W is for WIND

They don’t give a wind a name unless it’s something serious. In this part of France, Provence, there is a wind called The Mistral. At the top of yesterday’s climb, Mt. Ventoux, the wind has been recorded at upto 320Kph. (it wasn’t quite that strong yesterday).

We cycled the ‘classic’ Mt. Ventoux climb, from the town of Bedouin, about 22K to the top. The grade is recorded as about a 7% average, but this is a little misleading as the first few Km are only 2.5% or so, the rest being around 8% and above.

The first 2/3 of the climb is through a forrest, and yesterday morning it was cold and windless. Flies buzzing, I nearly had one for morning tea but managed to spit it out.

This was our 5th (and final) big climb for the trip, and I’ve learnt that climbing is 60% fitness and 40% mental effort. Maybe 10K in I was thinking “I’ll take a break after the next corner” but when I got there, I decided to HTFU and just kept riding.

6Km from the top is Chalet Reynard, a bar / restaurant that serves cold drinks to thirsty cyclists in summer and, I’m guessing, things like hot chocolate to skiers in winter. We stopped at the Chalet for a break, then began the final assault.

The remainder of the climb is above the tree line, and there seems to be just nothing that grows there, it’s what I imagine the moon looks like. Rocks, rock, rocks, very little else, and as you go around every second or third corner, a blast of wind that tries to knock you over.

As I rode past the Tom Simpson memorial (a racer who died on Ventoux in the late ’60s) I knew I only had one km to go.

On the final little hairpin, maybe 50m from the top the wind was so strong I was almost blown over and decided to walk my bike the last few meters. David arrived soon after, we bought some souvenirs in the shop next to the weather station, took our photos and began the descent. The section down to Chalet Reynard was hairy: the wind that had been just annoying on the ascent was now trying to push me off the road!

Once past Reynard we were back in the trees and out of the wind, so the remainder of the descent was much more enjoyable, and quite a bit faster. We descended to Sault so we could take the “Route Touristique” and ride through the Gorges de la Nesque. More amazing scenery (as if we’d not had enough!) as we climbed for a few Km – and easy ascent, this wasn’t a major Col – then rolled down for maybe 25Km through the gorge.

The gorge done, and a few Km later we we’re back in Bedouin. A cold drink from the supermarket (I think I’m starting to like Orangina), bikes back in the car and the serious part of my cycling adventure is over.

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