Now there is just over a week to go. Not much more to do in preparation. No point in over-exercising, tiring myself out or having a crash. The bike has arrived safely in France and is waiting for us there. Just some short rides to stay in shape on my second bike. But not so in shape that I am tired.
So it’s that phase where you get a little nervous, a little excited. In my case, I also read more about what it is I will be doing.
I am familiar with Ventoux, an imposing background to holidays in Provence. I have also climbed it. But that was in a car, not quite the same. Passed many cyclists on the way. Maybe thought they were a little mad. Cycling up a mountain? Crazy.
So now I am one of the crazy ones I am researching what it is I am about to do. There is the option to climb the mountain three times but I think, for me, once is enough. Call me cautious. As it will be but once, I will take the route that is the most famous, the hardest, from Bedoin via Chalet Reynard to the summit.
The lower stages of the climb from Saint Esteve to Chalet Reynard will be through forest that will protect from the wind but not the heat. Water, water and more water. The gradient at this stage is also the steepest of the climb, around nine kilometres at an average of nine percent. I have ridden on such gradients, even more than twenty percent in the Ardennes, but not for such a sustained period. Taking it easy will be the key, I guess. Expert climber that I am.
At Chalet Reynard the D974 marks a sharp turn and you start to climb toward the zone where the effects of deforestation are still apparent and the wind that you were protected from suddenly hits. Hopefully, please, pretty please, it will hit from behind and help push me up the mountain. But I don’t think it will, somehow. The gradients are kinder here but the exposure to the conditions may make things tougher.
A memorial to Tom Simpson apparently marks the last phase, steep again but nearly there. It marks where he died during an especially tough stage of the Tour de France undertaken on a hot day whilst using amphetamines and alcohol to help him through it; such an approach is not reflected in my preparation.
Then there is the summit. After all the preparation, the summit.
But for all that preparation I cannot anticipate everything that may come to pass. I can only be as ready as possible, plenty of water, plenty of food. The advantage of undertaking such a ride as part of sponsored event is that there is plenty of support on hand and a couple of places to stop, take on supplies and rest up. A big help.
For all the preparation, I suspect I will need that help, especially as I don’t ride with cleats! Or clip-ins. Or whatever they are called. Apparently a great aid for climbing. But then I also remember seeing an older couple cycling toward the summit on ‘normal’ bikes the last time we were there. I mean, if they can do it….
But then their bikes were probably electric. Yes, that’s what it was. Wonder how I can get a motor in mine…..