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For most cyclists, climbing a fabled mountain such as Mont Ventoux just once in a lifetime is a dream. The opportunity to conquer the beast a second, even third time is a privilege not to be taken lightly – a multitude of features, both near and far, can come to light that where missed during round one.
While the steep intensity of Ventoux is well known, the undulating hills around the mountain are not—they can often rise several hundred meters from valley floor to hilltop village. At every turn, every corner we ride, we distinguish new bewitching views and landscapes we aren’t accustomed to experiencing. The roads are steep and meandering, and the mountains extend as far as we can see.
After a long day’s ride, we take a well-deserved break in the peaceful Place de la Fontaine in the village of Saignon, where the locals invite us for wine, cheese and, of all things, popcorn! The evening is beautiful as we relax and reflect on the kilometers covered and the kilometers still to come.
Descending from Chalet Reynard on one of our test runs, we rush down the road, delighted to feel the wind in our faces. The roads that lead up to the Chalet are calm and wooded, a stark contrast to the lunar, rocky and lifeless terrain higher up the mountain. We ride down together, both of us impressed with the bikes and their Zipp wheels.
Climbing Mont Ventoux for the second time is as magnificent as it was the first time around. Despite having a more potent, lighter bike, the ascent from Bédouin to the top is as tough as ever! No matter how good your bike, you still have to give your all and go through hell to climb the Giant of Provence. The way up is steep, then gets steeper. And the unprotected sides lend a feeling of exposure that is unsettling, but, together, we continue into the void.
Up here, there’s no vegetation, no life, just calcified rock scree; it feels uneasy and unnatural. On this day, the wind intensifies and pushes us from side to side as we slowly cover the last grueling kilometers with more grit than grace. We stop halfway to catch our breath and put on jackets. Despite the intensity of our efforts the wind is cold, while rain looms in the distance.
Riding through this lunar landscape, with the green valley of the Rhône below and the misty hills of the Cévennes in the distance, it’s as if this mountain has simply dropped from space into an otherwise tranquil region of verdant fields, vineyards and villages. After this final hairpin, the climb becomes extremely hard again. The last 30 meters are excruciating. We push on the pedals with all the strength left to reach the famous “Sommet du Mont Ventoux” sign.
Photos by @marshallkappel for @pelotonmagazine and @zippspeed. #ZippSpeed #ventoux
Explore part two of the story on our microsite: Peloton x Zipp – Ventoux: The Adventure