Anne-Marie Perry: Our Ventoux Adventure- Day 2- The Big Day! 29.09.2018
The big day we had all been training for finally arrived-our intended time of departure was 8.00am but factor in Jason – who needs to wake up, cook the bread for breakfast, and then fill up water bottles as the rest of us are actually sitting on our bikes outside ready for the off, and the actual depart is closer to 8.30am.
Legs were a little tired from the day before, and the hills seemed a little tougher. We leave Bedoin on the D974 and the slopes start immediately. Not too bad we all think until the wooded area begins and the road signs show an 8-10% incline. The slope was monotonous and continuous. Jason, tried to stay back to encourage me on but not being able to breathe and legs already hurting he got short shrift, and told to ****** off and leave me to plod on in my own sweet way. This is a man who has the capacity to talk and breathe no matter what the ascent. Not to be deterred by my admonishment, I hear him talking to what appeared to be himself – he was doing an interview with himself for the company chat!
The slopes continued for the next 15km, hairpin bend after hairpin bend. The team had promised me lots of stops and breaks to get us through, yet the first stop was the Chalet Reynard only 6.7 km from the summit. A very welcome break as several points along the way I had been close to tears- mostly when someone cycling past either up or down, shouted words of encouragement.
A blueberry pie and coffee had been ordered for me and my smile slowly returned once the caffeine coursed through my veins. Lovely as it was my eyes were fixed on the climb out from the chalet to the summit. The books promised me a 6-7% climb but the ascent looked gruelling. We set off on the final leg, and Simon, the whippet in our team had had an hour’s rest to our half and continued to power up the final leg. Looking up the mountain a line of ants came to mind as hundreds of keen cyclists were out on the Ventoux pilgrimage. The last 6.7km was even harder, legs were refusing to work, cramp was setting in, I had resorted to energy gels (disgusting at the best of times,) and still my climb got slower and slower.
Just when you think you can’t go further the slopes get steeper for the last 500m. Seeing the end was a great incentive, but I still needed the legs to keep going that last bit. The others were all much faster than me and had time to park their bikes and photograph me on the final stages of my ascent.
At the top my legs hurt and feet had cramp. It only takes a few minutes to recover and the pain and agony of the last few hours fly out your mind as the euphoria of completing both Ventoux and our challenge sets in.
For someone terrified of heights, the descent from the summit was a white knuckle ride to the forest lined road. Positioning myself firmly in the middle of the road, travelling at a speed that resembled a snail on wheels down the bare limestone pass, I held fast regardless of cars or bikes trying to over or undertake. The wind and steep slopes provided for a slow initial descent.
A second more pleasant stop, I didn’t need to look up the slope any longer, at the Chalet Reynard for chips and coffee, before the rest of the downhill through the wooded section – far less frightening, you can’t see the edge and you are protected from the wind. The descent took about half an hour to 40 minutes – incredible.
Bedoin lies at the end of the descent so no pedalling to speak to of to get back. Whilst we found a bar to celebrate, Simon had left us at the top of Ventoux to take the Malaucène descent. We thought he was then cycling home along the valley roads to Bedoin, but no, unbeknown to us he had always intended to re-ascend Ventoux – via the Malaucène route.
As we guiltily tucked into pizza, Rosé and Bier, Simon was reporting he had found his limit, this was with 5km to go, back to top of Mont Ventoux for the second time. Simon returned around quarter to six, looking fresh as a daisy!! That night saw us all exhausted but pleased to have completed a tough day.