FanPost

The Ventoux Night Session

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This weekend Ricardo Ricco, the "Boys from St Etienne," and I participated in the Ventoux Night Session.

Limited to just a few hundred entrants, the basic idea is to cycle up Mont Ventoux in different groups based on speed - so that everyone reaches the top at roughly the same time - to see the sunrise.

I know you are sick of us euro-lycra-louts complaining about the weather, but the forecast was abysmal, and I doubted things would go well.

To start, we met up Saturday afternoon for a fantastic 76 kilometer loop through Les Gorges de la Nesque - part of the Réserve Biosphère du Mont Ventoux. If you ever visit the region, this 20 kilometre never-remotely-steep (averages less than 3%) cliff road passes through a sort of mini grand canyon - amazing place. More details.

Below: Les Gorges de la Nesque. The boys from St. Etienne are very well trained for team photos from Will's tripod:

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We got fairly wet during the last couple of hours of the ride, but enjoyed the ambience at the evening pasta party. I must admit, I never did see Ricco. He certainly didn't sit with the dopes at the slow-guys table.

After some beers, we all attempted to fall asleep for a brief nap fully expecting to wake up to the sound of rain. Our vague (wave) was scheduled to leave a little after 3 am, and as we gathered the weather seemed quite OK. But literally a minute before we set off, we were informed that the route had been shortened and would skip the last, unsheltered, 6 kilometres due to near freezing temperatures at the summit, high winds (Ventoux means "windy"), and risk of storms.

Fuck. Darn.

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Too late to do anything but climb the 15 kilometres to Chalet Reynard, including most of the steepest stretches of Ventoux through the scrub forest.

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It's a lot of fun cycling a famous road in the complete dark, in a well organised event. How well organized? As I arrived at Reynard I was greeted by someone asking my name and what colour ribbon my spare-clothes-backback had, and a minute later I was putting on several much needed layers .... I was quite cold.

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At this ad-hoc "summit" we had some food, and some awful coffee -- very kind volunteers ladeling luke warm water onto instant coffee -- while we cursed the weather, and waited for some of our gang to arrive.

At this point I heard a little voice in my head: "HTFU."

Yes, it was the voice of Albertina who had ordered me to HTFU earlier in the week as I whined on twitter about the Ventoux weather forecast.

We had seen 9 or 10 cyclists continue on to the unprotected upper lunar slopes disappearing into the heavy fog. I was of two minds: I was shivering and worried heading up could be a little stupid, but on the other hand, the scorn of Albertina is a strong motivator. My friend Philippe suggested we peek around the next hairpin to have a look. I smiled, I knew we were going up.

And frankly, it wasn't that bad.

The wind at the summit was a little nasty, but as the rain held off, things were always OK. I missed most of the closing ceremonies down low -- another friend, Régis, defended his 2011 title as heaviest to make it to the top. But I was thrilled that Albertina had yelled at me to HTFU and I had headed higher .... thus making it to the very top after all. Much fun.

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Me gingerly descending:

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Photo par Philippe

The next version of the Ventoux Night Sessions will occur in 2015 (only every second year). This non-competitive, superb-ambience event sells out relatively quickly, so mark your calendars now.

For a 2 minute video of the 2011 event, with ideal weather, see here.

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