Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Etape 2009: Monday - The main event

After leaving Montellimar, it wasn't long before we were on the climb of Cote de Citelle. It was basically Box Hill for over 5k. I felt very comfortable on it and really enjoyed spinning up it. I was passing more people than passed me and I was keeping up with Ed. Towards the top I got stuck in a slow group and Ed made 30 meters on me but I reeled him back in.

It was then through Nyons and up the Col d'Ey. This was another great climb. I had lost Ed again by this point and wasn't trying to get back to him. I stopped for a comfort break and took this picture.

It was so pretty on the climb. I was loving it. I was shocked when I realised I had gone over 40 miles. Then came a longish downhill and on to the Col de Fontaube followed by the Col des Abeilles. This was a little harder than the others so far as it was longer and steeper. It was also getting hot as it was around midday. It was the first time I saw people walking.

The decent off the Col des Abeilles was very wide and fast. I sat at 40mph for a long time with no effort and pushed it over 50mph for a kilometer or so. That was exhilarating and scary. At the bottom we crossed the valley to the bottom of Ventoux. This was the sight from the road.

As I got to the bottom of Mont Ventoux and the last feed stop, I saw Ed. He was just leaving and looked very fresh. I took water and a bite of a cheese sandwich and headed for the mountain with loads of confidence.

After a couple of miles I was still feeling good but that quickly disappeared as I entered the forest. I'd heard others mention it but nothing I'd read did it justice. What little wind there was had gone and the heat was stifling. Looking at the road it didn't seem like it should be that hard but each pedal stroke was an effort. Many, many people where sitting on the barrier or resting under a tree. Everyone seemed to be moving at the same snails pace and with nothing to look at other than road ahead, you seemed to be stuck in an endless loop.

I stopped a couple of times to cool down as my heart rate was getting too high. I counted down the kilometer signs from 18 down to 6 and eventually Chalet Raynard appeared. It was a welcome sight. I got more water and like everyone else, poured a lot of it on my head and back.

From Chalet Raynard you could see the top again which was good and bad. After the long forest, it still seemed such a long way away but at least you now had a target. I set off again leaving behind many riders who looked on their last legs. I know knew I would make it and started to enjoy it. I waved at all the people outside their camper vans and got some cold water on my head for my efforts. That was lovely.

Each kilometer slowly ticked by and a sub 8 time was very realistic. Once I saw the '1km to go banner' I pushed and was under the white tower. One last effort round the last hairpin bend and crossed the finish line. I collapsed on the bike only to hear Ed and Bob calling my name. Amazing.


Rob said...

Well done Simon! Great stuff. Was just wondering what gearing you used, were you on a compact 30x27?

Simon Lewis said...

Cheers. I was on a compact 34/27.

Rob said...

Did you find that to be enough or were you dreaming of a triple half way up Ventoux?!
(I'm soon to change from a standard to a compact but don't want to miss the opportunity of a triple should I need it!)

Simon Lewis said...

No, my gears were never an issue up Ventoux. My weight was the main issue as the 35 degrees was hurting me. 5kgs later would have been handy ;-)

Ventoux was 11% at worst so 34/27 was fine. I saw people on a triple and they went to bottom gear but I don't think it helped. They just went slower and took longer.

ShirishK said...

Well done Simon, what a fantastic time, especially in those conditions!

Im very impressed, I could DEFINITELY have done with a few more gears, my cadence was under 35 for large parts of Ventoux!

Rob said...

Shirish: Ouch! Were you running the same gearing as Simon?

ShirishK said...

@ 39/25 for me, although it was an interesting 'sensation'.

Still working on updating my own blog, so I'll write more about it there, but in fact my legs didn't feel tired or stiff, and I could accelerate when I needed to get through a gap, or round a walker...was just that sometimes I just HAD to stop.

My HR never got ridiculous, and my breathing wasn't pained...I guess was perhaps my body 'composing itself' to stop any serious damage. May just have been the heat I suppose.