Looming over the town of Bedoin in Provence is the pointy black spear that is Mont Ventoux — famed mountain road climb of the Tour de France. What would possess one to cycle up this monstrosity is beyond me, but here I am, suiting up for the ride after a night of possibly drinking too much Chateauneuf du Pape.
Merckx, Pantani, Froome, Stenberg…okay, nobody cares about that last one, but some of the best cyclists to ever turn the pedals on this planet have won the coveted stage win atop Mont Ventoux. I hope merely for survival. Considering this I have set myself up for miserable failure.
My riding mates for this outing, courtesy of the Gold Medal Plates trip that I am on are: Simon Whitfield, Olympic gold medalist in the sport of triathlon; Curt Harnett, Olympic medalist in track cycling; Caroline Ouellette, Olympic gold medalist in women’s hockey; Julie Chu, also an Olympic hockey medalist; and Phil White, engineer and co-founder of the legendary bicycle company Cervelo.
Surprisingly it turns out that I’m in okay shape and of our group I am in the top 3 behind Simon and our exacting specimen of a cycling guide. The climb begins in a somewhat residential fashion — nothing serious, and almost suburban, but it quickly transitions into double digit grade percentages. Simon and the guide have long since ditched me, but I’m making a good go of it. There is a point where the climb seems relentlessly steep. The upside of being behind is that I don’t have to listen to the bizarre music that Simon has chosen to play on his Bluetooth speaker as he cycles up the mountain.
As I pass the Chalet Reynard I am starting to feel hope return to my legs — it looks like the end is in site. What is not obvious; however, is that the remaining few kilometres is plagued by wind and a false sense of flatness.