“The man was riding a vintage steel bike with rings that seemed way too big for climbing. But bit by bit, nice and slowly, he was making his way to the top where his 13 year-old grandkid was waiting for him. This grandpa was just pure happiness: he was elated at climbing the mountain, and he couldn’t stop smiling.“
AN AMAZING ADVENTURE
On a chilly Sunday morning, Marion and I began to fill our car with all the stuff for our trip, eager to set off on an amazing adventure. Our bags were packed. We’d taken the Zipp wheels off the bikes and placed the frames into the back of the car, each of our SRAM-equipped Cannondales carefully packed in bike bags. We had never ridden such beautiful bikes before, and we weren’t going to let anything happen to them! We drove off, excited at the prospect of riding those beauties for the first time.
We’d glimpsed this beautiful region while driving to Provence, and after arriving at a sweet little house in Apt that we’d occupy for the week, we were longing to try the bikes in this magnificent scenery. We didn’t wait any longer and found our way to the véloroute that goes through the region and had a first taste of what great riding on super-light and fast bikes felt like. The Luberon area was all we expected—and more. The sun was shining, the roads were steep and meandering, and the mountains extended as far as we could see.
Day after day, we chose new villages to explore. In the morning, the air was brisk and it even got quite cold when we rode on tree-shaded roads. Riding in the afternoon when the temperatures were much warmer was a different experience and allowed us to ride in short-sleeved kits, giving us a taste of summer rides to come. One morning, we rode to the charming hilltop village of Bonnieux. The streets were narrow and we had fun riding in the quaint alleyways with our bikes, which turned out to be efficient beyond just tarred roads, because the bikes were pleasant companions on pot-holed passages too.
On our way to the Abbaye de Sénanque, near Gordes, we met a friend who was helping us and who’d walked up from the gorgeous Cistercian abbey to the D177, a curvy road high above the 12th century building. The view was stunning. We then rushed down the road, delighted to feel the wind in our faces. Once at the bottom, I thought it wasn’t fair to our friend that he had to walk all the way down when we only had to sit on our saddles and enjoy the ride. And so I balanced Marion’s bike on my shoulder and, back on my own Cannondale, I cycled up the hill until I reached him. We rode down together and my riding buddy was also quite impressed with the bike.
Our Luberon adventure next led me to Mont Ventoux for the second time in my life. The mountain was as magnificent as it had been the first time around. Despite having a more potent, lighter bike, the ascent from Bédouin to the top was as tough as ever! No matter how good your bike, you still have to give your all and go through hell to climb Mont Ventoux. Something else hadn’t change—the scenery was breathtaking.
Along the steep road, I met a few other riders and one of them moved me. He was an elderly cyclist that I passed by early on and whom I met again when descending, as he was still climbing and had stopped to refill his bottles. The man was riding a vintage steel bike with chainrings that seemed way too big for climbing. But bit by bit, nice and slowly, he was making his way to the top, where his 13-year-old grandchild was waiting for him. This grandpop was just pure happiness: he was elated at climbing the mountain, and he couldn’t stop smiling.
The mountain was cold and then it was hot. It was windy and then it was quiet. It looked beautiful always. And I met admirable people along the way. The Ventoux experience doesn’t get any better than that….
Images: Marshall Kappel