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I've been a little worried about this ride, especially since a guy at the top of Alpe D'Huez told me how tough it was. It's about the same elevation as Alpe D'Huez, but you start 600 meters lower. Depending on how you count it, it's between 14 and 20-some kilometers long, and it's got 9 straight kilometers whose lowest average grade is 8.6%. It's also famously exposed to the sun, and it was supposed to be pretty hot today. This could be nasty.
I wanted to get an early start, but I had to move my stuff to a new room before I left. As it turns out, the room that should have been mine had a broken bathroom, so I was staying in a double room. But now they needed that double, so I had to move into a room whose bathroom was still in pieces, apparently in mid-repair. OK, not ideal, but they had all day to get it back together.
|18th century aqueduct in Carpentras|
I had looked at a ride profile generated by BikeRouteToaster.com, so I knew that the road climbed very gradually and wouldn't descend at all until the summit. Often I don't like this sort of low grade climb because it just makes me feel slow. But in this case I was happy for every meter gained on this easy grade, since it was one fewer that would have to be earned on the steeper grades to come.
Eventually the road gets much more steep, but as compensation enters the pine forest. As with the other climbs I've done here, there's a lot of car traffic on the hill, and today I was noticing that the Diesel exhaust was especially nasty.
|Climbing through the woods on Mont Ventoux|
About 6 kilometers from the summit is a little rest stop called Chalet Reynard, packed with cyclists on their way up or down. I had been worried about whether my water would hold out, so I stopped to buy two cans of tea and three little bottles of water. I left well hydrated, and lighter by (gulp) 12 euros.
|Entering the moonscape just past the Chalet de l'Eau Très Chère|
|The Tom Simpson memorial|
Within this elongated last kilometer is the memorial to Tom Simpson, who died somewhere along this section of the road in the 1967 Tour de France. There were plenty of people paying their respects, as well as a motley collection of offerings. Just today there was an interview with Paul Sherwen in l'Equipe, partly covering Simpson's influence and death, even though this year's tour isn't coming through here.
|The scene at the summit|
Eventually, you reach the summit. Apparently the building and its tower are some sort of weather observatory, but frankly I'm not clear on that. There's a little store, and at least on this day there were stands selling jellied fruits and sausage. Well, why not?
|D974 snaking up Mont Ventoux|
|Looking north, over the orientation table.|
Mont Blanc is out there somewhere.
I went down the north side of the mountain, toward Malaucène. The descent was pretty shaky until I got under tree cover, at which point there was really very little to limit my speed. The road is smooth and there's plenty of visibility. I'm a pretty timid descender but nonetheless comfortably maintained 45 mph, only slowing down to avoid interacting with cars too much.
|Chappelle Notre-Dame du Groseau|
Shortly afterward you get to Malaucène, which is basically a few blocks of cafes catering to cyclists, surrounded by a very old town.
Outside of town you climb at a gentle grade for a little while, then basically descend all the way into Carpentras.
With this climb, I basically ended the challenging portion of my cycling vacation. All my climbs are done; any rides in my future will be for sightseeing only. That's a little sad, but my butt and my knees would be happy about it.