The professional peloton rode twice up Mont Ventoux on Wednesday of this week in the Tour de France. It was a magnificent stage won by Belgian champion Wout van Aert. I have ascended from all three sides on Ventoux – though not on the same day. However, I’m revisiting an early (and unsuccessful) assault on its slopes from 2010.
After spending the best part of a week, three days of which in the Luberon, with three of my favourite boys, it’s good to be back home. The purpose of the trip was to ride up Mont Ventoux though my Swiss friends ascended all three ways, on successive days. Sadly, the day we chose to ride up via Bedoin, was both cold and humid.
At my request, we set off over very undulating countryside from Gordes, before stopping to fortify ourselves with a coffee close to Bedoin. I rode up the slope ahead of the boys who had decided to sample some baked goodies at the local bread shop. Maybe this is where I’m going wrong, I should eat more!
The lower slopes are just 2-4% and one can ride along at a reasonable pace. There weren’t too many other riders, just a handful of the obligatory Dutch and Belgians. As I rode through the woods, the incline turned up and the road became quite damp and slippery. It was at this point I wished I was wearing both leg and arm warmers. However, I persevered and was cheered on by clusters of onlookers from the side of the road enjoying lunchtime picnics.
I found this section through the woods, which is an average 9% incline, to be particularly hard going. To distract myself, I read the names painted on the road from last year’s Tour and, probably, a more recent cyclosportif. As I neared the mid-way point, I was overtaken by a bunch of Germans who were sponsored by a bakery. As the last two cut in front of me, one of them slipped off the tarmac at the side of the road onto the verge, clipping my wheel as he fell. He didn’t knock me off my bike, but I was obliged to put a foot down on probably the steepest bit and thereafter struggled to get clipped back in.
Muttering evil thoughts about Germans with poor bike handling skills and large bottoms in white cycling shorts, I continued through an unchanging landscape. By now my favourite boys (including my beloved) had overtaken me and were probably nearing Chalet Reynaud. I overtook the bunch of Germans who seemed as one to be suffering. Clearly, too much time spent with their sponsor.
The night before my beloved had gotten over-enthusiastic with the air- conditioning in the hotel bedroom. I had awoken that morning feeling chilled, as if I had a head cold. Throughout the day this had necessitated frequent snot stops. My Swiss friends had demonstrated the correct procedure for on-bike blowing of the nose. But, sadly, this is yet another technical skill I have failed to grasp. As the road flattened slightly, I dismounted to blow my nose and my beloved appeared from above. His recent transatlantic travails meant he too was not feeling at his best. We took an executive decision to descend. Mont Ventoux will still be there for another day.
My Swiss friends have documented their three ascents for me to put on the blog but our technology was incompatible so they’re going to send the videos and photos to me later this week.
Postscript: The photos and videos have arrived and while I have uploaded a few of the photos, sadly WordPress won’t accept the media used for the videos!