September 9, 2014

Mont Ventoux

Warning, warning: this is a long post.


The start of the climb, very close to my hotel door in Malaucene. And it was a climb. For the majority of my readers, like me a minority of the world, who think in miles and feet, that little sign is telling me that in the next 13.05 miles I am going to climb 5112 feet. For symmetry's sake, just think of it as one mile up into the atmosphere over the next 13 miles.

You don't have to be a very careful reader to know that I have been afraid of this climb for the past week or so. Those first 5 or 6 long days depleted my legs, and that depleted my head. Happy to report that the last two days of beautiful, short, easy rides did wonders for both.


And up I went. The road climbs quickly, though not steeply, with no fooling around.


When the percentage of grade is above 6 it gets hard for me, above 8 more noticeably hard, and above 10 it gets very hard. There were a few kilometers with average grades of 10, 11, 12. My goal in those sections is to ride only 1K without putting a foot down. Then if I want to/need to I stop for a few minutes. V.e.r.y. happy to report that my winter/summer of hard work with Coach Rob seems to have paid off. My breathing never went out of control. I never had that gasping, I am going to die right now if I don't stop feeling. My legs, and lungs, and heart seemed to get it that they were working together in only one body. Nice feeling. Yes, I did put my a foot down, but had my goal been to climb without stopping, it is vaguely possible I might have made it. I would have been miserable. But my goal is ... have some fun while doing the hard thing. And some fun I did have!


That is what 11% looks like. It doesn't look as hard as it feels!


I was surprised when I got to this junction, it was sooner than expected. And there is my first view of the top.


Look for the lines crossing the image. That's the road. It goes up and up. So did I.


The top.

As I remember, Gerry had a rant a few years ago about Dutch cyclists taking over Ventoux. Maybe he'll give us the link in a comment. Well, I have my own rant. On and off during my ascent there were cars, irritatingly parked in the bike lane, pushing riders out into the roadway. And people in the road, yelling. I mean, I am definitely not in the Tour de France, am I? There was a large group of, I thought, German riders, some of whom abandoned, loaded their bikes onto vehicles, and rode up.

At the top it was chaos. Cars with film equipment going every which way. Angry drivers, angry cyclists too. A man told me I could not put my bike in front of the col sign, they were making a film. No "please", no "do you mind." Irritated me! In probably very clearly angry, but also probably indecipherable French I reminded him that we had all worked hard, we all had a right to be on top, not just the Germans. Turned out they were Dutch. Then I (we actually, all the other cyclists) couldn't wait here, go back over there. Not now, later. The shopkeepers were angry, they said the restaurant was angry.



They Dutch crew departed before too too long, we all got our photos, taking pictures of each other, offering bravos.



I ate lunch, very kindly provided from the breakfast table by my hostess last night. Hardboiled egg, fruit, delicious.


After a bit, in warmer, dry clothes and a cap under my helmet, I started down. Only to be stopped again. Aaargh, the film crew. You have to stop, you can't go, we are making a film. I'll spare you the long story. I believe I didn't spare them my opinions of their behavior. Oh well, soon enough I was on my way, but the Dutch certainly acted like they owned the mountain. What's with that??

The descent was just amazing, the self-important movie crew forgotten. It was long, I think 32K. A beautiful, gentle looooooong downhill with no scary steep sharp switchbacks


The side that descends to Sault and Bedoin is definitely more of a moonscape.


Descending this side, I saw probably 200 people riding up. It was a long parade of cyclists. The route from Sault is the easiest, and the most frequently ridden. I am pleased to have riden the Malaucene route!

I guess I was early in the day (it was maybe 2:00), because I saw no other descending cyclists and few cars.

And here is the classic photo


At the bottom of the climb lavender fields reign. There is still a little color, probably from a second bloom after the harvest.

So, after dinner now, my legs are tired, they know well that they worked hard today. I am in need of some good fast overnight recovery, since tomorrow's ride to Tallard will be a challenge. And I am thrilled to have climbed that iconic mountain with more grace and dignity than anything I have climbed before. A great way to spend a day on a bike. Super climb, incredible mountain. And I leave you with a question I can't answer: how did the top become such a gravelly moonscape?

NEXT POST

19 comments:

  1. Suze, it's Sarah here: CHAPEAU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Thank you!!! And though we've never actually met, I thought of you and wished we were climbing together. Happy pedalling through Germany.

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  2. Egads I hate film crews! "Self-important" is the "bon mot." Reminds me of the days in Brooklyn. Perhaps a couple of choice Olde English words would have worked better than French.

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    1. To you I'll admit ... a few choice old English words were involved, along with a bucket of sarcasm. The story is reserved for not in print. Fimn crews must be the same the world over.

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  3. Wow, congratulations! Good story, great photo angles, big ride! Deforestation took the trees, wind took the soil. Bicycles have reclaimed the mountain. Congratulations on going up and down it -- it's memorable

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    1. Hey Karen,
      Thanks! I know you have climbed it, I think more than once, and yes it is memorable! And a memory that will remain clear as a bell. Thanks also for the explanation.

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  4. The blog post I've been waiting for! I knew you'd make the sensible choice...congratulations! Yes, I sure did go on a Dutch rant a while back. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with them, but glad to feel justified! They really need to just take a break from that mountain.

    Nice climb, huh?

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    1. Ummmm, yeah, nice climb..... fabulous climb ... gorgeous, magnificent climb, super climb, hard to better climb...etc. You said it exactly, nice climb.


      And you were right, there was probably never really any question about it:-)

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  5. Thank goodness that you got your camera working in the nick of time for these last two posts. Heartiest congratulations to you. You are an inspiration to your lazier readers. We will just have to get a grip and try harder. Did you do the climb with all your baggage on board or were you on an out and back for the day? If the former, I fall on my knees in wonder at you.

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    1. Hello Tom!

      Many thanks for the congrats! It felt like a very nice accomplishment to me.

      I rode it loaded, as my reservations for the evening were in Sault on the other side of the mountain. But ... the day before I sent a package home, to unload everything I thought I wouldn't need ... mostly clothes for chilly weather. This southeast of France feels much warmer and drier than the southwest, but it might just be this year.

      No falling, not on knees or anything else! In your posts, I read how much you ride, and it is me on knees and you the inspiration. So, we should just both stay on our feet, oh, I meant pedals:-)

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    2. Even a small amount of baggage is a literal drag so I salute you. I will keep on pedalling and pretend to myself that I am going uphill like you while really I am creeping along the valley bottoms.

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  6. Replies
    1. Why thank you! It was indeed a great day!

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  7. Damned the Dutch and Bravo our own Suze! Beautiful weather, at least. Quite a milestone for you. Bravo!

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    1. Merci mille fois! Yes, the weather has been unforgettably beautiful, at least for me, who likes it hot, clear and dry. Keep my fingers crossed it holds! And yes, it was a happy milestone ... it felt great!!

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  8. Susan, congratulations. I feel blessed to know someone who has accomplished so much. I am in awe. Have a wonderful time, forget the DAMN Dutch. Have fun.

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    1. Marguerite, thanks! No awe called for, still the same person you put up with a VIM!! The Dutch filmmaers are quite forgotten.

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  9. Ned - Congratulations! I look forward to hearing about it in person!

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    1. And you know I'll be happy to share the story. You would not have put a foot down to earth before you reached the summit:-)

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