Saturday, 9 October 2010

Ventoux 2010

A few weeks ago while on holiday in the Ardeche with Liz and Marnie I decided to have a go at Ventoux after reading Lance's "It's not about the bike". It was 2 hours drive from where we were staying so I reckoned I could make a day trip of it on my own. I had been going out for an hour or two every morning near our gite and had found a little "col" to practice on, so wasn't totally out of shape, but was still so certain of failure that I decided to do the attempt in my trainers so it would be easier to walk when my legs gave up.
As soon as I pulled off the motorway in Provence I could see it in the distance, and started to wonder what the fuck I was doing - it was massive. I headed to Bedoin and got kitted up, then followed the signs through the village and checked the time. Based on what Neil and Alex had done I thought if I did actually make it, it would be good to beat 3 hours.
The first couple of miles were rubbish. It didn't feel like the climb had started yet, but I was already in a pretty low gear and had sore legs. Resigned to the fact that I was even shitter than anticipated, I slowed right down and just took in the scenery. A few minutes later I rounded the first proper hairpin and got an idea of what the next few hours would be like. I couldn't comprehend that this was it- no rest, no change of gradient, no easing off or you roll backwards- for about 12 more miles!.

I got in bottom gear, got my head down, and just took it all in. It's like bike perfection- twisting up through the immaculate pine forest, going over years of tour graffiti, occasionally glimpsing the deep blue sky. I decided I would have to move to Bedoin so I could do this every day for the rest of my life. It was amazing, and I was telling my eyes to hoover up as much information as possible so I wouldn't ever forget any of it.

After a while chugging along I tried to look out for a distance marker to judge my progress, and seemed to be doing pretty well, and if I thought about it I had been passing quite a lot of people, and nobody had passed me yet. It felt like I wasn't really doing anything, as if someone else was riding the bike and I just had to sit there, relax, and I would be delivered to the summit.
Soon the trees were thinning out and the ground was getting more dusty and gravelly, and after a while I got my first sight of the top since entering the forest. It didn't look that far, and I was still feeling worryingly fresh. I waited for the next marker and it confirmed that I only had about 6 or 7 km left, and I had only taken about an hour so far. If anything I was speeding up, and I was passing more and more people who looked like they should have been going a lot faster. One wiry older guy with a tea coloured tan said something French and encouraging as I passed him, and I decided to step on it a bit. I was waiting for my rookie enthusiasm to come and bite me on the arse.

Standing up to round the last hairpin I checked the time and couldn't believe it. When I came to a stop at the summit I checked again, and again, and realised i'd done it in a little over 1hour 43, and smiled like an idiot. The view from the top was fucking amazing.


  1. Great stuff on this ascent - what was it like going down?
    Considering Team Rubbish like biking
    there is a one night only showing of the cycling film Chasing Legends on the 21st October at a cinema near you. It follows the Team HTC Columbia and has commentary from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherman. There are also comments from Lance Armstrong and Eddie Merckx.

    Follow this link to find out more information:


  2. I hate you Johnny- with your goddamn TRAINERS!