I left Barcelonnette early on Monday morning for the drive to the municipal campsite in Bedoin.
I had this notion that if I arrived early enough, I could ride up Mont Ventoux that day.
In theory, it was possible. In practice, it was quite the opposite.
The temperature was 36 degrees and a parched humidity.
Just the slightest move made you sweat.
There were many reasons it would be a bad idea, but I still wanted to.
Reluctantly, however, I revisited a wine cave I had discovered in 2019.
A dozen bottles of their finest red later and I had consoled my dilemma.
Hot today, hot tomorrow, in fact, hot everyday
It was time to open the weather apps for some planning.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) was going to be the same as today, hot.
The best option was therefore to get on the bike early and before the sun appeared with a vengeance.
Mont Ventoux was another climb that, technically, I didn’t have to do.
In 2019, I successfully completed the Cingles Challenge on my Brompton, which included the Bedoin ascent.
It had been a memorable experience, but I was keen to complete the TdF100 in a 12-month period and so a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
(A few times people have asked me what it was like climbing Mont Ventoux from Bedoin. In all honesty, I couldn’t really tell them because I rode it at 03:00, and it was pitch black except for the odd rear light in the distance).
Besides, my Bedoin segment time was not great, because I knew I had to climb Mont Ventoux three times that day.
I even pondered another Cingles but finally convinced myself to better my 2:17:34 PB.
A time under 2 hours would be a challenge and sizeable improvement.
Porridge by moonlight
Excitedly, I was up bright and early after camping out on the gravel track surface of a campsite (no grass grows here).
With a good helping of porridge, by camp light and moonlight, I took to the road.
Even before 07:00, riders were starting their ascents with even a few already descending.
(It is advisable to ride Bedoin early, as when the sun rises, it stays on that side of the mountain all day).
The first 4 Km is an easy 4%, which if this was your first experience, it might make you wonder what all the fuss was about.
However, you soon find out.
As the road twists though the woods, the gradient rises to 9-10% and sticks around there for the next 12Km or so.
On such a popular climb, there are always carrots.
One minute you are one and the next minute some else is.
It’s not so much the competitive aspect, but it makes things more interesting as you see yourself gradually catching someone.
With just over 6Km left of the 22Km climb, you leave the forest behind and there it is.
Are we there yet?
The iconic Mont Ventoux tower up in the distance.
It takes your breath away.
“Am I really going to ride all the way up there? It looks miles aways?”
As I pass a couple climbing, a woman laughingly shouts, “Allez”.
The man who can ride faster than her catches up with me and asks if he can film me.
How can I say no?
We share a few friendly lines. Then he drops back to his partner.
Sheep and carrots
As the vast expanses of the pale rocks and the tower dominates the view, I am now the carrot.
A young man rides past me and swiftly gains a sizeable gap.
He is on a mission.
However, something interrupts his flow.
Ahead are over a hundred sheep skipping and dawdling across the road.
The rider however is not having any of this sheep nonsense and, with only a slight drop in speed; he picks his way through them.
A second rider in front of me does the same, so I follow suit.
The sheep are not bothered as they skip ahead or stop, but the shepherd is not quite so impressed.
I could pick out the word ”Vélo”, but I am not sure the shouting was in an encouraging tone.
Perhaps it wasn’t my finest decision, but there was no harm done to man or beast, and so I pushed on with my sub 2hr attempt.
No Mistral is a good Mistral
The much-feared Mistral, at the moment, is just a gentle breeze, thankfully.
I have never experienced its full force and nor would I want to. It can allegedly stop you in your tracks.
At Chalet Reynard the gradient slightly drops and and any Nistral is blocked by the mountain.
It was a chance to up the pace to the next bend before the Mistral breeze returns.
Conscious of my time, I was now fighting to keep the pace going as I saw the 2Km marker appear.
For some bloody reason, it doesn’t read 2Km but 2.5Kmm.
When did 0.5Km come into fashion with mountain markers?
I had thought I was in with a chance of a sub 2hr, but that extra 0.5Km was a bit of a blow.
“Keep going!” I said to myself as I buried my head and pressed the pedals for all I was worth.
Smell the finish
If I had my eyes closed, I could tell you the summit was close.
The last time I was there and this time the air was full of diesel fumes.
For the Mont Ventoux summit, it was quiet, with only a dozen riders admiring the views.
We all self-congratulate each other and took turns in becoming photographers.
The first part of the descent was amazing. Super road surface with wide bends. It was sheer joy.
As you reach the forest, though, the road narrows, and it is now time to be cautious.
It was now past 9:00 am and, with no exaggeration, there were over a hundred riders making their way up.
Some were weaving across the road while some were walking.
It was an interesting challenge keeping my speed down as cars and riders filled some parts of the twisting road.
(in Swiss Stop we trust!)
Ventoux truly stands as one of the greatest climbs, but it can also become very crowded.
If you plan to ride up Mont Ventoux, then I strongly suggest starting early to avoid the sun and the crowds.
and for the record, 1:57:24 – easy 😉