Monday, February 7, 2011
Imagine Mont Ventoux in July , lined with hundreds of thousands of spectators but wet and drizzily. Well i was totally alone as i rode out of Bedoin mid morning Saturday with virtually an empty road and in my Monaco Uniform dressed for a sunny summer's day, about 14C at a guess. Of course i had a jacket around my waist as i always do and gloves,a pair of arm & legwarmers tucked away for descents and i was in no great hurry as this was the season's opening uphill event for me . Most of the way up to the "Route Ferme" barrier was 9% but the odd 10%, with clear roads lined by snow pockets. In the trees the temperature was chill but on the open road the back was warmed by the sun.
Decided to drop down to Soult for a look and the last part was a climb into the town. Not much to see so decided the route home was shorter over the hill rather than around the forest scenic route. Climbing the gradient on this side is so much easier with just a few pitches on corners but the road surface condition was a lot worse for wear. Obviously the Bedoin route gets looked after as the tourist cyclist uses that route and at each km marker there are the advisories as to "Pente %". Didn't make the climb to the barrier the second time around.
Descending back into Bedoin was the first occeasion i saw cyclists, one a fellow in his 50's that i turned and chased back up the hill but as he refused to speak english or french i left him to plod on. The other about 40's was a little more talkative but when we got back to the 10% pente i headed back down. No point in making it 3 climbs in the one day, save some energy for sunday.
Earlier in the week i was at the Etoile de Bessieres for a couple of days but there were no Aussies racing and whilst it was warmish there was really only the "Personalities" to talk to at the Arrivee. Greeted Raymond Poulidour and Daniel M.(TDF speaker )in the customary french manner.
Sunday was a series of rides with locals who had come out in their droves to ride in the shadow of Mont Ventoux since the weather was so agreeable. Most were surprised to see me in my summer gear as they were rugged up for lower temperatures. Some even wearing balaclavas and rain coat/heavy jackets.
Monday i set out through Cassolette, Goult and Murs to Soult for the climb and ducked under the barrier to reach the top. On the way up about 800m from the top was Tom Simpson's memorial but just as you arrive there i found 100m of snow on the road, so had to walk the bike through this barrier. Reaching the top i was hit by hurricane force wind which slowed the walking pace to snail pace. When i went over the top towards the descent i could see the route down to Maloucenes was heavily snow drifted, so decided there was no point trying to make that climb today.
Returning towards Bedoin i saw a cyclist heading up so turned around to ride a little with him but he was sweating hard and short of breathe. Left him to it but found his colleague further down the hill and Kevin told me they were from Belgium, whilst i was still near the cafe, they arrived there after deciding not to cross the patch of snow at the memorial, long way to come to turn back just as youare about to reach the target. Whilst talking another of their number arrived from Apt obviously he was a little slower on the climb.
Another 2 nights of camping out in minus degrees but double sleeping bags and blankets are helping although getting to bed at 2100hrs is a bit early for me, forgot to get some wine so will be on the scotch tonight.
On the climb from the barrier to the summit i met up with some English bird watchers who took some photos so they will be emailed and posted in the next week, me not the flying sort of birds !
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More folows !