I will share what it was like riding up on both occaision's. Firstly getting to the point where we had to stop on the day of the tour. Then I will continue from the point where we stopped- we came back x2 days later to complete the whole climb.
Situated in the Provence region of France Mt Ventoux stands 1910 meters and is 21.5kms from the village of Bedooin. The average gradient is 7.5% with steep parts at 9%. and 12% There are in total 3 routes one can use to cycle up Ventoux. The most common route used by cycists is from the small village of Bedoin. It’s the route we would use for our x2 ascents.....
You start climbing as soon as you leave the town of Bedoin. Long elevated exposed false flats greet you (similar to the Haywards climb from Porirua side to the Hut). You’re climbing a number of kms before you reach the forrest that shrouds you for a lengthy part of the climb up the base of Ventoux. This is was the perfect protection we would need on both climbs as any exposure to the sun just made it harder. While you are sheltered by the forrest the sheer elevation of this long section is tough. The average elevation here is 9% with 11% and 12 % pitches to get you out of your saddle.
On the day the TDF came through there were thousands of people also making their way up-some walking with backpacks full of food and wine, many others cycling on their road bikes, mountainbikes and even E Bikes. They make their way way up, find a spot and then make themselves comfortable for the next 3 hours waiting for the peloton. Many make their way to the finish line. Once its all over they then walk back down!
As we climbed Mt Ventoux the support from the multitude of fans was amazing. Most of the time you’re in your own world just trying to hold a tempo and all the while resisting the temptation to stop-especially on the steepest 11% 12% sections. The last thing you want to do is stop in front of all the faces staring at you. The fans stare, clap and encourage you in a multitude of languages that reflect the diverse audience that follows the tdf each year. There is a real buzz and sense of anticipation in the air. The colours, the flags, the sense of national pride are clearly evident on this day. The wine is also freely flowing lol
We cycled with riders from our Ride Holidays tour group. Some of the group would stop at earlier vantage points to wait for the peleton while x4 of us kept going to the furthest point we were allowed to. As were making our way up you can’t help but feel every eye is on you. True enough the others riding with us mentioned how many people would stare at the two USO riders almost in disbelief that x2 riders Samoan riders were climbing Mt Ventoux on the same day. How often does that happen?? lol- Of course it helps with a cycling kit that stands out. Mind you our franch was a bit rusty lol Bonjour-Allez Allez!
Virtually every practical vantage point on the road was covered with people. The closer we got to the finish line, the louder the cheers and applause for those cycling up the mountain. The loudest cheers were reserved for the children that cycled!
Waiting for the peleton 1km from the finish line, the atmosphere was like a giant street party only thousands of meters above sea level. Masses of people chanting and cheering. I stood and waited for the peleton on the side of the road. Chris, Aaron and Gareth perched up on the bank with a birds eye view. Yes I was one of those fans on the road that the cyclists have to nearly push out of the way as they climb. As the riders drew closer I became quite nervous as I didn’t want to be that guy who knocked off a rider lol.
Making our way down Ventoux after the stage with the walkers, cyclists, vans, cars and buses was an interesting sharing the road experience too- and no road rage lol
The second time up Mt Ventoux came a few days later. We waited for the wind and weather to clear. Again we left from Bedoin this time I punctured just on the outskirts of Bedoin. All good. After a quick tyre change I jumped on my bike and started spinning. As with all the other climbs we wanted to manage our efforts so we could appreciate everything that came along our route up to the top of Ventoux. We knew that trying to push the tempo through the steep forrest section would be really impact us further up the climb so finding a tempo we could maintain was the key. We reached the point of our previous effort up Ventoux and pushed on. It was still a distance to get to the end of the forrest. As the trees and vegetation disappears there is a vast exposed barren –bald space of land as far as the eye can see right to the top of Ventoux. The trees that once lined this road had been felled long ago to supply wood serving the demands of shipbuilders based then in Toulon.. You’re also exposed to the elements namely the sun and the wind. Today the weather is good at the top. Nice warmth in the sun and a gentle breeze-a perfect day to take on Ventoux.
As you come out of the forrest covered landscape you are exposed to the Chalet Reynard, a former refuge now restaurant. It’s perfectly situated for a stop to enjoy a coffee/coke and sample some of the tasty pastries and purchase some momentoes to mark the occasion.
Meriama was here waiting for us. Our tour bus had made its way up here to support us and drop off riders who were cycling from this point to the top as it is still a 6km climb. We quickly refueled and then started the last 6km climb to reach the peak. It felt like it took us age’s-you are literally in a dessert atop this mountain exposed to all the elements biding your way up-but you look up and around you and the view is pure gold. 360 degree views of magic. A sight to behold.
Further along the road there is the Tom Simpson memorial made of granite. Simpson was a pro UK cyclist who while ascending the Ventoux climb on the 13th stage of the 1967 tdf collapsed and died. The memorial is a place of pilgrimage for cyclists every year and today would be no different. I stopped, jumped off the bike and took a few selfies and some pics. As you can see in the pics, many others had been today as well with the number of bottles and caps left here. Then I was on the bike to finish it off.
The final part to the peak was a blur- we reached the top and there were hundreds of people at the top. Sadly not to greet us, but like us many were maiden Mt Ventoux riders. They were all assembling around known landmarks for the pic to capture the moment. All were pleased, relieved, happy to have knocked it off.
Looking out across Mt Vetoux and it is sheer beauty in the palm of your hand. After taking more pics and embracing the moment with others who had also climbed the Giant of Provence we made our way down towards the village of Malaucene. This descent was pure speed-no brakes long steep drops –brake for the corners/switchbacks and then down another long drop- team of 5 of us nailing it. Less than 15 minutes later we are at the village ready for lunch and more talk about our climb.
When I look back we were so lucky to get a clear day, not much wind when we consider the gales that were howling only x2 days before. The roads are excellent especially the smooth seal from Chalet Reynard to the top.
I am looking forward to returning to France in 2019 with a team of USO riders to again climb the Giant of Provence-Mt Ventoux. #uso4life
NOTE: Mt Ventoux is a serious cycle challenge but something you can achieve. You will need to have the right gearing on your bike, completed some training in your build up, and go at your pace. If you're like us a "Brofessional cyclist", as they say in Samoa "Alu Lemu"-take it easy/go slow. It was also pleasing to see there were riders of all shapes and sizes from all over the world-and yes some on E bikes too.
Hope you enjoyed the read.