Published by Lyn on 28 May 2018
Once or twice a year, I organise a mixed ability social rides weekend. Our latest one was at Ventoux. Here's how it went.
Watch the Facebook page and the Facebook group for info on our next social weekend.
Our rides weekends are completely informal affairs and open to all abilities. We usually book out a bunch of hotel or B&B rooms, arrange some on-road support and help with bike hire (if you need it), and just go out riding together. Usually the weekend also involves coffee, beers and wine.
I chose on Ventoux on a whim while basking in the afterglow of making it up Superbagneres on our Pyrenees social weekend. I decided that with a little determination and a few weeks of rides up and down the (modest) church hill behind our village, it would be possible for anyone (even me) to conquer France's most famous climb.
So I enlisted the help of Gerry and John at 44-5 Cycling Tours because, frankly, I doubted my ability to make it to the top and thought it best to have someone there to scrape me off the road when I collapsed in a heap.
Thankfully that didn't happen.
Instead, we had a wonderful weekend of cycling in the Vaucluse, and a Saturday ascent of the mythical Ventoux.
Our group ranged in ages from 36 to 71. We had sportive riders, touring cyclists, and two riders who had never set bum cheek on a road bike before.
We had Margriet and Erwin, who managed to climb two sides in (almost) the time it took me to scale one, and Bob and Darren, both also accomplished road riders. Rob had arrived from Wales with his bike in the back of his Mini, while Jane and Matt has flown in from London. Janet and Gerry had driven down from Normandy and had, like me, converted their touring bikes to road bikes for the weekend.
Provence's strangely haunting moonscape was no match for the Freewheeling France crew.
Climbing the Ventoux
It's true that Ventoux is a beast of a mountain.
We climbed the 'classic' Tour de France route from Bedoin, for no other reason than that it *is* the classic Tour de France route from Bedoin.
It's without a doubt a gruelling climb. A deceptively gentle first few kilometres give way to a prolonged forested section that is both beautiful and brutal. From the famous Chalet Reynard it would be more tolerable had you not already completed 15 kilometres of pain. This didn't seem to bother Erwin and Margriet, who descended into Malaucene afterwards and did it all again.
Local authorities have recently changed the altitude to 1909m – which is a small consolation – though don't be put off by the horror stories: this climb is not impossible for a mere mortal if you set your own pace.
It's true I didn't overtake a single cyclist who hadn't already stopped for a rest.
It's true there was a runner (yes, on foot) who overtook me.
But it's also true that my 2hr, 59 min and 4 sec segment is on Strava.
So it must have happened.
Zoom in for Ventoux's three climbs
Tips for climbing Ventoux
To this list I'd just stress:
* Take care. Ventoux attracts cyclists (with suport cars/vans), as well as motorcyclists and drivers who fly up at pace.
* Eat little and often to keeo your energy supplies up.
* Beware there are limited water stops – take what you need.
* It will be cold at the top. Take gloves and a jacket for the descent if your fingers and toes (like mine) can't tolerate chilly weather.