Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 5- The climb- Mt. Ventoux: Sault to Vaison la Romaine

Today was the big day; the assault of Mt. Ventoux.  After a tough prior day we decided to attack Ventoux from the east and forego scenic gorge de la nesque and the brutal 10% climb from Bedoin to the actual base of Ventoux at Chalet Reyard where the east road meets.  

Our climb was beautiful.   The 5-6% grade was very manageable and the cool temperature and picturesque pines took our minds off of the hard part of the climb to come.  At Chalet Reynard we actually felt refreshed and ready to take on what many call the toughest climb in France.  We had virtually perfect conditions; crystal clear with an interesting warm “mistral” wind reminicent of our Santa Ana's in southern California that would blow into our faces while climbing NE but give us a slight push on the long switchbacks headed NW.  No doubt about it, a tough, steep, desolate climb.  The only scenery were the other cyclists around you, and there weren't too many.  About 75% up we stopped at the Tommy Simpson memorial.  This was the British cyclist that died while climbing the mountain in the 80’s.  

We finally made it to the summit; about 6K of real steepness 9-11% range.  The descent to Malaucene was the best of our trip with a top speed of 50 mph.  The road surface was near perfect and plenty of room to maneuver.  We had fabulous celebratory lunch in Malaucene then pushed on about 6 miles to our hotel in old part of town of Vaison La Romaine where we would spend the next two nights.  The hotel was literally an old castle that had been updated slightly with great views of the main city and the rolling Provencal mountains behind it.

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