“The Ventoux never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering.” —Roland Barthes, French philosopher and bike-racing fan
THE VENTOUX SPIRIT
We had a couple of days to climb the different routes up Mont Ventoux and discover the beauty of this mythic mountain, free of cars and spectators, free of advertisements and noise—just our beautiful bikes and our determination to succeed. Time and weather were on our side, and I was determined to capture the spirit of the mountain in an unconventional manner.
For our second ride, we started in Sault on the longer, but “easier” route. Easier only because the road is more protected and climbs gradually until your reach Chalet Reynard. If you are expecting a “Chalet,” don’t. There is a parking lot, a gift shop and a temporary respite in the grueling uphill grind. And in the space of 100 meters, the trees disappear and are replaced by white fragments of rock that intensify the otherwise balmy sunshine.
Today, the mountain had its own plan. It had rained all night in town and in the morning the wind and clouds were visible on the mountain. Not quite Everest, but someone made that comparison as misty clouds were wisping off the peak in beautiful, but dangerous curves some 25 kilometers away. Having already conquered the harder route, we assumed there’d be no doubts in this next ascent and that things would calm down.
They did not. By the time we reached Chalet Reynard the wind was so strong I was thinking only of my previous failed attempt in a car. The wind pushed us sideways, small stones fell onto the road as if the mountain would crumble on us, and we could not hear each other as the group spread out. We found the unfriendly summit, its unassuming stone marker noting the summit’s elevation. There’d be no celebration at the top today, just a quick nod to the barber-pole antenna sitting tall on the communications tower before a solo descent back into the fold of the valley. Whereas the previous day we ate sandwiches and chatted with other riders at the top, today all we wanted was pizza, a beer—and our pajamas.
Words/Images: Marshall Kappel