This year we went on a family holiday to the south of France, and as luck would have it our accommodation was only 20 minutes drive from legendry Mt Ventoux. It sticks out of the ground like a nice sore thumb and is visible in that area of Provence from a 100km in every direction. We even had clear views of the top of it from our swimming pool, which was a constant reminder that I couldn't return home without doing it.
Although it wasn't a cycling holiday, I managed to persuade my father in law to get up at 7am and be my support vehicle. We left early as the temperature was easily reaching 35 degrees at midday, which would have made the climb much harder. Ventoux is notoriously unpredictable weather wise, but I was lucky to have sunshine, clear skies and low winds. I chose the route from the village of Bedoin which is the more famous of the 3 ascents available, due to it being the used on the Tour de France; it is also said to be the hardest. It's 21 km long with around 1600 m of climbing.
I left the village car park at around 8 am, but even at that time there was a steady stream of cyclists going up (and some coming down that had done the climb already). The climb starts fairly gently out of the village at around 5 % for a few km and then once into the forest it ramps up to a consistently punishing 9 - 11% for the next 10 or so km.
I was riding a 34 front ring with a 28 rear and was pretty much in lowest gear all the way. It was definitely a grind all the way up and by far one of the toughest climbs I have done- unrelenting, with no easy stretches to take a breather until the Chalet Reynard café, 3/4 up, but that only lasts a few hundred metres before getting steep again. However, the fact that it had a consistent gradient meant I could knock out a steady rhythm and keep my heart rate in a relatively sensible zone of 160 - 170 all the way up! Once in the right mind set, it was actually quite enjoyable...sort of.
Once out of the wooded section, the views open up completely to something often described as the surface of the moon. Having seen the pros ride up Ventoux on the TV a week before, the scenery was even more spectacular in the flesh. Unfortunately, I was light years away from Chris Froome's pace, even considering the fact they did around 200km before doing the climb, which makes you appreciate just how good they are. I managed it in 2hrs 12 mins without stopping. On the way down, I stopped briefly at the Tom Simpson memorial and then got held up by a herd of strange looking mountain sheep crossing the road. Once moving, I managed to overtake lots of cars on the way down as the descent is very fast -due to the lack of hairpins. I managed to clock over 45mph, but could have easily gone faster if the niggling voice in my head stopped questioning whether my travel insurance covered me going down French mountains at breakneck speed. There were even more riders heading up the climb as the temperature was heating up to sauna levels. I even saw a father and son team struggling up on a tandem near the beginning, fair play to them...but I doubt if they made it though.
When I got back home I downloaded the ride on to Strava and I came something like 3500 out of 4500 people, which means that I am faster than 1000 people if I look at it in a glass half full kind of way!