Le Géant de Provence
A light hearted throw away comment last year of “we should do that” was taken far too seriously by the Intermediate Group and led to months of planning (Plan A, Plan B and Plan C) and preparation with 10 of the group deciding to climb The iconic Mont Ventoux despite half of them having never attempted any similar before.
As the departure date got closer, panics over injuries and lack of training ( explains the previous focus on hilly routes and climbs on Sundays!) took place but eventually none of the group set off for France and The Bald Mountain
Three travelled by car along with most of the bikes – setting off early from a damp and cool Portishead heading for the Eurotunnel and the continent.
An uneventful but scenic journey followed and the three arrived safely at their overnight accommodation to enjoy some French cuisine – meanwhile back in Somerset the 6 fliers were doing their last minute packing ahead of their flight to Marseille the next morning.
The arrangements all worked and the six arrived with 3 bikes to be met by Craig from Veloventoux who drove them to the delightful village of Faucon, close to the mountain, to await those driving – who arrived just in time for dinner.
Bikes were given the once over, routes copied and weather forecasts checked before bed – an early start for two of the group followed who had decided that one ascent wasn’t enough and the three ascents of the Club de Cingles sounded far more fun
The remainder of the riders set off at a slightly more social time, accompanied by the two drivers and support vehicle. A lovely warm ride to Bedoin masked the fun to follow.
After the initial flatter section the riders soon split up, each at the own pace, to face the two hours of constant pedalling and uphill – despite reading all about the climb, nothing really prepares you for the middle 10km through the trees in the heat – constant uphill (9%-10% gradient) with few bends and unchanging scenery.
As the mental and physical challenge started to take is toll the top of the trees came into sight and the short flat around Chalet Reynard – determination kept the legs turning as the scenery changed to the classic moonscape and the top was at last visible and a little more breeze helped to provide some cooling
The final 6km seemed never ending, especially with the various roadside sign unable to agree on the distance remaining (two 5km to go ones some 500+m apart) not helping
Eventually the final bends and gradient generating extra energy and a last push to the finish for a welcome rest and reflection on individual achievements
As the 2 Club de Cingle riders finished their second climb the group was reunited at the summit for photos to record the occasion.
Inspired the two, another rider joined them for their descent and third ascent whilst the rest of the group descended the mountain for lunch and rest
The two (Lee and Allan) successfully completed their quest, a fantastic achievement – one climb being hard, 3 is mental.
Dinner (open air) and drinking followed back in the village square before weary bodies found their way to bed, still basking in the sense of achievement and enjoyment
Saturday’s recovery ride up 3 nearby Cols wasn’t quite as gentle as planned but enabled us to see and enjoy the countryside, guided by staff from VeloVentoux.
This was followed on the Sunday by a ride around the foot of the mountain, taking in the spectacular Gorges De La Nesques and a leisurely lunch in Sault. The weather turned to more British climate on the way back with rain failing to dampen the spirits or enjoyment
Monday came far too quickly, with the drivers setting off early, followed by the fliers being transferred to Nice for the flight home and back to reality.
It was a great trip with the group now planning their next adventures.
A special thanks to Simon and Glynn for organising, Craig and Vicky at VeloVentoux, special mention for Allan and Lee for their 3 ascents, Dave for his 2
See North Somerset Times for further reporting