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The Gourmet Runner

Le Magnifique Mont Ventoux

Le Magnifique Mont Ventoux

Written on: June 30, 2012

At this time of year I always get a yearning to go to France. Must be something to do with Le Tour. For me, Le Tour is the epitome of the greatest show on earth – the athletes, the scenery, the enormous crowds, the sheer logistics of it all and the amazing countryside. When you look at events, Le Tour is the most complete.

Which is why, when we were recently in Avignon, we did a trip up Mont Ventoux. Strangely enough, the other guests thought we were quite mad, wanting to drive up said mountain. We, in turn, couldn’t work out why they wouldn’t want to. Given the day dawned with a brilliant blue sky, where else would you want to be?

We’ve gone around the ‘back way’ for our ascent, passing many cyclists along the way. The ascent is mighty steep, 21km straight up, with a gradient of 5-7%. We pass a number of cyclists on the way up the mountain and they are doing it tough. The temperature is in inverse proportions to the gradient, ie dropping rapidly from 17° to 7°.

The Mont Ventoux Sommet (1912m) is extraordinary, as much for its views as for the icy blast of wind. The mountain is packed with people, some who’ve wimped out and driven up (like us), some very cool dudes on exceptionally awesome bikes and then, the real guys and gals who’ve ridden up on their bikes. Hats off to you! Once you’ve topped the Mont you realise what extraordinary athletes the Tour lads are…. this is tough like no other, especially when you’ve been in the saddle for a few days already.

The other side of Mont Ventoux resembles a moonscape, in complete contrast to the forested drive on the way up. The white of the mountain contrasts starkly with the brilliant blue of the sky. Le Chalet Reynard, on our descent, is the most popular café we’ve seen in the whole of France. It’s the place where you linger in the sun and reflect on the majesty of Mont Ventoux. Where motorcyclists, bicyclists and lazy tourists all hang out together.

The trek back to Avignon involves lost of peering back over our shoulders to catch views of Mont Ventoux in the golden light that signifies the end of the day. C’est magnifique!

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