maandag 29 mei 2017

The Windy Mountain revisited

On my first time climb by bike the mountain vanished in a damp, cold cloud. When I tried again, another challenge awaited me. There’s always something going wrong!


The bike ride is the same, but people differ. What's an almost superhuman effort for one person, is a piece of cake for the other. Age, physical condition, training, shape of the day, mood, and motivation play a role.
That’s what I felt during my second climb of the Mont Ventoux.

The year before, I had climbed the mountain, but as you can read in "To the top of a vanished mountain", I did not see much of it. So, I didn't let go the next chance to climb it again.

This time the misery arose already before departure. The bus was ready to leave, loaded with the luggage and bicycles of twenty enthusiastic cyclists. The plan was to leave Urmond (NL) on a Thursday evening at nine o'clock. The ride would take all night to arrive at the well-known camping Carpe Diem. After two relatively quiet cycling days, we would climb the Mont Ventoux on the Sunday.
However…

But then the message from the quartermasters at Vaison-la-Romaine came through that the Mont Ventoux would be closed on Saturday and Sunday, because of a classic sports car rally.

Two alternatives were presented: to make the climb in the afternoon, upon arrival, or early Saturday morning, before the mountain closed. The first option found the most support. That meant: straight from the bus, after a sleepless night, on the bike for a ride that is difficult enough in itself. But it was preferred over rising at five o'clock on Saturday morning.


The bus was fine, but in a seated position it's virtually impossible to get through the night comfortably. Therefore, we were glad that to see the Bald Mountain in the distance, towering above the surrounding landscape.

The bicycle tour
At ten o'clock we arrived at the camping with sleepy heads and at two o'clock we got on the bike. It was lovely to shake off the lame feeling of the previous night. This was what we came for: cycling in the mountains.

To get to Bédoin, the starting point of the climb, we first had to cross the Col de la Madeleine. This slope may not pose a problem for a well-trained cyclist, otherwise don't consider to climb the Mont Ventoux.

During the first ten kilometers from Bédoin, I asked myself: "When does that climb start?" Until St. Estève, it's a completely flat road. But beyond that village, I realized that the climb from Bédoin would be more difficult than from Sault, the year before. From Sault you start the climb after two kilometers and the total distance is more than four kilometers longer than from Bédoin. Moreover, Sault is situated 450m higher than Bédoin.


Halfway through the run-up to the real climb, signs reminded me of the roadblock, the following days. During the climb I saw some classic sports cars, Porsches, Ferraris. Roaring motors, high speed. Twice they passed, first up, then down again. Normally, I like to watch those classic cars, but then I despised them.

I did not only detest those cars, my anger also turned to the mountain. Because the steep climb went through a dense forest. The bends in the road allowed me to look no further than 300 meters. No views, nowhere. Not very interesting for tourists. On the side of the road a sign read: "Le Mont Ventoux 1909m - Géant de Provence - 15 km - 9.1% sur 1 km - Alt. 630m”. Such signs offered the only orientation on the progress of the climb.

And then, with those signs along the road and cycling to the maximum of my abilities, I began to do my calculations. How far would it be and how long would it take? I shifted to my lightest gear (38-28). My speed dropped from 10 to 8 km per hour. Would it have been so difficult if I had slept properly?
And so I began thinking about getting off the bike, just to take the pressure from the pedals for a while...
No! Carry on!

My calculations were correct: Chalet-Reynard came into view. Here the road from Sault joins the route to the top. For me, this was a nice place for a short break.


On the bare mountain
I set off again for the last part of the climb, and I took it easy. The landscape and the view were now very interesting, especially because the year before, through the fog, I had not seen anything of it.

What a bizarre landscape! No tree in sight, just a few plants, some flowers. It was all gravel and rocks. And the mountains around were much lower than this Giant of the Provence.
I enjoyed it and got off my bike three times to take some pictures.


I also stopped at the monument for Tommy Simpson, the British cyclist who died there during a stage in 1967. The top of the mountain, with its weather station, which I had seen ahead of me for six kilometers, was now very close.


A few hundred meters to go. I shifted again to my lowest gear and quickly I arrived at the top. I did it! It was windy over there - the mountain deserved its name. I had to pay attention not to fall.
Now, I made the pictures I did not get a chance to make the previous year.

It was quite chilly, only 12 degrees. After a break in the restaurant at the summit, I descended to Malaucène. My cruising speed was more than 60 instead of 8 km per hour.

Simple pleasure
The bike ride is the same, but people differ. There are also things that cyclists have in common: the simple pleasure to hit the road and to go wherever you want (with attention to safety). Entering the struggle against bad weather and the heavy course. Enjoying the scenery unfolding around you, the conversation on the way, the breaks at a terrace of your choice. At home, the satisfaction with the accomplishment and the healthy fatigue.
These were my experiences when I climbed the Mont Ventoux for the second time.

This is a repost of my (Dutch) January 30, 2017 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.