Bromptoux Day 3
Stage Distance: 40 miles (approx)
Stage Start: 6:45am
The Provence-ial sun woke us early. I’m sure we would have woken early anyway. It was time to get out there and climb a mountain. After
a lengthy French breakfast of coffee and croissants a hastily scoffed breakfast of half a banana malt loaf and some water, we clipped our bottles on, filled our pockets with food, and set off.
I had the Autographer wearable camera fixed on the front of my bike and it was snapping away silently as we rode through the early morning air towards Bedoin, where the traditional, and hardest, climb up Ventoux starts from. People were just starting work in the vineyards. It was perfect cycling weather, clear skies, sun just rising and not too hot. We’d made the right decision to leave early.
Getting into Bedoin we started to see more and more cyclists. My Garmin directed us to the base of the climb. It was time to stop, say one last good luck, and then start the climb. We’d each climb at our own rate so wouldn’t see each other until the top.
The climb up Mont Ventoux starts quite gently. I shifted into second gear and started riding, passing a few other cyclists. The evidence of the previous year’s Tour de France was visible on the road, fading gently in the sun.
Slowly but surely the climb started to steepen. I shifted into first gear. This was it, no more gears left. All in. The road entered the woods and the temperature dropped a bit. Normally, when the Tour de France comes through it’s later in the day and the woods trap the heat in. This time they were playing in my favour.
The road just kept climbing. Sometimes steeper, sometimes shallowing out a bit. Hairpin bends caused it to get steeper still, especially since I could not cut onto the other side of the road like the pro riders can and make the right handers shallower.
I passed more cyclists as I climbed, saying Bonjour as I did. One group of two French cyclists summed up what I was doing pretty well, the first saying Bonjour, the second merely ‘Wow’. My legs were still feeling good; as long as I remembered to keep eating the figs rolls (cycling food of champions) and drinking, then the climb should be OK.
Eventually I climbed above the tree line and into the moonscape that Mont Ventoux is so famous for. Reaching Chalet Reynard I had a decision to make. Originally I had intended to ride to Chalet Reynard, stop and let the legs recover, then continue. But my legs were still feeling good. I pressed on, maybe I’d be able to do the whole climb in one go.
After Chalet Reynard the road suddenly steepened and the protection from the trees was gone. It got a bit hotter. But the summit became visible too, the buildings shimmering in the distance as I continued to climb. The legs were beginning to hurt a bit now, it was time to grind out the last of the climb, head down and legs turning. I was starting to catch a cyclist in front and this gave me a good target.
As the moonscape got whiter so the summit got closer. I was nearly there. Past the Simpson memorial, turn the corner and up the final ramp. I’d done it – Mont Ventoux had been conquered! I’d climbed the 21.4km’s in one go, in 1 hour 59 minutes and 13 seconds.
I took a picture of myself at the summit, did a few stretches and then took in the amazing view. The weather was great, the sky was clear, and you could see for miles.
There were a lot of other cyclists and their families at the top and we got chatting to some of them. Most people could not believe that we had cycled up on Bromptons. One lady asked where the motor was. I just pointed to my legs 🙂 A few people took photo’s of us, to prove to their friends that they had seen a couple of crazy English guys on folding bikes at the summit.
We bought a few souvenirs, took lots more photo’s, and then prepared ourselves for the descent.
When we started planning the Mont Ventoux adventure it was the descent that concerned me more than the ascent. Tales of overheating rims and blown tubes filled my mind. Small wheels and long descents do not mix very well.
We started the descent, stopping to pay our respects and take a few photos at the Simpson memorial.
Then it was brakes off and down the mountain, stopping only once at Chalet Reynard to let the rims cool down. The looks on peoples faces as we descended were great; a mixture of surprise and astonishment mostly, as they climbed and we shot past. The fastest speed I got up to was 45mph, quite fast enough on a Brompton. Probably too fast, some might argue.
It didn’t take long to get to the bottom. We turned off before Bedoin and continued on to Villes Sur Auzon. It was time for a shower and a long, celebratory French lunch.
Recovery was then a few beers while watching the day’s stage of the Tour de France. I’d now got a new respect for the guys racing. It took them half the time it took me, to get up Ventoux last year.