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.
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.
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?