Vive le vélo
It was in its 100th year when I started watching Tour de France. Stage 15 was intense as I got fixated on the race between my favorite Columbian underdog Nairo Quintana and Team Sky’s lead Chris Froome. As they raced frantically hard against each other, my cheers for Quintana started to wane and then I become suspicious of Froome. “He must be on steroids!” I exclaimed. How can Froome be able to speed up in a snap in this death-defying climb to reach the top of this mountain?
“Physically, the Ventoux is dreadful. Bald, it’s the spirit of Dry: Its climate (it is much more an essence of climate than a geographic place) makes it a damned terrain, a testing place for heroes, something like a higher hell.” – Roland Barthes, French philosopher and bicycle racing fan
Indeed, Mont Ventoux is the largest mountain in the region of Provence; it is called as the “Beast” or the “Giant” of Provence, and even “Bald Mountain” due to its barren, rocky white top. Its name can be dated back as early as the first century when it was named after a Gaulish god of the summits, or in Gallic language it also means “snowy peak.” Yet the best prestige that this mountain has claimed so far is whenever the popular Tour de France cycling race does a stage here; and so as the riders who’ve gained fame by riding up and reaching the top, in the fastest way ever possible.
Spanish cyclist Iban Mayo currently holds the fastest ascent from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux summit during the individual time trial at the 2004 Dauphiné Libere race (at 55 minutes, 51 seconds); though unfortunately, almost all the top 10 fastest cyclists are alleged to have used performance enhancers. Most likely, the unquestionable and most impressive climb was from Charly Gaul in 1958, at 1 hour and 2 minutes.
The mountain also gained its notoriety when it claimed the life of English cyclist Tom Simpson on the 13th stage of 1967 Tour de France. Despite being delirious as he fell down, he urged his spectators, “Put me back on my bike!” He biked further within 1.5 kilometers of the summit before he collapsed dead. Today, a memorial to Simpson can be found near the summit, which has been oftentimes visited by devoted cyclist fans from all over.
In 1970 the great Eddy Merckx also rode himself to the brink of collapse but was able to win the Mont Ventoux stage, and even more impressive, the Tour itself.
At this side of Provence
We arrived at Bedoin, a lovely small village located at the foot of Mont Ventoux. Bedoin is also known as the starting point of one of the three routes to the mountain’s summit. Luckily for us and the visitors who’d perhaps come for bike riding, it was sunny spring weather indeed.
Not so far from Bedoin is another small French village called Mormoiron, and from there we stayed at the rustically charming Au Brabo.
We got nice views as we were heading to Mont Ventoux.
It’s a common sight. Cycling enthusiasts cheer on their favorites in the most creative ways possible; one of which is writing down bikers names on the track for the entire peloton to see.
Mont Ventoux is more considerably known as a paradise for cyclists, yet less it is popular as a biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO. I can definitely attest that Mont Ventoux is a nice place to walk and hike and discover unique flora and fauna.
From the hiking ground, at around 1500 meters, we have the fantastic view over the Vaucluse, while right at the other side, the peak of Mont Ventoux eagerly awaits our arrival.
It would perhaps take half a day before we reach the summit by foot, so we decided to take the car and drive towards it instead.
So then, we made it to the top!