Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walkin' On The Moon

Hello from Bedoin, France!  We're currently bunking at the La Garenne campsite.  A nice enough place that's right next to the town and supermarket, has a nice swimming pool and warm showers.

View from our tent:

Laundry line:

Bikes DO grow on trees...

We arrived in Bedoin Friday from Avignon (where we spent two nights doing absolutely nothing but resting), and today we rode up Mont Ventoux, which looks like the surface of the moon when you get to the top because of the lack of vegetation and the expansive white rocks.

I hadn't ridden since Wednesday when I had a miserable time trying to climb the Col de La Croix de Fer near Bourg d'Oisans.  Needless to say, I was a little nervous that my muscles or lungs wouldn't be up to it and I would feel super stiff.

We were supposed to embark on the 21km climb yesterday, but I wasn't quite feeling it as I looked up and saw a cloudy sky with no sun in sight.  So we waited.

And I'm so glad we did!  We drove up to the top in the car yesterday anyway and I was freezing by the time we got there.  I watched the car's thermometer drop 15 degrees Fahrenheit from 70 degrees to 55 degrees as the altitude rose.

The weather this morning could not have been more perfect for cycling.  Blue skies, sunshine and crisp air.  Ahh.

I set off about an hour before Ged this morning in an attempt to time our arrival to the summit just right.


The first half of the climb was just what I was expecting--it sucked.  The gradient pretty much stayed around 10% and the road didn't offer many breaks from that steepness.  But even though I knew what was coming and what to expect, I don't think there's any real way to genuinely enjoy a hard climb.

A hard climb is just a hard climb.

All you can do is try to put yourself in the best mentality possible at the start because your spirits are likely to dampen as the tough parts come.  I think it's better to start happy and end exhausted than to start miserable and end exhausted.

I noticed I wasn't the only one riding in the lowest gear...EVERYONE was.

After the first 10km or 11km, things started to look better.  I could feel the gradient easing up in certain spots and I felt like there was hope in sight.  I started counting down the kilometers from that point onward.  Always seems to help me mentally.  I also sang some songs, whatever came to mind, really.

Then with 5km to go, I started to get into a nice rhythm.  And I started passing more and more people.

I could see the antenna of the oservatory at the top and I felt good.

Got in a bit of a slump 2km from the finish but my energy sprang back during the last km.  A few guys who had passed me early on flashed a smile or mumbled "bravo" as I rose out of the saddle for the last turn leading up to the stores and pastry stands at the top.  

I climbed 21km in 2h40m.  Ged's time was 1h46m. 

Seems we both had a good ride.

I think every mountain has personality and you find out a little bit about that personality when you climb it.

Big climbs are meant to be painful.  They're a test of one's fitness, stamina and dedication.  

Given those postulates, I think each mountain decides how much it wants to make you suffer in order to reap the reward of breathtaking views and a feeling of accomplishment.

Mont Ventoux is on the meaner end of mountain climbs, I would say.  This mountain imposes pain and strife all the way up, allowing no room for flat bits to catch your breath.  

The feelings of enjoyment and pleasure come ONLY once you've reached the top.  The work you're supposed to do to reach your reward is NOT to be enjoyed because that's exactly what it is:  WORK that the mountain has placed upon your shoulders as a test of whether or not you're worthy enough or not of receiving the grand prize at the end.

This may all sound abstract and silly, but I want to put this thought out there anyway.

The descent was really lovely.  Despite feeling really chilly while waiting for Ged at the top, the temperature slowly crept up as we retreated to the valley.  We passed sprawling vineyards and cruised on rolling roads that were rich with the pungent fragrance of baking pine needles--one of the best smells I think nature makes.

We're off to the Pont du Gard tomorrow then the Pyrenees.

Safe Travels,


  1. OMG YOU CLIMBED UP FREAKING MOUNT VENTOUX!!! That's so awesome!!! I'm so so so so so so jealous. Okay not really, because I sold my bike half a year ago. But still. You must be amazingly fit!! I think I'd have been absolutely been CRAWLING up. What gear ratio did you use? You look like you had an amazing time!!!! Wow!!!!!!!!

  2. @keephangingon

    Thanks. I'm really not that great at climbing, so I used the lowest gear possible. I have a triple in the front, which is a 5039/30. And just a standard 7-speed cog in the rear.