With my current “film-the-most-epic” climbs mission, Mt Ventoux was a no-brainer since it is in this year’s Tour de France.
And this climb is special in so many ways.
First, its an entire pilgrimage to get to the climb. And that was only the beginning.
Since it is the only bigger mountain in the region, you don’t exactly need to get a map to find it.
And if you still don’t see it, just follow anything resembling a cyclist, bike-racked car roof or just the Dutch camper vans. Every soul is heading to the mountain.
There are 2 unique ways heading up Mt Ventoux. Of course, I had to climb the one in the Tour de France – from Bedoin. (Just for the number junkies: 21.2km/1599m climbing, 7.5% grade average) It is seen as the hardest ways up.
Being not in the mountains anymore, the atmosphere has changed. The mountains emanate this mystic, reserved feeling where you are never quite sure you are accepted – the moody weather, the sheer vertical disparity and the mooching Yetis (oh wait, wrong mountain range). In contrast, Mt Ventoux radiates this intriguing, welcoming “hey, look, you can see even the top, come on up!” message lulling cyclists in their spell.
It got me too. I had to ride up.
The scenery of Mt Ventoux is basically an American/Italian climate sandwich: Bottom: Rome (Italy). Very Mediterranean flair with old stuff around, a lot of terracottan color. Middle part: Bend, Oregon (USA): Green, smell of pine trees and yes, even pine trees. Top: Tucson, Arizona (Desertish color), wide views and the tower as mirage.
In the Alps, I was climbing my own pace taking it all in but this time, there was so much happening, no time for tranquility. The mountain was covered in English, German and Dutch cyclists, drivers and camper vans. I made it a game to guess what nationality the cyclists were depending on their riding style. I can tell you, time does go by that way!
With all the trees around, there was no view expect the steep pavement ahead of you so keeping yourself entertained was a good idea.
1300m of elevation later, it all changed.
It opened up. No trees. Green turned to white. And that notorious tower in your vision.
For the good or bad.
Although you clearly headed in that direction, the tower just didn’t get any bigger.
That meant, time for some serious distraction. The guess-nationality game lost its appeal.
But holy moly, the view definitely made up for it!
We were all of a sudden so close; the tower was right there. Something else concerned me though. I looked at my bike computer.
We were short of 100 vertical meters.
Yep, and that’s where the 11% gradient appeared – in the last km….after almost 2 hours climbing.
Although you could see the final km from far away it never appeared to be that steep. I guess when you have been climbing 8-10% the entire time, 11% doesnt seem that much steeper.
Finally, the tower came into eye height. The elevation gain on the bike computer matched with the elevation of Mt Ventoux.
And I joined all the English, Germans and Dutch on the top.
There were several ways going up but only two routes that are truly unique (and don’t overlay with others). So of course, curiosity made me climb up that as well. Just for the record, it is tough too!