OK, perhaps there was no actual kicking involved, but we (Steve, Fred, and I) did climb to the very top and are exceptionally proud of ourselves.
Climbing the Ventoux was a great experience. It was most definitely a challenge, even from the “easy” Sault side.
The route has two distinctly different parts. From Sault to the Chalet Reynard restaurant is 20 km (12.5 miles) of what felt like a pretty constant five to seven percent grade through mostly wooded terrain. The approach from both Sault and Bedoin converge at the parking lot for the Chalet Reynard restaurant at 4,650 feet. From that point to the top (6,230 feet) you ride 6 km (3.7 miles) at a much steeper 9 or 10 percent grade, clinging to the edge of a barren, rocky “moonscape”.
All the way up the second part of the ride you have a demoralizing view of what appear to be endless, steep switchbacks. The white tower that marks the summit always seems so far up, and so far away. The photo below was taken about a mile from the top, so 70% of the steep section is already behind us. If you look carefully below the tower you can see the faint lines of the distant roadway angling up toward the peak.
The solution, for me at least, was to keep my eyes on the road immediately ahead and my mind on the slow, labored rotation of the pedals. From time to time we stopped for a brief rest, as when we reached the Tom Simpson memorial about a mile from the summit.
This photo reminds me that our Take-a-Look rear-view cycling mirrors were the subject of constant inquiry by Europeans who encountered us while riding and even while walking in the markets. Someone could clean up by marketing them over here.
Back on topic, the views from the top of the mountain are just breathtaking. The weather was absolutely perfect – sunny and clear, with temperatures about 80 in Sault and maybe 60 or so at the summit. The jacket in the picture below was preparation for the descent, and turned out to be just the right amount of protection.
The climb up from Sault took us 2 hours and 40 minutes of ride time, with another 39 minutes of rest, photo, and nature breaks. The trip back to Sault was, of course, much faster (1 hour and 2 minutes) and, at times, scarier. On the steep, upper portion, we had to carefully work our brakes to keep our speed under control while also keeping the brakes from overheating the rims. That was not a problem on the lower section, where we could brake to scrub off some speed going into the more severe turns, and otherwise just let the bikes go.
- Entire ride: 32.4 miles, 3.7 hours, average speed 8.8 mph.
- Ride up: average speed 6 mph.
- Ride down: average speed 15.7 mph, including the climb back into Sault. The mountain descent portion of the ride back was right about 20 mph average, with a high speed of about 32.
- Ascent: 3,800 feet, with almost continuous climbing for 16.2 miles.
On our arrival back at the villa in Venasque, our wives burst out of the house, cheering! Luckily, their confidence in us was not misplaced. It was a terrific welcome home.
Oh, if you are lucky enough to do this ride some time, and want to commemorate the event with a Mont Ventoux jersey, we found them for sale in the gift shop at the summit for 55 Euros. A couple of days earlier Steve had purchased a similar jersey in Bedoin for 60 Euros. I would have expected the prices to be higher on the mountain, but there you have it.