One thing on the to-do list for 2015 was to cycle up a mountain. My boyfriend Andrew and I decided on the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux up the traditional Bedoin route. It was absolutely glorious, particularly in hindsight when I’m safely back on the sofa and the pain has gone. I am desperate to go back and conquer it again next year and when that comes around, I’ll be changing a few things in my strategy!
Don’t forget to pack your saddle!
I am sure you won’t but I had finally got the bike box shut after the 11th time, sweating and cursing at it along the way, when I caught Andrew waving my dismembered saddle out of the corner of my eye. “You might be needing this” – he said. It always surprises me how much preparation goes into packing a bike box!
Don’t head to the mountain too late
We had every intention of getting on the road to Ventoux at the absolute crack of dawn and made a couple of sincere statements about how we “must be on our way by 7:30am“. Of course, by the time we rolled out of bed, made up a cafetiere, read the news, got the bikes in the car, it was more like 10:30am. It didn’t really affect us until we were on our descent from Ventoux and realised the car was still 20 miles away, we had forgotten our lights and were racing the sunset. I can assure you, this pressure is not what you need after cycling up a mountain.
Do not eat the best part of an entire saucission before your ascent
I must admit I do have a major penchant for cured meat and being on the continent is basically a green light for me to go wild. However, I will exercise caution the next time I try and put the whole thing away before 21km of climbing. This is not the breakfast of champions. Sticking to your normal nutrition plan is the best idea, this isn’t the time to mix it up.
Don’t let the pain spoil the view
Think of it this way, you’ve got 21km and (in my case) just over two hours of climbing a mountain with a 7.7% gradient, you’re going to be there for a while so you might as well just grind it out and take in the magnificent views. Next time I go I will break it down into three mental chunks:
- Bedoin to St Esteve: This is a 5.5km section with an average gradient of 4.4% to warm up those legs before you hit the hard stuff.
- The Forest: This is where you’ll need to just keep grinding away. The gradient kicks up to 9% for 9.5km as it winds its way through the thick trees. The psychological part of this is that you can’t see the summit from here but I promise you, you will get there!
- Chalet Reynard to the summit: Eventually I popped out of the trees and saw a glorious chalet and a car park AND, glistening in the distance, the summit of Ventoux! From here it was 6km to the top with an average of 7%. I was starting to really blow by this point and my heart felt like it was about to fly out of my chest, not to mention my hot Pepperami legs and the ominous memorial to Tommy Simpson. But, when you get here, you know you’re on the home straight. Definitely take an extra layer too as it’s colder up there. I took some arm warmers and a long-sleeved jersey (in September).
Don’t throw up whilst your boyfriend is trying to propose
Thanks to the aforementioned saucission, possibly a lack of climbing training and a shit load of Haribo, my arrival at the summit was somewhat compromised by a bout of the jets. Unbeknownst to me, Andrew had taken extra cargo up the mountain, hoping to pop the question on one of the most iconic peaks in France and I was throwing up over my handlebars. Needless to say, the ring came back down the mountain (still in his jersey pocket). Luckily, a couple of days later, fully recovered, he managed to do the deed on a morning ride to Lac St Croix in front of this view pictured below. Wisely he waited until I had hoped off my bike otherwise I definitely would have crashed in excitement. 🙂 The lesson here is possibly to stick to my normal nutrition plan, work more hills into my training and try not to ruin significant life moments.
So there you have it, my visit to Ventoux was more life-changing that I anticipated and despite the burning legs, disorganisation and vomit, I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. I am looking forward to our return, with a few lessons learnt! More hills will certainly be included so I can pose for a proper summit picture without looking a bit green around the gills!
If anyone is considering the climb, I’m happy to answer all your questions below!