Hamish has been wanting to make a pilgrimage to the Giant of Provence for some time.
We decided to spend a couple of days there in September. We had been told of the beautiful Tour de Ventoux, a ride around the base of the mountain and we wanted also to climb the beast and pay our respects at the Tom Simpson Memorial.The Tour de Ventoux, was a truly delightful ride, stunning scenery and lovely quiet undulating roads. A real joy of a ride.
The next day we were up early, having eaten breakfast we were on the road by 7am. Heading up to the summit from the Bedoin side. It is a pleasant if consistent 9% climb, for 21km, and we quickly found a rhythm that we could maintain. This proved to be useful for 4 dutchmen who we picked up along the way, they chatted with us all the way up to Chalet Reynard, 6 k from the top. All 5 men quite happy to take the pace from me on the front!!!!
We got to the summit in around 2 hours, 9am and we were at the top of a mountain! We didn’t hang around at the top, it was very chilly! A quick turnaround and descent down to the town of Malaucene. A reviving hot chocolate and croissant pepped us up before we set off on the hardest climb of the day. Glen (TVH) had warned me that it was a challenge, but I hadn’t really listened! As we rode up it was one km at 4% (niiice!) then one at 14% (not so nice) with a patch in the middle that was about 5k long at around 12%. Really hard! It was at this point, when we had been riding up the same hill effectively for 4 hours including the descent we realised that we may need some more food!! It still felt early, but we had been riding for 4 hours on a croissant!
On arrival at the top, it was really really cold and we were starving! Luckily a restaurant was open, and more hot chocolate and the most delicious bowl of spaghetti bolognaise that I have ever tasted fixed us up beautifully, and we had the prospect of a 30 min descent to digest it all! It was around 1pm by this stage, 2 down 1 to go!
It was a magical day, there must have been around 30-40 riders attempting the challenge that day- we kept seeing each other, as we went up and down, up and down, you start to get familiar and wave to the same people. We had seen Pippa and John, who were also doing the challenge on the same day as part of a week long event, coming down Malaucene as we went up it, and again later in Sault.
Finally we arrived in Sault, and prepared for the final hurrah, 26k this time but much much gentler for the first 20 k, at an ambling 4-5%. It was a joy to spin our legs and really enjoy the climb. Finally we reached Chalet Renard for the last time 6k to go. It was cold and cloudy, and as we ground our way up, the wind picked up and the temperature fell. By the time we reached the top , we knew why it is called Mont Ventoux. The top was also completely shrouded in cloud, making visibility very limited, and the wind made us not want to hang around.
We decided to walk the 1st 50m down as it was soooo windy, my bike was picked up in a gust of wind and the back end was lifted off the road- very scary. We remounted and rode gingerly down 300m or so, then the cloud disappeared and the wind dropped, just the long descent back to Bedoin.
We had done it, 3x in one day, all 3 sides. 131km, 4300m climbing. 9:15 riding time. A great challenge.