Friday, 16 July 2010

FFT day 4 - which way did he go?

Up early we headed into town to do our Laundry. The pressure was on to understand the instructions for the washing machines as everything was in French. We were in luck, what looked like a French leprachorn was an old French bloke, who we think worked in Laundrymat and speaking in a french country dialect took great pleasure in showing us the ropes as well as engaging in a bit of banter with the boys.

While we were waiting for the washing, we went to a local cafe for coffee and croissants. France is not known for its coffee, you either get a short black or a Cafe Au Lait, both nowhere near the quality or variety that we are used to in 0z. The croissants are left on the tables for customers to eat, however some patrons just smoke all over them while they have their coffee. The next patron who actually wants a croissant would be oblivious to their smoked breakfast. Yuk!

Next to the cafe was the local morning market, where all the local farmers set up and sell vegetables, fruit, bread, cheese and other assortments. The quality of the local produce is high and we enjoyed local prunes, raspberries, apples etc. We all fanned out and explored the market and their wares.

Chores done, we headed back to pack up the site. By 9.30 it was so hot that most of the guys headed to the local river to have a swim. That put us behind schedule and we missed going to the start of the race at Sisteron. We watched them come past where we were staying. We then had some logistics as Jordan and Joe arrived from the US today and were meeting us in Carpentras. Mitch, Jarrod, Bluncky and Jay drove to Carpentras and the rest of us rode towards Mt Ventoux. The plan was for the guys in the vans along with Jordan and Joe to ride up and meet us on the mountain.

We took off on the bikes. Navigation is not an issue as a few of us have the Garmin GPS bike computer on our handlebars. They are fantastic devices as you key in instructions just like in your car and the GPS tells you where to go. Not that the Ride Captain ever gets lost.....just a bit of unplanned exploring every now and again. Never admit you are lost, Magellan and Columbus certainly didn't as their crews wouldn't have taken kindly to it, and neither do I for the same reason!

The garmin put us along this Gorge road, that had the most amazing light blue river with sandy rockpools in it. The road went for about 15k next to the river and there were plenty of people enjoying the Summer sunshine. We noticed that French women only buy half a bikini, so that kept our spirits up(and eyes open) as we rode alongside. We climbed steadily for 35k, then hit the downhill. We were heading for the town of Sault which is one of the main approaches to Mt Ventoux. The amazing thing is that you come over this ridgeline, and the Alps finish dramatically. All before you are the plains of Provence. It is a great view. We barrelled down the descent, hitting speeds of 75kph, and were soon in Sault. It was too hot to ride up the moutain, so we found a cafe and watched the tour for an hour while demolishing quiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, ice cream and cokes.

Fuelled up, we started the climb. Mt Ventoux is one of the iconic climbs of French bike racing. It was in the tour last year and reportedly 1 million people were on the mountain that do they count them??? There are 3 approaches to the peak. We were coming from the eastern side out of Sault and the others who had put the vans in a caravan park, from the more famous(and tougher) west approach that begins in Bedion. The plan was for us all to reach the summit at a similar time then head down to Carpentras for dinner and bed.

We left Sault and the climb wasn't too tough. We did drop Jay and Jamie who would find their own rythm and make their way to the Summit. Danny was doing all the early pacemaking followed by me and Rad Man. It was a fairly solid pace. However as we climbed, I began to realize that this was a much easier side to climb. It is about the same length as the other approaches, 21km, but Sault is much higher in altitude, so the gradient is less. Infact, we had the bikes in the big ring towards the top before it joined the Western approach, riding at nearly 40k an hour! No wonder the tour stopped using this route to Ventoux. It was too easy.

After telling the boys what a horrific climb it is (we did the bedion approach in FFT 2008), I couldn't bear having Navy Boy brag about how easy Ventoux was, so when we got to Chateau Reynard, which is where the Sault an Bedion approaches meet before the §ummit, I told Danny and Damo, we were going down to Bedion to meet the others who were on their way up. So we descended all the way to the bottom, met the others who were just about to begin the climb, and turned around and did it all again. This time from the tough side. It is another 21k climb, which 10k averages 10% in gradient and the rest a solid 7%.

I was climbing much better than earlier in the week on the Madelaine, and took over 2nd spot from Damo (who looked samashed!) behind Danny. I stopped to get water from Chateau Renyard and Jordan and Rad man arrived so I waited for them to get their water refilled so we could ride the last bit together. Jordan said had I seen Jarrod as he was in front of him. At first I didn't believe him as on every other mountain we had been on he was at the back of the pack. I explained I went inside to get water so the assumption was that he would be second to the summit behind Danny due to me stopping. I could only imagine the bragging if Buzz was second up one of the hardest climbs used in the Tour de France. He has never even crested col de Warriwood in the first 5 riders! I took off to try and reel him in with Jordan (who has lost 5kg's and riding extremely well) in tow. We reached the summit, and there was Danny on his Buzz. Later as others from our group arrived at the top, it was reported he had taken a wrong turn. I said it was impossible as the ride was so clearly signposted. No Buzz, it was assumed he had given up and we all decided to ride back down the mountain and visit the famous spot where Tom Simpson died after consuming a lethal cocktail of barbituates and alcohol during a race up the mountain. Before he died by rhe roadside, he famously stated"put me back on my bike" and then expired. A few of our boys weren't far behind Tom in passing out with the effort! We then started down the mountain and we were tearing along and who comes around the corner, Buzz, mumbling something about a wrong turn. I would have thought taking a wrong turn on Ventoux was about as likely as Mark Webber taking a wrong turn around Albert Park race course. But Buz did have a little "explore" and eventually went to the top. Danny and I turned around and rode back up to the summit with him ( for the 3rd time back up part of the mountain for us!!). We took a photo for history and then hit the downhill. It was now 7.30pm and there were no cars so you could see all the road and use it to hit the descent hard. As we came back past Chateau Reynard, Joe, Jordan, Damo and Mitch were all waiting. So we bombed the descent together. Later at dinner Buzz said he hit a top speed of 90.6kph, which Mitch (who beat him down disputes). My top was only 85.7k, but as Danny and I had done a lot more riding than the others, we took it a bit easier for safety's sake.

Joe has just joined the group and being the token American on the trip will be wondering what he has got himself in for with all the aggressive riding and banter!

We got back to Carpentras around 9.30pm Over 160km of riding and 3300m of vertical climbing. A huge day. All the boys were smashed at dinner and Spencey has some sort of virus and isn't 100%.

Tomorrow we do it all again

Le Foz


  1. I'm tired just reading that last post. You're got rocks in your head climbing that mountain 3 times.

  2. Lads it sounds like a Garmin GPS provides some value to a French trip.