Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:30 | 1 comment

France 2011


Few hill climbs stack up to the experience of climbing Mont Ventoux - the Giant of Provence. No other hill quite prepares you for the challenge of climbing 1600m in 23km, from the forested lower slopes around the town of Bedoin, to the moonscape of the upper slopes. Right from the beginning you are aware of the challenge that awaits you, as the mountain is visible for miles around, and dwarfs everything around it.
Pit stop and refueling
 Eight kms to go
Almost there!
There are 3 routes up this monster, but the traditional and hardest route starts in the town of Bedoin, which has spawned an industry catering for crazy cyclists wanting to emulate their heroes on the slopes of this famous mountain. Names like Schleck, Contador, Armstrong, and Jens are still visible on the road, and it's not hard to imagine the battles that occurred on these slopes for cycling's ultimate honour. And some guy called Jaap.

Shortly after leaving Bedoin all thoughts of emulation are banished, and survival is the only thing on most people's minds. Quitting is not an option, and so the only solution is to slog on up hill, from mile marker to mile marker. While it helps knowing how far you have gone, each mile marker also lets you know what the average gradient is for the next kilometer, and seeing 12% is enough to dampen the toughest of spirits. In an effort to copy their heroes and lift the spirits of their loved ones I couldn't help but notice the tiny writing on the side of the road in pink lettering encouraging Nick, Jan, and someone else. These weren't big Tour de France heroes or expert hill climbers - they were just normal people riding up a very abnormal mountain. By the time I had reached the top I felt like I knew those three people intimately, or at least shared a common experience with them.
Proof that we made it!

Mont Ventoux

Bike route 1093281 - powered by Bikemap

It is with slight embarrassment that I say this - once we got to the top of Mont Ventoux, Yolanda proceeded to descend like a Russian submarine down the descent to Malaucène, and if it wasn't for a struggling camper van maxing out at 80km/h and slowing her down, I would have serious egg on my face!

Post ride swim - helmet and all
Apart from the challenge of Mont Ventoux, we also did some other rides around both Provence and the Pyrenees. France is a cyclists dream destination, the views are spectacular, the people are friendly (contrary to what you might have heard - perhaps they are only friendly to cyclists), the motorists are unnervingly courteous, and the roads are well marked. Definitely a must do holiday for any cycling fan.

Mental note - stay on the right!
Yolanda's steed for the day
Lavender, with Mont Ventoux in the background
Lunch in Sault
The bottom of the Col de Marie Blanque
The climb up the Col de Marie Blanque
Yolanda in heaven, lavender and a view in one
Not bad going on a Pick n Pay Special
Two kms to the top
Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Bike hiring scheme in Pau

Col de Marie Blanque
Bike route 1115935 - powered by Bikemap 

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1 comment :

  1. That ain't no mountain, just a big hill!

    ReplyDelete