And then it was done.
Ventoux climbed for a second time, marking the completion of the second challenge for this year and also a big personal landmark,, showing that last year was not a one-off, that I can take on the physical challenges and meet them, albeit not very quickly.
So, the climb. May 30th, 2017. An early start from our lodgings in Mormoiron and then to Malaucene via Bedoin and the Col de la Madelaine (not that one!). A slow ride over these, taking it easy and saving my energy for something bigger. Far bigger.
I read a lot about the climb from Malaucene ready for this ride and knew that the worst points were about 10km in to the climb when the gradients average around 12%. It doesn’t sound too bad and I had encountered much higher gradients during Liege-Bastogne-Liege; La Redoute, for example, has a short blast of 20% gradient.
A short blast. Only 50 metres, you can see the end of it and you just stand on the peddles and push harder knowing that there is a rest coming up, albeit a descent; I normally hate descents but after such a short, intense climb any relaxation is welcome….
But this not 50 metres, this is 3 kilometres. A completely insane 3 f*cking kilometres! And there is no restful descent, afterwards. Just more mountain, up and up. An easier gradient but still, mountain. Up and up…..
I will say that it was stunning to see. No pictures because, despite this romantic idea of stopping for the odd snap, I find it difficult to stop when climbing because it is a lot of work to get going again. That’s my excuse anyway. But, believe me, this time I could look to my left and see toward an expanding horizon, at least giving you the benefit of knowing that you are going up. Not like Bedoin where the tress seem to suffocate you.
I did take one picture but…. well…. it’s a bit naff.
In the end its climbing… up and up…. ow…. the legs hurt…. Just keep going, peel the kilometres away.
And then you reach the top. Strange because it feels sudden, even though you have been pushing for so long to get there, even if it is only two hours. The beaten weather stations or-whatever-it-is-the-French-Air-Force-use-it-for is just there and you are weaving around tourists, sight-seers, other cyclists…… The usual mix of people, some nice, some not. The former stick in the mind.
A quick queue for a picture in front of that sign (recently renewed) and then front wheel off the bike and in to the car. No descent in the end, not this time. No secret as I keep saying it but I don’t like descending and, in the end, my right arm did not feel good. Now I think maybe I should have descended via Sault but…. that’s wisdom of hindsight. It would still have been twenty kilometres down, something not sensible with a weak right arm.
But this time we did stop and leave a Bidon with Tom Simpson. Thanks for the hospitality! A stop at Chalet Reynard for lunch was an anti-climax as it was apparently fully booked by a coach party and so no truffle omelette, just the nicest beer I have ever had.
And that was it. Challenge Number Two done. Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Ventoux completed and so only one more to do, the relatively easy one of the trio. Relatively. A long and easy cruise. That’s the plan anyway.
Of course it was hard work but climbing Ventoux again was, personally, so enjoyable and so rewarding. I will never be one of these folks who makes all three climbs in one day, one is quite enough and that would involve descending, that’s my excuse in any case. That one climb felt so great, a fantastic feeling when the summit is in front of you!
But the best thing for me? The right leg did feel like it was doing something, even if the left did the bulk of the work (and had the cramp at the end). For all of the issues that came with this climb, and there were some, that’s what I will remember most, what keeps me going with these small pieces of private insanity. Keeping the Progressive part of my MS as Unprogressive as possible is what it is personally all about and I am convinced that challenges like Ventoux help this. I don’t claim to know why, it just feels that way.
So, for the second year running, here’s to the mountain.
- This climb was originally targeted for May 31st – World MS Day, but was moved to May 30th due to possible weather issues. Turned out the weather was fine but no matter, target still completed and thoughts are turning to targets for next year. This time, it may well be sponsored with the target of keeping my MS and those of others as unprogressive as possible. Just in the back of my mind for now.