I conquered the mythic climb & joined the Mont Ventoux Club

In warm sunny Provence stands a massive mountain seeming surrounded by plains – on the edge of the French Alps and yet separate. At 1,909m, it is a mecca for visitors on all modes of transport, to enjoy the challenge of a ride to the summit, or to enjoy the hairpins and straights, to escape the heat of the plains in summer or just to say they have been to the summit.

For me, it was a chance to ride from Bedoin to the summit. Mont Ventoux, a climb that family and friends bragged about, that featured in many Tour de France races, where riders were made famous or died trying.

After several days of riding routes around Provence, I thought I was ready to join the club and summit Mont Ventoux on my bike. A picture-perfect warm autumn day:caffeine fix in Bedoin, sunscreen slapped on, water bottles filled, a pocket of emergency snacks, a Hotpak windbreaker, fully charged phone… I was ready.

All hyped up and ready to go, we started. Slow and steady, I literally plodded my way through the cool hardwood forests and conifers endlessly climbing, reading the graffiti on the road, glancing at the bike computer, straining to see around the next corner, greeting colourful cyclists as they rode past me ascending and a quick nod to those descending at warp speed.

First respite was as I emerged from the sparse forest at Chalet Le Reynard. 15 kilometres completed and only 6 or so kilometres to go. Individuals and groups of cyclists were scattered around the car park and bend – much like me, exhausted but determined. A quick back stretch, a squeeze of energy gel and water to wash it down and I was back in the saddle.

Drastically the environment changed from limestone and pine smelling forests to sharp limestone rocky slopes, small juniper shrubs …and goats meandering across the road with shepherds scrambling the white rocky terrain not far behind. No more shade and a constant uphill grind. The fittest cyclists breezed past like they were riding electric bikes, others, like me, holding onto the handlebars and willing the exhausted legs to push through, our heads hanging following the white dashed lines, with quick glimpses to of the bald summit to see how much further… Passing the time, reading years of graffiti as I rode over it and watching the metres achingly pass on the bike computer – torture!

Finally, a breeze and then the wind. Cool and refreshing and so very welcome. Past the memorial to Tom Simpson surrounded by offerings from respectful cyclists. And then suddenly I was there, and friends cheered. Masses of cyclists congratulating each other, taking photos under the sticker plastered summit sign, admiring the endless view of the Provence plain…and then freezing cold.We squashed in the coffee shop for a light lunch, Hotpaks on, clasping hot drinks waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive.

I had done it! Unbelievable. I felt so alive, so chuffed and so cold!And the reward? A freezing cold descent initially slow to avoid the hikers, the goats and then freedom to fly and then hitting ribbons of warm air – bliss. Back in Bedoin, we laughed, celebrated and then lost ourselves along the country roads back to our hotel and a delicious Provençal rosé.

Above: Ride profile from www.mycols.app