I climbed Le Mont Ventoux again the other week. I think that is now the sixth time I´ve done it, so its perhaps nothing to write home about.
I was again doing it with absolutely zero training, had only ridden my bike twice in the year prior to attempting it. To be absolutely honest, I tried the day before but I was mentally weak and after reaching Chalet Reynard I turned round and headed down, an ignominious defeat for me but yet another victory for the Giant of the Vaucluse:
Next morning though I knew I was physically capable, it was just the demons in my head that needed to be defeated, so after a stern talking to, at just gone 7am I headed off up the hill.
Even early it promised to be a warm day
The view with my morning coffee told me I was going to sweat a bit in the forest.
The previous afternoon had shown how lovely things were at the top.
So I set off. The climb was as hard as I remember, even harder with no training and a couple of kgs more than the last time I´d sailed (Insert smiley joke face emoji here) up it, but after having grunted and groaned my way for a couple of hours I was out of the forest and onto the last 6kms.
It was now that I felt the wind. The famous vent of the Ventoux (not how it got its name apparently) was angry. On my previous five climbs I’d had extreme heat and extreme cold, sun, clouds, rain, hail and snow, but I´d never experienced the wind. Today I was having all six climbs worth. At once.
It was ferocious. It seemed to be predominantly a side wind, blowing from my left, forcing into the right hand side, which was good for avoiding traffic but not so good at trying to keep the bike straight when I was tired.
The higher I climbed, the stronger it got. I didnt have my anomometer with me, but I would say that near the top it was easily blowing at 100kph.
When the road turned to the right it was great, I didnt even need to pedal, I relaxed, sat up in the saddle and the wind pushed me faster than my legs could have done, but as soon as the road bent left again it was back to being hunched into the saddle, making my position as low as possible and fighting to keep the bike straight.
Past Tom´s memorial, last km, its hard going but I know I´m going to do it. I ride along the wall and past the cafe on the left hand side, ride up the ferocious bump right at the top ….
And cant move.
The last hundred metres involve a 180 degree turn to hit the ramp to climb up to the weather station, its steep (I dont know how steep, but steep), the legs were tired but not so tired I couldnt ride it, but as I was out of the saddle pushing to get to the top I had to turn right. The wind had changed and was blowing so hard that I physically couldnt turn the bike into it to climb the last 30 metres.
It blew me over, onto the tarmac and kept me moving until me and my bike were pushed up against the low brick retaining wall that stops people falling over the edge.
Without doubt the strongest wind I´d ever experienced. At that time of the morning there was nobody about, so I lay on the floor laughing for a while, as I couldn´t do anything else, then got up and immediately realised just how cold the wind was once I´d stopped. I´d bought a windproof jacket for the descent but put it on straight away.
Only thing was, the wind was so strong I had to do it lying down, lying up against the wall, as I didnt want to see it disappearing across the Ventoux and down towards Bedoin.
Finally, jacket on, I stood up and got myself back on the bike. I waited, chose my moment that the howling wind dropped to a level where I wasnt going to be riding backwards and climbed the last 30 metres to the top.
It was baltic. All alone, cold, tired, hungry and thirsty I wanted to get my photo with the famous Ventoux sign though, to show I’d done it.
Only …….. some thieving toerags had stolen the sign. So I took a photo of me and a post.
Believe me I was cold.
The descent was terrifying as usual, hands so cold that I was struggling to brake but once back in the forest all was again well. Another climb done, but its only now that I realise just how strong the wind can be up there.