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.