France - Day 8 : Climbing the Mt. Ventoux
We left for the Ventoux early, because it would get really hot. We packed our bikes after a hearty breakfast. Of course simply climbing the Ventoux wouldn't be enough, it had to be done with all our luggage.
The last preparations
Stefan and Bojan would first do groceries and then druve up by car, so they would arrive in about 2.5 hours.
On our way to the Ventoux
Climbing the Mont Ventoux from Bedoin involves a 22 km long climb with an elevation difference of about 1700 meters. The average incline is 8%. We expected it would take us about 5 hours to get to the top, including eating and resting. We had a flying start: we put our speedometers at 0, waited at the starting line until a fresh minute began, and started cycling.
The sign indicating the official start of the climb
The road didn't get a lot steeper and didn't seem to go in the direction of the Ventoux. There were also many cyclists going in the other direction. After a while we started to decent. It was there we figured out we were cycling in the wrong direction. We discovered that the sign at the start showing 'kilometers 0' had 'start' written on both sides. At least we now were warmed up properly.
We were ready to start the real climb. At first it wouldn't be that steep, then we would enter 'the forest', where the incline is continuously 8% or more. At first the other cyclists on racing bikes were going faster, but in the forest we started gaining on them. In our lowest gear we still had to hammer our pedals to go forward. A cyclist on a racing bike came riding behind us. The forest would go on for 10 kilometers. After 7 km he couldn't keep up with us anymore. We overtook a few more cyclists with carbon bikes and of course we happily said 'bonjour' to all of them. After the third one I told Bram 'that was the third guy on a plastic [carbon] bike'. Bram didn't like that because it was hard to combine laughing and climbing. We couldn't take a break from pedaling because then we would fall over, instead we were continuously cycling as fast as we could. Crossing the forest took over an hour.
We had planned to stop once or twice, but because we were doing well we decided to try and make it in one go. At the chalet Reynard there was a small flat section before the last 6 km started. The summit was already insight, we thought we might be able to finish within 2 hours. From there onwards the climb would go up with 9%. Because there were no trees we had a great view of the summit. Between the chalet and the summit were about 10 turns and after each one we thought we were almost at the top. During the last part a lot of cyclists had started walking or stopped altogether. I was almost out of water, Bram had planned to refill his bottle during our stops, but now had to do the entire climb on just 0.75 L. Throwing some water on my neck felt good. I had two more bottles in the panniers near my front wheel but couldn't reach them without getting of my bike. After a lot of wiggling I managed to get one without stopping or falling over.
The last kilometer was extra steep. There was a women cheering her man on, 'go Ruud'. He had a carbon bike. I told Bram, we already beat Ruud on his plastic bike. In the second to last turn stood a photographer. He made pictures of everyone and then gave them his business card. He asked Bram to go slower so he could take a good picture, of course Bram didn't and neither did it.
The photographer took three identical pictures of everyone.
The last part was pretty though
Just like the Tour the France we needed to get the last bit of energy from the little toenail of our right foot. I was getting a bit dizzy and had goosebumps, while it was 30 degrees. The last 100 meter wasn't that hard because I couldn't feel anything anymore and saw the end. At the top we rested a while. Then we saw Stefan and Bojan, who had arrived just after us. Ruud arrived a bit later on his plastic bike. He asked if we still needed to deliver newspapers, given our large panniers. We had completed the climb in 2:14:38 hours.
We quickly took a picture of the summit.
Here is the official proof.
The official proof we made it with lugage.
In the background you can see the last turn of the climb as well as the helicopter platform where we took photos later.
We drank and rested some more. We were completely dehydrated, especially Bram. Buying something in the stores didn't seem like a good idea, everything was way too expensive. It was possible to climb a bit higher by foot, so of course we did.
Way too expensive candy at the Ventoux
They also sold black sausages
The landscape we would cycle through on our return journey
The tower you can see from 50 km away and Stefan who is figuring out how to take our photo.
We descended a bit to the helicopter platform and took some more pictures.
There were posts so snowplow drivers could see the edge of the road in high snow.
A few more pictures for family
We descended towards the monument for Tommy Simpson, where we had planned to stop on the way up.
The professional cyclist Tommy Simpson had died here during the 1967 Tour de France
At the monument.
After the monument came a 20 km long descent.
With a bit of pedaling Bram could keep up with the car
Bart during the descent
I don't know the highest speed I reached, because I went 80.3 km/h a few days ago and didn't go faster. I think it was around 70 km/h. I overtook two cyclists. Some corners where a bit sharp, but fortunately I didn't fall. I reached the bottom 2 minutes before Bram did.
Back at the campsite, our neighbors asked where we had been. We hadn't climbed the Ventoux, right? We took a shower in the middle of the day, that was a first. The showers switched on by pulling a rope and annoyingly would stop right away if you let go. Bram said he had simply tied it to the soap rack. Except for a brief trip to the village we just sat and rested for the rest of the day. In the store, we took the longest line, toward checkout number 3, as we needed to check something else out besides our groceries. In the evening we backed pancakes with bacon and Rochefort cheese, and Maple Joe of course.
Maple Joe is maple syrup
This time we drank good wine while listening to real music, for the first time in eight days.
Back and forth to the summit of the Ventoux, with a small detour
Daily distance 52,57 km
Average speed 16 km/h