Rolling into Bedion, Ashley and I dodged around market traffic before finding a detour to D972 and the start of the 20 km (12 mile) climb up Mont Ventoux. Properly named, venteux means windy in French, the wind was already picking up here among the beech trees. We passed several tour buses unloading cyclists and equipment on the side of the road already scattered with cyclists of all shapes and sizes. From high-end road bikes with carbon wheels to sturdy steel mountain bikes to a rollerblader with ski poles. Also, lots of car traffic. Windows down, cameras out trying to find a few feet to pass.
In this environment, I caught up with a young German boy climbing at about my same pace. He slipped onto my wheel and together we ascended. Every time I glanced back, seeing him just off my wheel gave me a little extra motivation to push the pace. Eventually we emerged from the tree coverage to be greeted by a strong and gusty headwind. Turning the hairpin at the Chalet Reynard this same wind gave us a push from behind. I sat up in an attempt to use my torso as a sail. The next hairpin slammed us once again into the teeth of the wind. My companion took a turn at the front.
With about 1 km to go we passed the shrine to Tom Simpson and I put my head down and attacked, giving the mountain everything I had left. With 200 meters to go I was alone and approaching the final steep hairpin. From behind I heard, “Let’s go! Let’s sprint!” The boy came around me. I tried to respond to his counter attack, but he took me by a bike’s length. Shaking hands we laughed and assured the other that we were both at our limits.
The wind howled among the crowd gathered at the top, snapping photos. Still clear, threatening clouds loomed to the north west. Soon Ashley joined me at the top and we wasted little time in descending towards Malaucene and lunch.