Saturday, 14 June 2014

A Change of Plan

Another Epic!
We had planned to take it easier today, and then do two ascents of Ventoux tomorrow, but there was a forecast of more wind tomorrow, which unfortunately Ian didn't pick up until this morning, so swift change of plan!  The weather is very "special" on Ventoux, like all big mountains.  It's rare not to feel the cold and the wind.  So a pleasant climb can mean a freezing experience on the summit, but a pleasant summit can mean a hot, fly-ridden ascent!
Set off cycling at 7.30 am, about an hour too late!  But warm temperatures, rather than hot.  A shady, pine tree-lined ascent from Bedoin, with a relentless 9%.  Not too bad, apart from the flies.  Had to take my glasses off because they were buzzing up the inside!  The last 4km are a stinker, labouring up in the heat, past photographers, Tommy Simpson's memorial, and grinding away up the last 500m at 11%!  It always makes me sad to see how close Simpson got to the summit, a mere one kilometre away, before his heart packed up, with footage of him trying to get back in the saddle, before losing consciousness!  The power and the pressure of drugs!
The descent into Sault is delightful.  Met up with Ian, who was on his way back up, but paused for five minutes with me.  He'd made the summit half an hour faster!  A thirty minute break, coffee, coke and cheese baguette, and I was off again!  It's an achievement to ascend Ventoux twice in 98' heat, but that said the ascent from Sault is the easiest.  In third gear most of the way, with patches of faster gears, as the ascent levels off near Chalet Reynard, an average of 4.5%. Sheer bliss!  Still had to repeat the last 6km again, past the same photographers and Simpson's memorial.  But this time, ironically, felt less weary, helped by the clouds bubbling up and a breeze. Fast descent into Bedoin, to 98' heat again, just in time to catch Ian, who'd taken the longer route back through Malaucene.  A lovely cold large beer, with talk about what might have been if it hadn't been too hot!  There is a challenge of three ascents up Ventoux, from Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault, in descending order of difficulty, to be undertaken in 12 hours.  Ian would have had no difficulty.  I might have just about managed it, including stoppage times, as I'd managed two in 6hrs 45 mins, with at least another 4 hours of climbing, a descent and stoppage time to be added.  Ah well, that'll keep for another year, but hopefully in the near future, before we get too decrepit!
Anyway, a few provisions from the local shop, with strawberries stuffed down my front, and onions rammed into back pockets, and a slightly wary cycle back to the nearby campsite.  Thank heavens we stopped at one beer!
Crazy though it sounds, it's harder being back at the site apr├Ęs cycle.  Hot and sticky.  Forecast for foreseeable future, scorchio, scorchio, scorchio.  Stuff acclimatisation, give me Scottish weather again.  Forecast for further North, 14'.  What is going on!
Just to add.  It's the cherry season here in Provence, with the sweetest cherries for sale in large quantities for a few euros.  The lavender is not out yet, probably nearer July.

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