A Ventoux experience from a steady climber
When a cycling couple go on holiday, there is usually going to be a cycling destination! You see and experience so much more on the bike. The food always tastes better after the ride and the glass of wine feels like you deserve it. We love to watch the Tour de France and Mont Ventoux looked so amazing! I was definitely up for cycling in Provence and doing the climb once. But Mark was up for the real challenge, doing all three climbs in one day, as I am not a pure climber, I wasn’t too sure.
The journey from Mallorca to Bedoin was a 12 hrs ferry crossing from Alcudia to Toulon, followed by a 220km drive, which took a little under 2hours. We arrived at Bedoin late in the evening, the small Village was busy celebrating a bank holiday and Bastille Day.
After the day travelling, the morning started with the best croissant I’d ever had! We decided to go for an easy spin on the bikes, to explore the local area. We went to Malaucene via the very pretty Coll de Madeleine and retraced back to Bedoin but checked the first few km’s of the climb out towards Mont Ventoux before finishing the ride. Then we decided to drive up Mont Ventoux from Bedoin, I don’t think that was a good idea, seeing cyclists suffering getting to the top… After exploring the road in the car I was losing confidence and started to doubt if I could climb up even once!
The challenge day started at 6.00 from Bedoin, up the steepest of the climbs. I was just going easy, I wasn’t worry about my time, I just wanted to get up there. So the first 5km was nice and easy and then the hard work started. The road marks tell you the incline and how far you are from the top. I was going so slow when the road went up to 16% and in the morning it was so quiet, a deer crossed the road in front of me! A special moment and distraction from the pain. Every kilometre felt longer, but I was confident to get to the 6km mark to Chalet Raynard (Elevation 1,417m). Once I passed the Chalet, the next 3km felt so easy, I was enjoying the views and started to feel very confident, then around 1.5km from the top I was struggling again, but I was so close, I couldn’t give up. I managed to get to the top, but the last 100 meters felt scary, the wind was so strong, I was holding on to my bike with all the strength I had.
There was only me and one more cyclists at the top. It felt amazing to get there and scary to start descending down to Sault. 25km down felt forever, especially because I knew that I had to go back up that road. The best part was the scenery, lavender landscapes, so, so beautiful. After quick coffee in Sault, I headed back up. Surprisingly my legs felt better as the day went on and the 19 km to the Chalet I truly enjoyed. I felt like I was flying up, in comparison with the first climb. The last 6km I knew what to expect, for me that is better, I like to manage my pain. So I carried on to the top for the second time. This time the wind wasn’t too bad and it got busy since the first time. I was happy and I was done. If my life was dependent on climbing three times up, I would do it, but cycling should be enjoyable, so it was time to go home and rest. After the challenge, it was easy to refuel in Bedoin, so many nice restaurants to choose from. The wine is good, the people are friendly and you feel like you are on holiday in France.
We planned day three as a recovery spin and the distance on the map looked OK. The terrain was the problem! After a 10km climb at 8% from Villes sur Auzon to Col de Abeilles, I wanted to go home, but I am glad that I kept going because we found pretty lanes and lovely little village with a great restaurant. From there it was mostly downhill around the Gorge de la Nesque, small roads with beautiful views! Then 15km of cycling paradise back, with just a small climb before the village. Then the relaxing part of the holiday, to watch the Tour de France in a cycling cafe.
The last days ride was planned to be a gentle 80km loop, no big climbs. However, after Mark had eaten some more cake and some wine, the crazy idea (to climb Ventoux again) started to be discussed. Zuzana was perfectly happy with the fact, that she hadn’t cycled up Ventoux from Malaucene and didn’t experience the pain of the second hardest climbing option to Ventoux, but I think Mark had unfinished business with this climb ???? , his first time up he’d stopped at a cafe to eat cake, after the climb segment had started. So it was decided, Mark was going repeat the climb up from Malaucene and I was going to maybe try it. To get to Malaucene, was over the Coll de Madaleine, which was lovely and then the first kilometres of the 22 km climb, you could enjoy. The work starts after 5 km, it gets to 14% for about 3km and the road will go to 8% for maybe 3km and hard again all the way to the top. It is a very different exercise climbing from Malaucene, different tarmac, a wider road, different views. The top is stunning and easier at the top than the other side, but the descent back to Bedoin was a little scary.
I was so pleased with my last effort, I went home with no regrets. But knowing that I am well enough and fit enough to do it. I feel grateful, for the experience and the opportunity. I highly recommend it to people who like a good challenge. Even if you are steady climber like me, you can do it. And you definitely have to go, if you like cake and wine!
We will be back next year, with our cycling friends. So if you are up for the challenge, get in touch ? firstname.lastname@example.org