Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Le Mont Ventoux again!

Le Mont Ventoux
A bit further from here than ascents we've done in the past, but hopefully fit enough for a long day!  Visible from 100kms away in all directions, it's desert slopes give the appearance of being permanently snow-capped. Dozens of people have died on Ventoux from hypothermia, this far down in Provence.
  There are three ways to climb up Ventoux, from Sault, from Malaucene and from Bedoin.  Setting off by 8.30am, we cycled 15miles to Malaucene, on a lovely quiet road, past Pierrelongue with its chapel perched high on a rock.  Arriving in Malaucene we soon picked up several groups of keen cyclists, realising how much quieter it is in the Drome region.  My rubbish memory manages to filter out all the nasty parts of the long, grinding road up to Ventoux, with three kilometres in succession of 11 and 12%.  Later it flattens off to a more comfortable gradient, but by then your back is killing you and you're too shattered to realise it's getting easier!  2 hrs 37mins of climbing later, you're there on the top of the lunar landscape that is L Mont Ventoux.  I think I prefer the other two routes which take you up via Chalet Reynard, and the iconic last 6kms over the "desert" landscape, with its memorial to Tom Simpson, and its hairpins to the summit.
Straight down to Chalet Reynard for a Nutella crepe and a coffee.  Just about warm enough.  27deg down in the valley and cold up here, but luckily without a strong wind, forecast for the following days. Literally means the windy mountain, and the wind can be a serious consideration in whether to attempt a climb or not. Fantastic sense of achievement, having climbed 1912 m over 22 kms.
The descent through to Sault is superb, twisting gently down into the warmth of the lavender fields, through pineapple-scented groves. Caught Ian in Sault, just as he was about to leave!  Time for a coca cola, sirop de lavende cordial and a ham baguette, before the last fifteen miles or so back through Montbrun and on into the Drome, over the Col de Fontaube and on to Buis les Baronnies.  A total of 68 miles and a good day out.  That night the wind built up and the temperature dropped.  The following morning was extremely windy and cool, with a weather warning for high winds.  As we set off for the busy market in Bedoin, to buy some garlic, there were cyclists queuing up to begin the climb up to Ventoux and I was extremely glad not to be amongst them!  The van was buffeted all the way along the motorway as we started our journey back north up towards the Alps again, to see if Galibier was open yet and too do some more alpine climbs.  But we really enjoyed our time in the Drome, with its more gentle cycling.  Quieter, cheaper and more unspoilt.  Definitely going back again.

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