This will be the first of three blogs inspired by Team MMT’s recent holidays in southern Spain and France. This one focuses on our recent visit to Mont Ventoux, which has close proximity to the the old Papal city of Avignon. Avignon has been on our collective travel bucket list for a while now. Besides being endowed with seemingly endless medieval architecture and history, Avignon is only 30 minutes from the iconic Mont Ventoux. Initially when Team MMT drew up its holiday plans, a half day was allocated to attempting ascent on the summit. Leading up to our departure, the realisation that a more serious preparation was required set in. Consequently the attempt was jettisoned from our holiday itinerary.
Whilst we were in Spain, its was announced that stage 12 of the 2016 Tour de France would finish at the summit. From that point I was determined that we view the ‘Giant of Provence’ first hand.
Initially as you drive towards Mont Ventoux, it looks like it has a snow cap, particularly in the afternoon light. This optical illusion is provided by the famous ‘bald’ peak. The ascent from Bedoin starts at the 0km marker and winds its way through the town and nearby villages. Once you enter the forest, the hard work starts. As we visited in mid-autumn, it was ablaze with green, yellow, red and amber coloured leaves. It is easy to see why Paul Cezanne made his home in Provence. Most the climb is sheltered by this forest. In some ways it must be disheartening to riders, as the pinnacle isn’t visible until the last 6 km.
Whilst we were early, a number of riders were on their way up, mostly riding by themselves. I was surprised to see a spritely 60 something year old on a modern Bianche making steady progress. Many riders were using either mountain bikes or eBikes. The road is well cared for and has many names and messages spray painted across its width. Some of the hairpins turn were ridiculously steep. Finally we emerged from the treeline and and had the ‘oh wow’ moment. TV coverage doesn’t do the view up to and from the summit any justice it was spectacular.
In some ways it reminds me a bit of Mount Wellington in Hobart Tasmania. The comparison isn’t as silly as it sounds. Depending on starting point, that an ascent of Mt Wellington is about 21k with an average gradient of 6.7%, but has a much lower pinacle at 1270m, compared to Mt. Ventoux.
Having driven up both peaks within 4 weeks of each other, Mont Ventoux is consistently more difficult, especially from the Bedoin side. From an asthletics perspective I think the east facing view from Mount Wellingon, overlooking the city of Hobart is superior.
In hindsight, having driven to the summit from Bedoin, deciding against an ascent was a smart move. Quite frankly it would have been foolish given that my only riding had been on flat roads. If I had come directly from Australia, rather eating and drinking my way around southern Spain and France with Team MMT, an attempt form the Sault side may have been doable.
From Bedoin the gradient profile is, quite frankly, intimidating. A rider commencing their ascent from Bedoin, starts about 300m above sea level and climbs about 1600m over approximately 22km. The basic math provides an average gradient of 7.5% with two really nasty sections over 10%. However, its worth pointing out that this is an average and that there a number of sections over 12%, ‘hiding’ inside the orange sections….shudder!!!
From Sault, the gradient profile is benign by comparison. A rider commencing their ascent from Sault, starts about 690m above sea level and climbs about 900m over approximately 26km. The initial approach is much easier. The first 20 or so kilometres has a average gradient of about 3.6%. However, the final 6 km is the same as the Bedoin route.
So onto the photos. I’ve chosen 6 of the better ones. I have to point out that Team MMT was really lucky with the weather. It was both crystal clear and still at the summit. Prior reading indicated that Mont Ventoux experiences high winds for about 120 days of the year and has the highest recorded windspeed in Europe at its summit.
|The sleepy village of Bedoin.||An intrepid rider ascending through the forest.|
|The official highway marker.||Yours truly, with the famous sign.|
|The iconic ‘lighthouse’ at the summit.||View to the south.|
so, where does this leave me now? Well I think I’m going to have to try Mount Wellington next time I’m in Hobart. Hopefully, I’ll be able to source a decent road bike with a third inner chain ring. After that well, I would love to return to Europe and have go at the ‘Giant’. I had been thinking about doing the L’Eroica of Gaiole for my 50th birthday, may I’ll be able to add this as well.
Continuing on with the travel theme, in the next blog I’ll be writing about the visit Team MMT made to the famous Otero Bicycle Shop in Madrid. Until then ride safe.
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