Friday 19 August 2011

Finally

Hey up,

Well, after finally overcoming the levy of distractions that have been imposed upon me from such activities as: Climbing, Cycling, Rugby Ball Kicking, Shopping, Redditing, Film Watching, Icing and general procrastinatinging - Here it is!

The long awaited (and much requested) log of our seige of the ventoux.
Before I start; I apologise in advance for the low quality of the pictures in this post. Due the the new plan requiring that I carry all of my gear in a rucksack, the option of taking my DSLR and all of my lenses turned out to be less than attractive. Thus, the only photos I have are from my phone, and hastily taken at that.

With that disclaimer over and done with - Let's start the story!

To give the challenge some context; the well known, and well respected multiple tour de France winning Lance Armstrong referred to the Ventoux as “the hardest climb on the Tour, bar none.” - Unfortunately I only found this out when I had returned back home otherwise I might have put in a few more hours on the pitiful hills of Surrey.

In one of the previous posts I suggested that we were to take a lift down to Grenoble with a blokey from UKC and then cycle about 200 miles to my friends house.

My Main Man Mike's Very Voluminous Van


However, we hit a stumbling block when, two days before we left, I found that the fine steed that I was to ride upon, was not capable of carrying panniers (bags which attach to the bike). Naturally, the prospect of riding 200 miles through hilly terrain with a heavy rucksack was not high on my list of desirable activities. Instead, we altered our plans such that the journey from Grenoble to Dave's would be largely completed by train.
We crossed the Channel to Dunkirk and snatched a scant 4 hours sleep before continuing down to Grenoble with a smile on our lips and a song in our heart. Unfortunately there was not a great deal in our bellies, so when we finally arrived in Orange for the final 20+ mile cycle to Dave's house we were hardly in the fittest of states.

You see that pointy thing?

For much of the cycle we were pedalling into a light headwind under the descending Proven├žal sun, which poured down its bronzing rays upon us until we eventually arrived amongst the vineyards of Faucon.

This was to be our base of operation for the following week while we recuperated from our short ride and diligently prepared ourselves with hours of backbreaking labour for the ride to come.


Training hard with isotonic sports drink in hand

After a couple of days rest in the beautiful surroundings, eating well and filling the hours with time spent in the pool, on the croquet field and on the boules court.
In the evenings we competed fiercely in such fine and noble passtimes as chess, trivial pursuits and cleudo.
And we ate like kings, with our hosts feeding us: meatballs, fajitas, cheese, sausages, barbecues, pizzas, croissants, apples, nectarines, biscuits, oranges, and all under the ever present eye of the Ventoux.

It may be hard to see, but there is a white patch on the top of the middle hill...That is the peak of the ventoux, and on that peak is a great white tower which overlooks the valleys all around.

Tower on Mont Ventoux   (IMG_0363_Q)


With this view haunting each and every one of our waking hours at Dave's, it was a tempered rest and before long we found ourselves making our plans for the ascent.
We decided to start the day with a 5:30am start, two long-last pain au chocolat for breakfast, and a 30 mile ride as a brief warm up to get to the start of the climb in Bedoin.

How to climb the Ventoux - easy really.


We stopped just outside of the village and I made the rather foolish decision to continue on up the ride without further refueling my body with food. And as I found out later on the ride, I also had no food for the ride, and therefore no energy for the top. On the other hand, the frequent rests I took provided me with some quality time to take in the superb vista that spread out below me.

VistaThere is a larger version of this picture on Flickr if you click through.

It seems that there is a magical aspect to this peak in that no matter how far you pedal towards it, it seems to stay at least the same distance away - and sometimes becomes further.

IMG_0661-2

After about 2.5/3 hours I eventually rolled my way over the top, collapsed, and took a short lived break while I gorged myself on some life giving chocolate and cola. I had been pedalling in the lowest possible gear for 2 hours at about 5mph, and if that wasn't enough to break me mentally then the addition of the freezing 40mph gusts of the mistral, and the rising Proven├žal sun were more than enough to finish me off. By the time I reached the top there was little I could do besides take a picture and roll back down to Bedoin.

And I look so happy about it!

The descent of the mountain was good fun, one might even go as far as to say that it was worth the ascent!

I was a little zealous with the brakes since it was my first real descent, but I still achieved 40mph for long sections and even overtook a car!
But the most pleasant thing about getting down towards the valley was the warmth that finally filled my body after shivering for the majority of my time in the top third of the climb.

We eventually got back to Dave's after retracing our 30 mile approach.
The total for the day was about 109km in about 6 hours of cycling with about 2000m of height gained.
Each of these figures far exceeds anything I have ever come close to before and once I returned to Dave's my legs did their best to point this out to me by groaning in resentment of every move I made. Eventually however, even this subsided and I was able to enjoy the last few days of our stay at chez Dave.

It is now very late, and there is still a great deal to mention.
Unfortunately I have run out of mental juice and I need to sleep.
I hope this has been of some interest to you few readers, or at least that someone should read it and make my time writing this worthwhile.

G'night.

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