The cycling indulgence for the holiday was to do a triple ascent of Mt Ventoux the aptly named Cingles de Mt Ventoux. The Geant of Provence actually has four potential routes to the summit but the 4th is the so called 'Forester's Road' would need a cross bike or at least big tyres and scant regard for paintwork - neither of which I possessed;-)
Bedoin ascent. This is the classic ascent and regarded by some as the toughest. It is the climb which saw Wiggin's impressive efforts last year, Pantani and Lance's controversial duel, Eros Poli's unlikely breakaway win, and perhaps most (in)famously of all Simpson's death in 67. An early start in Bedoin saw warm lower slopes but a summit cloaked in cloud. I joined the very egalitarian crowds heading up on everything from the latest offerings from Colnago and Pinarello through to two young ladies on Dutch 'town' bikes - I kid you not! Once pass Chalet Reynard the issue of the 'vent' became apparent. What had been a steady ascent slowed rapidly but 1 hour 35 after setting out I crossed the summit. Now it was time to feel cheated as I was forced to pedal down some 9% slopes to make headway toward Malaucene, chilly enough for a touch of the Roger Riviere's on the fingers. At the bottom there is a nice shady spring to replenish bidons, today it was still blowing a gale so much so that I had to lay the bike down rather than prop it up as I wobbled over the stone slabs to the water.
Malaucene ascent. Having only ever come down this way the ascent was a new experience. Personally I'd rate it equally as tough as the Bedoin ascent though it does lack the demoralising 'limestone desert' drag to the summit. Even the summit sweet vendor was struggling with the wind as I crossed the top. The descent to Sault was punctuated by a stop at Chalet Reynard to replenish the bidons at the water pump - unfortunately it was dry and the cafe was packed so I foolishly pressed on with the descent.
Sault ascent. The final ascent was the easiest but longest. Things seemed to have warmed up lower down and it was nice steady tapping away up to Chalet Reynard. However the Mistral seemed to have upped its game. Past Simpson's memorial I noticed a number of riders descending in a cross style, one foot unclipped, as if the road had developed a bad 'off camber' and it soon became apparent that the wind had increased even more. The summit was chaos; riders being blown off bikes, one lad had even taken his shoes off and was dragging his bike down after nearly being blown over the low wall. Even the sweet stall had shut up shop! A final sweeping descent back to an ever patient Jo in Bedoin.
The rest of the holiday was spent enjoying the less extreme hilltops and their villages around the Vaucluse, including Lacoste, whose erstwhile resident had some appropriate comment about hill climbs...
"It is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure." Marquis de Sade