2013 Tour de France Travel Log #5

July 15, 2013

Day 5. Gorge de la Nesque and Mont Ventoux again.

It was a rest day for the TDF riders, but not for our travel group! We did an epic 47 mile ride starting in Villes-sur-Auzon and winding our way through the Gorges de la Nesque and through miles of very beautiful and fragrant fields of lavender on our way to Sault for a lunch rest stop. Riding along the gorge was a real treat as this was one of the most scenic routes I have ever had the pleasure to ride. It was dreamlike.

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Then riding through the lavender fields on the way to Sault was absolutely beautiful. The aroma was truly AMAZING.

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In Sault we had a lovely lunch at a French cafe with a panoramic view of Mont Ventoux: the restaurant O’PICHOUN à Sault. Nearly all the patrons in the restaurant were cyclists taking a break so we felt right at home. Many of them were carbo loading plates of pasta in preparation for the ascent of Ventoux.

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Après lunch it was back on the bikes in an attempt to redo Mont Ventoux which we were unable to complete the day before. This time we went up Ventoux from the other side starting in Sault. From this direction the route is supposedly a little easier (but not too much easier, mind you!). It was a similar distance — 21 km.

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I made it to the top of all 21 km in approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. I rode a much stronger, faster pace than the day before without the crowds. This time I had only had one compulsory stop on the way up as I encountered a very large herd of sheep crossing the road near the summit.

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The summit of Mont Ventoux is legendary. As you arrive it feels sort of magical like you have just won an imaginary Olympic medal or something. People clap and congratulate all of the riders as they arrive and they take turns taking their photo underneath the famous Ventoux summit sign. The views are stunning but also bizarre and somewhat surreal. Originally forested, Mont Ventoux was systematically stripped of trees from the 12th century onwards for shipbuilding. The top is essentially barren with windblown, sandy rock. It looks like you are on the moon or perhaps on a Star Wars movie set. I’ve seen it on TV in previous years of the TDF, but seeing it in person was definitely worth the climb.

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The descent from the summit of Ventoux down to Malaucène took about 40 minutes and it was very cold (Brrrrrr!). This was the longest, most epic descent of my life! No stops this time, no crowds, just open road descending with a few cars here and there. That night we had a wonderful dinner in Malaucène. However, unfortunately during dinner Jennifer received a phone call and we learned that our new friend Allistair from Britain had come down the same descent from Ventoux alone and he blew a front tire at high speed and crashed out. He fractured his collarbone in three places and spent six hours in the hospital trying to be treated. Late that night Jennifer retrieved Allistair from the hospital and brought him back to the hotel. He left the hospital with nothing but an x-ray picture and a shoulder brace. He would need to seek surgery back home in Great Britain.

Daily Ride data:

On Strava http://app.strava.com/activities/69110147

On Garmin Connect  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/346841209

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