierre Taillade which we took care to spot during the climb (269m), the beginning of the descent. First gentle (marked as a continuous line), then quite technical descent (dot lines). Entirely feasible on the bike (I did it) but maximum concentration required. A little dangerous passage with exposes occurs when riding over rocks screes (open view on the right, and ravine ...). The end is more generous, the forest is very nice and after a zigzag wet get back to the intersection of the track along the edge of the massif on the South (Serre des Moujes, 163).
It is almost to the pass of Serre Pierasses but just before the track we took one hour before, it bifurcates to the south along the parallel ridge to the one we took (Les Cayrisses). It is totally absent on IGN map, which shows only the track in the hollow (combe Matamage). As beautiful as the previous ridge trail go with open views, but again a forest fire landscape... The trail becomes a read leads us to Lirou and Guzargues (new stop, pretty church). The D26 road finally brings us back to the roundabout. We are free to get back to Vendargues (see approach above).
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When to ride
Probably all year long in this region... The only restriction might be the frequent strong winds.