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jeffg
06-13-2005, 03:54 AM
Well, after having spent a week in Provence to celebrate our 5th anniversary, I am lucky enough to be able to write this report of “La Ventoux,” an organized ride taking in the Giant of Provence (the ride was my wife’s present to me).

We arrived in Vaison-la-Romaine at about 9:00 PM after a very long drive from Frankfurt the night before the ride, which left from Beaumes-de-Venise. After a lovely late dinner, I put the bike together and resolved to get at least 4 hours sleep (our two sons were champs on the drive, btw).
We awoke to gorgeous weather, and I checked in for the ride at about 7:30 AM. I was getting amped watching the 1000+ cyclists get ready and was struck that there were no vests or arm warmers in sight. Either these people were very hearty or it was going to be hot! I spoke to a few folks who assured me it would be warm. I packed a light vest and arm warmers just in case, and chased my oldest son (19 months) around until it was time to line upand handed my wife the bottle of Beaumes-de-Venise (red, not the Muscat dessert wine) that was included in my registration packet!

The herd was restless, and it was a few minutes after the start gun sounded that I was able to cross the start line and trip my computer chip for the official time. We were off through the vineyards of Beaumes-de-Venise, and I rode tempo, taking care through the roundabouts and trying to feel how my legs were after a week off on the first little climb up to Crillon-le-Brave (nothing much in the village except a beautiful resort hotel). I hopped off to fix my cadence magnet and then it was a flat/downhill run into Bedoin from there. After passing a few cafes and being waved through by the marshals, we took that fateful right turn out of the town proper to start the climb, 22.7km and 1622m to the top! Since there were 105 miles and almost 13,000 feet of climbing in all to be done that day, it was important not to overcook it here.
I rode steady until the first hairpin at Saint Esteve, almost 6km into the climb. It is really quite easy until this point, where it then hits 10% and stays there more or less for about 10km until Chalet Reynard. You cannot see the top from this section, but the forest is pretty and it was not nearly as bad as I expected. Most of the faster riders were gone, so I was doing most of the passing here. About 47 minutes later I hit Chalet Reynard and then got to enjoy a slightly flatter 2km (6-7%) before it kicked up to 8-10% for the final 4-5km. All I can say is that there is nothing like seeing that moonscape in person. Unbelievable! The whole of Provence seems to be at your feet, since Ventoux literally dwarfs everything else in the region. We had great luck that it was a clear day with warm temps and no wind. The next several days saw major mistral in the region, so I would not have wanted be anywhere near Ventoux on a bicycle! I hit the top in another 28 minutes or so from Chalet Reynard, which makes about 1:16 for the hard part and 1:33 total.

The descent to Maulacene was very fast and I was somewhat surprised to be passed when I was going over 50 mph! I did not want to overdo it though, and must say that I prefer a more technical descent to one where you bomb a long straight and then hope the next corner you hit isn’t too tight. Anyway, after that it was a matter of riding through gorgeous country over a series of unknown climbs and rollers until hitting Sault for the easy approach to Ventoux at 110km or so. I had run out of water and there was no salt at the last rest stop, so I filled my bottles at a local fountain and bummed some Camembert off one of the volunteers. We did the Sault climb back to Chalet Reynard, and my right foot really was bothering me for some reason (generally not an issue), but I resolved to grit through and not stop and shake it out again and do the climb in one go. I was bonking a bit due to nutritional issues, and people around me were cooked too, since I was only passed by one guy and passed quite a few folks. This only underlined what I knew, i.e. that the fast folks were now long gone! I had hoped to break 7 hours, and a gold medal was 6:46. I saw that this was slipping away, but was happy to be out on such a nice day on this fabled terrain. At Chalet Reynard I was finally able to get a banana or two, fill my bottles and commence on the final 40km. The descent to Bedoin was a blast, and then it was a matter of heading over the few minor cols the organization had devised for the finish. These climbs were sun-baked, but traversed gorgeous back country and included fun technical descents. I lost my glasses on one such descent as I hit a bump and they flew out of my back pocket, so I spent a few minutes looking and then took off without finding them. I got a rush as I saw the 5km to go banner and punched it (for me, anyway). I made the final turn (thanks again to the great marshals giving us a red carpet ride), and I hit the line as I heard my wife give out a loud holler. All told the 170km took 6:59, which was good for a silver medal and a well-deserved meal. After that it was relaxation all week with a few bacchanalic excesses thrown in for good measure.

BTW, I got one more chance to hit Ventoux that week when the Dauphine came through (I was climbing as the sun rose since we were moving on to a new locale), and managed to just break 1:30, so I fee I paced myself pretty well on the day of the ride. The second ascent reinforced the fact that this climb is indeed a beast, even in the good weather. It is certainly the most impressive climb I have ever done. The difficulty stems from the unrelenting nature of the climb once you hit that first virage, though the max gradient is 12% so the steepness is not that bad . Finally, being a bit hungover doesn’t help matters any, so try to avoid that if at all possible … All in all an experience to remember. Sportcommunication (the organizers of Ventoux, Marmotte, and a host of others) do a great job and you can some photos of the ride at http://www.photo2roues.com. Click on “La Ventoux – Beaumes de Venise.” Unflattering pics of me are under number 618!

Too Tall
06-13-2005, 07:09 AM
Jeff, what can I say? You rock. Yah take the family along, get drunk...frickin' hammered the course AND ate stinky cheese along the route. Oh my, it does not get any better my man. AWESOME. You must be happy with this outcome. Congratulations, that's one for the books.

jeffg
06-13-2005, 07:15 AM
Jeff, what can I say? You rock. Yah take the family along, get drunk...frickin' hammered the course AND ate stinky cheese along the route. Oh my, it does not get any better my man. AWESOME. You must be happy with this outcome. Congratulations, that's one for the books.

Yeah, I have to say I am really pleased. To clarify: I was hungover when I went for the second ascent a few days after the ride. We had the opportunity to have a baby sitter in our room (the second time we have hired a sitter ever) and had a wonderful dinner overlooking Ventoux from the terrace. With that food some decent wine is absolutely necessary! :banana:

BumbleBeeDave
06-13-2005, 07:41 AM
. . . illegal, but what the heck . . . :rolleyes:

BBDave

jwb96
06-13-2005, 06:17 PM
Wow - great story. I'm am so very jealous. Mostly because I was there last July but in our whirlwind tour of France, Italy and Germany, we didn't make time to ride. We did catch the finish of a stage in Nimes - we stayed in Crestet, just next to Vaison la Romaine. It sounds like your wife is a bit more supportive of your biking than my SO - she was excited to see the Tour but not to spend a day alone when we didn't have much time there to begin with.

So I was wondering if you could tell me something. If you're going from Crestet to Bedoin (if you took that route - it sounds like you might have), you come to a 3-way intersection where going right takes you toward Nimes and Avignon and straight goes toward Bedoin. There's a small winery there. You don't remember the name of it, do you? Trying to find Rose here in Maine has been a challenge. Ahh, the wine. I don't blame you for indulging!!

Climb01742
06-14-2005, 02:30 PM
jeff, congratulations! an amazing feat. a few details, though, please:

what bike did you ride and what gearing did you select?

what was your best moment? and yes, your worst moment?

what were your fellow riders like?

how did you feel the next day?

thanks! and once again, well done.

jeffg
06-15-2005, 01:37 PM
a few details, though, please:

what bike did you ride and what gearing did you select?

what was your best moment? and yes, your worst moment?

what were your fellow riders like?

how did you feel the next day?

thanks! and once again, well done.

Climb:

Thanks for the kind words (and thanks BBD for posting the pic and taking the legal burden on yourself :beer: ). Gearing was an interesting choice. I had agonized over whether to go compact on my Hampsten, since 53-39, 13X29 is normally a good compromise for me. I prefer 48/34, 12-27 for rides with lots of climbing, but the 13X29 comes close. I had noticed, though, that I would end up riding so much in the 39X29 or 34X27 towards the end of double centuries or other epic rides and still struggle to impose my own cadence, that I broke down and got a Chorus CT a week before Ventoux. Since I had ridden outdoors all of six times this year (yep, the trainer can be a friend), I felt it would at least ease my mind. I had the experience of hitting climbs that "averaged" 10% for 10km, but were more like 15% for the last 6km and 5% for the first four, and then it's just a grind.

Anyway, I rode the Hampsten (see pic: BTW, the Legend has done my last three epic rides, so it was time for Z1 to get out, too), and I have to say it was worth it for La Ventoux. Not that I absolutely needed a 34X29. Far from it. I found myself often in the 34X23 and mostly in the 34X26 during the steep 10km section to Chalet Reynard. The gradient never lets up, but is never more than 12% and mostly 9.5-10.5%. What it did allow me to do was dictate my cadence rather than the other way around. I rode at 70-80 the whole way up and had a much better feeling in my legs than usual (but boy was I knackered). I did notice that some folks passed me on the descent pedaling a big gear on the straights when I was spinning out, but who cares when you can tuck and hit 50+ mph! As for the Campy system, I have to say it shifts absolutely flawlessly, the PMP is close but not quite there even with only a 14 tooth jump.

Best moment: Honestly, cresting Ventoux on that gorgeous day and descending without as much as a wind vest or arm warmers ... Unlike other rides where I am most concerned about time, if I had to stop after Maulacene it still would have been a ride to cherish.

Worst moment: Realizing that either I sweat and eat too much or this ride didn't provide enough water/food! It was disappointing to think I was bonking when it could have easily been avoided. California Triple Crown events and the Dolomite Marathon have spoiled me with support.

Fellow riders: Mostly very fit cycling enthusiasts happy to share a pull, a smile, and some stinky cheese. There were really some fit guys there, though there was no vibe like you get around the Maratona, Marmotte, or GF Campagnolo with the quasi-pros that start first and often slink away if there is a drug control (Italy). Here it was just 1200+ cycling enthusiasts. The Maratona is wonderful and does not allow private sags and support the quasi-pros get in other Italian gran fondos (Rumsas "won" the Nove Colli this year), but it is still a massive undertaking where I will be starting in the last grid since I don't have an Italian license or a qualifying time from the past two years. Anyone who wants to test themselves on Ventoux can choose the 170km, 102km, or 21 km Grimpee du Ventoux the next day and never feel held up or alone on the course. In short, the event organization exceeded my expectations!

The next day: It might have had something to do with a bottle of Gigondas, some Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, and a Marc de Provence, but I had a bit of a headache and my legs were a bit sore! ;)

I can not say I met your Mt. Washington criteria of leaving 110% on the course, but I tried to push as much as I could without cracking totally. The Polar data shows I spent over 4 hours between 80-90% of my MHR, and only about 10% of the time above that, so the pacing went fine. If I ever get past enough of the 5000 cyclists starting in front of me in the Dolomites to ride my own pace (and can train at least once every 3-4 days :crap: ), I will push myself to a new level of pain on the Giau and Falzarego passes. :banana:

jeffg
06-15-2005, 02:20 PM
Wow - great story. I'm am so very jealous. Mostly because I was there last July but in our whirlwind tour of France, Italy and Germany, we didn't make time to ride. We did catch the finish of a stage in Nimes - we stayed in Crestet, just next to Vaison la Romaine. It sounds like your wife is a bit more supportive of your biking than my SO - she was excited to see the Tour but not to spend a day alone when we didn't have much time there to begin with.

So I was wondering if you could tell me something. If you're going from Crestet to Bedoin (if you took that route - it sounds like you might have), you come to a 3-way intersection where going right takes you toward Nimes and Avignon and straight goes toward Bedoin. There's a small winery there. You don't remember the name of it, do you? Trying to find Rose here in Maine has been a challenge. Ahh, the wine. I don't blame you for indulging!!

Well, the route sheet lists Crillon-le-Brave as the last town before Bedoin, so I am not sure if we passed your winery. Heck, there are enough around! As for finding good rose from Provence in the US, I believe some from Domaine Ott and Domaine Tempier are imported, but the more local (and less pricey)stuff is tougher to get your hands on. Still, how about some Tempier with a nice seared monkfish with tomatoes and black olives? Heck, how about just some chilled Tempier? It will take you back to Provence in a heartbeat! :banana:

fiamme red
06-15-2005, 05:00 PM
Since I had ridden outdoors all of six times this year (yep, the trainer can be a friend), I felt it would at least ease my mind.
Wow, I really admire your motivation! I have a hard time getting on the trainer during the winter, but when spring comes, even if it's cold and rainy outside, it's simply impossible. My mind can no longer stand the thought of the indoor torture machine as soon as morning temperatures are above 40 degrees. I start riding the trainer again in November.

It's a good thing to have goals. I've tried to set goals too, like beating certain times on centuries or brevets, but I can't stay motivated.

BigMac
06-15-2005, 07:27 PM
Congratulations my good friend. Fantastic to hear of your exploits. Keep enjoying your life in Europe, ride as much as possible, enjoy your beautiful growing family and please keep all updated on your riding endeavors. The beauty of the sport is never about the equipment rather the experiences like this that make life rewarding and cycling great. Salute!

Ride on! :banana: