Mont Ventoux....failed :-(

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by Fab Foodie, 4 Sep 2007.

  1. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Have been on Hols down in the Languedoc close to the Spanish border.

    Agreed with the Mrs FF that if we were going to the Med (no surfing), then the bike would have to come and that we would hack across country so I could have a go at Ventoux. Deal done.

    First week down ther did 2 big climbs as practice, an 8 miler climb of 700m with (according to the map, some 18% bits), and another slightly less steep but longer climb as practice. All felt good. 3 days rest and the following Monday the 3 hour drive to crack the mountain. Good spirits as we set-off.
    BUT, as the mornings drive wore-on, there was one detail which started to trouble me...the temperature. The previous weeks had been variable, but my morning training runs were hot but not unbearable (for me at any rate), as we approached Bedoin, the temp doggedly stuck to 100 F (OK, the kids changed the scale on my car computer and I can't be bothered to change it to degrees C).

    Arriving in Bedoin, it was market day, we could not drive to the start, but s few other cyclists pointed us close. Parked and got kitted-up. Last fig roll, more water, photos and was off. It was about 12.30, 100F, high humidity, no wind whatsoever. Got a few miles in to check everything working OK and then started on the main road up.

    My god the heat!
    Was OK until the tree-line, the sun beating down, the tarmac reflecting the heat, no wind, no shade...the road going-up....but it's only 10%....I've done waaay worse....god I'm hot...30/25 bottom gear now...there's the family ahead in a lay-by...will ditch the helmet and douse myself with water, that's better...blimey, this heat's unreal...bottom gear's hard today....check; nothing rubbing....more water, more over the head, really wet now, carry on, family will be a mile ahead, only 4 mph, can't be right...why did this have to be the hottest day of our hols....whoops weaving a bit...really hot, then really chilly...shade ahead...wonder how far ahead the family is....hard to keep upright at this speed whoops nearly fell, couldn't get foot out...will stop a mo...more water....more shivering....will be fine, family must be around the bend....there's Tom...a few more yards...there's the Mrs....
    She speaks....
    "I think you've had enough don't you think?"
    "I think you're right" I say.
    I collapsed, a shaking wreck under a tree, devastated. All this way, maybe my one chance and beaten by a 100F airless, humid windless day. I could not shed the heat fast enough however I tried (I am not good at heat at all) and I felt pretty weird.

    They say never climb Ventoux on a really hot day, if you must, go early in the morning, not the heat of midday.
    They say that the tree-lined bit is the shady cool bit, whereas the tree-less moonscape is called the furnace (actually, it was much cooler above the tree-line with a nice breeze).

    Bike loaded into car, Mrs FF drove me solemnly to the top. Stopping at Tommy Simpson memorial I felt so low, I could have cried. The memorial is beautifully moving, I planned to leave a memento, but felt I did not deserve too as I had not arrived there under my own steam.
    Sandwich and a beer at the top.


    THE DESCENT!!!!!!!

    Top to the finish/start line ~22kms in just around 24 mins (including a brief wait at Chalet Reynard for the family to go I could pass them again!)...chuffin' eck.
    Now I wasn't a good descender, but somehow I was rewarded on this day, whizzing past cars, the speedo on the straights hovering between 45 and 49 mph, hard on the brakes, lean hard, weight over the front wheel hoping that it all holds together, arms and hands aching, hammer on the pedals out of the bend...spin-out at around 45mph...sit back tuck low....BRAKES etc etc...

    Possibly the finest 24 minutes I have ever spent on 2 wheels.
    Totally amazed at the speeds AND just how hard a race-bike will brake (Thank god for Kool-stop Salmons) and go around a bend, even whilst still braking.
    The TCR was absolutely rock solid like it was on rails....fat-bloke and machine in perfect harmony.

    By the time I crossed the start/finish line, my hands and forearms were locked solid...just like the grin on my face.

    Driving home, discussing what might have been, Mrs FF said "I'm sure there are organised trips available for you to come and try again when it's cooler..."

    Me and Mrs FF have been together 25 years...these little things remind me why.
  2. Sorry to hear about your failure but I would not worry too much as I think it surprises everyone how the heat effects you especially when climbing.
    I only go out at 7.45am in the morning for a few hours as I know I could not cope later in the day especially when it is in the 30's and I have lived in Tenerife for ten months now and got used to the heat.
    Hopefully when it starts to cool down over the next month or so will I venture further afield later in the day.
  3. vernon

    vernon Harder than Ronnie Pickering

    Meanwood, Leeds
    If it's any consolation, I abandoned my Ventoux attempt as I approached Orange travelling southwards through the Rhone Saonne gap. As I saw Ventoux for the very first time from afar my first thought about my ambitions to ride up it as part of my tour was 'f*@k that for a game of soldiers.' I happily spent the rest of the day celebrating my good fortune in bars and Brasseries resolving to revisit the place next year - five stone lighter and in a more positive frame of mind. OK only one out of the three things might be fulfilled - I'll be there next year :biggrin:

    I was lucky with my Channel to the Med ride the temperature maxed out at around 85F in Provence/Carmargue. It was much more pleasant than the week I spent in Rhodes going into meltdown in temperatures of 116F - my days ended at 09:30 and re-started around 20:00 when the temperatures dropped into the 80s...
  4. OP
    Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Thanks guys, I'm glad it's not just me who suffers when it's hot. There were several others suffering that day going up the hill after I'd packed.
    It's just the frustration of knowing I had the legs for it.
    Have to say is a chuffing big hill as it stands there all alone.
  5. friedel

    friedel New Member

    On our bikes!
    I feel for you! When we were going through Eastern Europe we couldn`t understand the language or why we felt so crappy for nigh on a week. We constantly felt miserable/hot/sweaty, couldn`t cycle 60km a day without real stress and were disappointed in our "lack of fitness" as a result..... only when we got to Austria and could understand the German did we realise from headlines like "hottest day ever" and "dozens killed" that we`d been trying to push ourselves as hard as ever in the worst heatwave in living memory. D`oh!!
  6. mr_hippo

    mr_hippo Living Legend & Old Fart

    First of all, don't think of it as a 'failure' but more of a 'deferred success' so you need congratulating. Many have given up before you reached that point. Remember, there's always next time!
  7. Bigtallfatbloke

    Bigtallfatbloke New Member

    ..exactly. Also just think about the millions of other cyclists who haven't even ridden it, and the billions who have never heard of it, not to mention the trillions of fat motorists who'd probably have a coronary just thinking about what you achieved.

    I say well done!:biggrin::biggrin:
  8. Oooh, now you're worrying me FF :ohmy:

    I'm off to Provence week-after-next and we'll be doing Ventoux on Weds or Thurs - the itenarary has two pencilled-in options, Weds afternoon or Thurs morning.

    I was thinking it might be because the top might be in cloud, or a blizzard, or the Mistrale blowing or something, and so there would be another attempt the other day.
    I hadn't particularly thought about the heat though : something else to be wary of.

    I'm also taking a Roubaix with a 50/36 x 12-27 compact, and if you were struggling on a triple with 30x25, that's one gear lower than my 36x27...

    Oooo-err - now feeling a bit :ohmy::tongue::cry::biggrin::B):biggrin::biggrin::blush: !
  9. Nigeyy

    Nigeyy Guru

    Massachusetts, USA
    Oh good for you for trying, and yes, heat and humidity really gets me too.

    The only time I've ever split from friends on a ride was in 100'F+ weather high humidity on an off road trail. It's not very nice, absolutely no breeze, completely over heated and just couldn't carry on -I've always remembered that. In my opinion humidity is like adding an extra 15'F to the temperature.
  10. OP
    Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Hi andy_wrx

    If I were you, I'd go for the morning option (as early as possible) in the hope that it will be cooler.
    I think if you're reasonably fit then your gearing will be fine, I wouldn't normally have been crawling in bottom gear I'm sure if it had been cooler I could have upped my work-rate and climbed in a higher gear, but I just would have overheated quicker. If it was up to me, I would have sat-out the heat and tried later, but with the family present and a long drive back to camp etc, it was a one shot deal

    Sure you'll be fine, it's a great hill, once you're out of the woods at Chalet Reynard it all gets better and you'll just Lurve the ride down!

    Looking forward to the ride report!
  11. Cheers mate - we'll have to see re the ride report (well no, I guess I have to now, I can't just do one if I succeed, I'll have to post here if I fail just like you admitted :biggrin:)

    We're on a 7 day tour, roughly 420 miles including Verdon Canyon, Col de la Bonette, etc.

    The days in question say
    Another site (nice site this actually - pictures, route profiles, etc) says
    - I guess I'll be doing the wimpy Sault approach - you did Bedoin ?

    It shows that the Sault approach joins the Bedoin one at Chalet Renard, but
    So the Sault option has 1210m vs 1610m, in 26km vs 22km, meaning 4.5%average vs 7.1%, and 10%max vs 11%

    The silly thing is, none of these figures look that impressive...on paper/screen !
    Yes, they're much longer ascents than we're used to in the UK, going on for miles, but they're not really that steep.
    4.5% / 7.1% average ? Not even 1-in-20 / only 1-in-14
    10% / 11% max ? Only 1-in-10 or 1-in-9

    I've done several UK sportives this year and some of the organisers seem to glory in finding the steepest, nastiest climbs they can manage, but I guess they tend to last only for half a mile.

    I did Cumberland Challenge on Sunday, which climbs Hartside, but that's only 1903ft high (not metres !) and the ascent is 3 or 4 miles maybe
    - I'll have to see what 26km at average of 4.5% looks like :blush:
    (but with 170miles in my legs from previous 3 days :biggrin:)

    But you're right, doing it early in the morning (assuming no Mistral, no blizzard at top, etc) sounds definitely preferable !
  12. Oh, and my TCR's kitted-out as my TT bike, with pursuit bars and 53/42 x 12-21 so I definitely prefer the idea of doing it on the Roubaix !
  13. Tim Bennet.

    Tim Bennet. Entirely Average Member

    S of Kendal
    The ascent from Sault is in two parts. The first bit is very steady up to Chalet Renard (water pump) and then you join the road that's come up through the forest from Bedoin. The exposed rocky section up pass the Simpson memorial is common to both routes and will be the (significantly) steepest part of your ascent.

    The climb over Hartside is actually quite relevant. It's one of the few 'alpine grade' routes in the UK, in that Thomas Telford built it to be no steeper than 1:12 (?) and at a constant gradient all the way to ease the carriage of lead ore. So the steepness and consistency are the same, it's just, as you say, way longer on the continent.

    If you don't feel like an ascent of Ventoux on your trip, don't worry too much. I should think your alternative route will go via the Gorges de la Nesque which is still worth seeing. This is probably a better option than going to Chalet Renard, not feeling like the rest and going bacj down to Bedoin.

    But nothing tops the trip all the way to the top on the right day! It's good to be up and down early and having breakfast in a cafe in time to watch people still faffing about getting ready to set off. It's hard to stifle the smug smirk knowing it's in the bag and the rest of the day consists of, well, pretty much nothing.
  14. OP
    Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Hi andy_wrx
    Yeah I had my go from Bedoin. I agree 10% sounds like nothing, but the road-up through the forest seems flippin' steep for sure. I fear we all reckon our local hills are often steeper than they are.
    At the Simpson memorial, I got chatting to an athletic (rather than my fuller-bellied Mrs FF liked to mention) Dutchman, in full CSC kit and tasty bike who had just ridden from Sault...I told my tale of woe and he told me it wasn't my day today (rather nice I thought), he then went on to say that he had to stop 4 times so far on the way up due to the take is that if it's hot, it's hard whichever route you take.

    But as Tim says, if you make it to the top, then you'll feel a hero for the rest of the trip/year!

    There's a lot of good Ventoux stuff on the web as you have already found. Sounds like a good trip you've planned, I'm very envious. Enjoy!
  15. yenrod

    yenrod Guest

    >Driving home, discussing what might have been, Mrs FF said "I'm sure there are organised trips available for you to come and try again when it's cooler..."

    I love her enthusiasm for you to try it again !
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