Riding Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux was one big climb I particularly wanted to do during our riding trip to France.

We were not alone!

My abiding memory of that morning is of the hundreds, yes hundreds of cyclists grinding their way to the summit.

At 7am on a September Saturday morning, the carpark in the main street of Bedoin already looked like the start of a sportive. This is the start of what's reckoned to be the hardest route.

Starting at Sault is meant to be the easiest route, and there's also Malaucene on the other side of the mountain.

The gradient is steep-ish and unrelenting. For the first hour or so, dense pine forest provides shade. Neverthless I was drinking copious amounts of water.

At Chalet Reynad, the Bedoin and Sault routes meet the 'lunar' landscape begins.

So do the photographers. Ventouxphoto.fr and photoventoux.com snap ou struggling up the gradient, looking heroic., handing you a card as you pass.

You then look at their shots online, wondering whether you look like a TdF rider or a gasping fish-on-a-bike.

Then you discover it costs more than a tenner to buy an image! We concluded their prices are steeper than the mountain.

I say 'we' because against my expectations Liz not only decided to attempt the climb, she made it to the summit. I went up in 2hr 20 mins. She was just 25 minutes behind me.

I'd actually started to descend. Passing the memorial to Tom Simpson I saw a familiar figure on a bike and realised it was my wife.

We rode to the summit together.

The summit was a very busy place. If the car-park had looked like the start of a sportive, this looked like the finish of a very, very popular event.

But that wasn't the half of it.

Day time temperatures in Provence were still exceptionally high, so we thought the bulk of the riders would have started around the same time as us. Oh no.

All the way down the mountain, and I do mean all the way... right to the bottom, we saw cyclists pedalling up La Ventoux. I wonder how many of them even made it to Chalet Reynard...

Which is why both of the bike shops in Bedoin sell spuvenir jerseys emblazoned with 'Mont Ventoux'.

Yes I know this is their equivalent of the t-shirts I see in Fort William that proudly proclaim 'I climbed Ben Nevis'.

But I had to have one.

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