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Mont Ventoux

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It seemed I was awake half the night going through all the pros and cons of the following day and my brake situation.  Eventually morning was here and in the light of day everything seemed better.  I did go for a short ride up a long drag I found outside of town and pedalled up that and turned around and came back down, pedalling furiously and braking from around 30mph a dozen or so time and all seemed quiet so I returned to base to prepare for the ride.

I prepared my energy drinks, 2 bottles, one 500ml and one 750ml, 3 energy gels, 2 honey and nut cereal bars and some dextrose tablets.  I took my windproof jacket and arm warmers rolled up in my back pocket for the top of the climb and the descent and my phone/camera.

I then set off to pedal to Bedoin about a 6 mile ride which in itself was quite hilly, hillier than it had seemed in the car last night for sure.

I reached Bedoin and stopped for a photo of the official start line for timing of the climb

Timing Start Line

There were a couple there already and we agreed to take photos with each others cameras at the start.  In conversation the girl said that some men on her campsite, which turned out to be our campsite too, had said any time under 3 hours was good for the climb although he had done it in 1hr 15mins!!

So I was off, the first few kms were pretty easy with a 3 or 4% average gradient with 6% in parts.  Then after about 3km there is a sharp left hairpin and straight down to business.  The climb for first part is all in the trees and winds its way up and the shade from the trees was a blessing.  The gradient now was averaging 8 or 10% with bits of 12 and 15%.  I started riding it like I ride hills at home and attacking the climb wwhich is OK for most UK climbs as they are comparatively short but I kept getting breathless because of the length and intensity and had to make 2 or 3 stops to get my breath back.  I noticed that when I restarted and my heart rate was around the 120’s it was comparatively easy going and as soon as I started winding it up again in to 150’s it was stop time again.  So I hit on a plan of keeping my heart rate in the low 140’s as much as I could by easing back on the pedals and life became much easier if easy is the word?  My legs still had to keep turning and carrying me onward and upward but my stops became far less frequent and it was almost a pleasure.

After about 15 of the 21kms of the ride a road junction is reached at a place called ‘Le Chalet Reynard’ a restaurant and bar and it’s just before this that the trees finish and you are plunged into a kind of lunar landscape of white limestone rocks, very good for reflecting the intense heat!  This is the white stuff that you see around radio station on the top of the mountain from a distance and looks like snow.  If only it was, how nice and cool that would be.

Nearly There

There next comes a final succession of bends with long straights in between them of increasing gradient, and the teasing view of the radio station there all the time, but getting closer all the time.  The first one being around 6% then 8 % then 10 % then 12%. This stretch takes you past the Tommy Simpson Memorial.

Tommy Simpson Memorial

I tipped my hat at the memorial about 1km from the finish as is the custom.  The British cyclist had died of heart failure and exhaustion while making the climb during the Tour de France of 1967.  He had been in his heyday when I was racing as a young man so I felt a special affinity to him.  It was so near and yet so far for him.    Then on to the last but one bend and a gradient of 15% and just for a twist the final hairpin takes you up to around 20% for the final 50 metres or to the very welcome finish line.

Made It

View back down the road

Over the other side

 I had completed the climb in 2hrs 10mins.  A feeling of pride and satisfaction was the first reaction when reaching the top, soon to be followed by that of freezing from the howling wind rushing across the summit at 1912m.  There seems to be plenty of people around willing to use your camera for a photo as long as you do the same for them.

I swallowed the last gulp of my drink, consumed my last cereal bar and donned my arm warmers and jacket and I was off on the descent.  I didn’t record the first couple of miles of the descent as I had omitted to restart my Garmin but rectified that on the move.  The descent was quite thrilling once I had got over the caution of how my brakes would behave as they seemed fine and quiet thankfully.  I still descended with caution give the light of yesterdays experience and you never know when an up coming car is going to take a wide approach to a hairpin.  However there were some good straight’ish bits where I could take my hands off the brake levers for a few seconds, its surprising how arm aching that can be by the bottom of the descent.  I completed the descent in about 25 minutes I think given the error at the start and I wasn’t passed by any cars.

Soon after I reached the bottom I removed my jacket and arm warmers as it was back in the 30’s again and began the pedal back to base again.  First a welcoming cold Kronenberg then several glasses of cold water and I was ready to reflect and bathe in my glory for a while before then bathing in a nice shower.

So that’s all my long held ambitions cycling wise fulfilled now. Alpe d’Huez last year and  Mont Ventoux this year.  I was very lucky to be able to do both and am very grateful for that fact.  Not sure I will set any more targets now I will just continue to enjoy my cycling day by day.

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