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Day 2 – Stage 15 – Mont Ventoux

Posted by on July 14, 2013

If I didn’t get enough sleep, it was a 7am wake up and a quick breakfast before heading out towards Mont Ventoux. I was the only one of the group who rode the long ride today; everyone else rode a shorter more direct route to Bedoin. So I had my own former World Cup pro mountain biker lead out man and all around good guy, Will.

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We rode a good pace, with Mont Ventoux growing closer and more defined as we got closer.

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We rode into Beaumes-De-Venise, the Roman planted trees providing a perfect line, letting us (and whatever Romans we rode with) know we were riding on the right way to Rome.

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As we got into Lafare, we started the climb of the Col du Suzette. Not a bad climb, and the scenery was incroyable.

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Mont Ventoux getting closer…

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After a tough last couple of km, we got to the top of the Col.
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And, as usual, the view was worth the price of admission.
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We could tell we were getting closer to the route of Today’s stage; the signs were up…

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Another short climb to the Col de la Chaine.
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After that it was a somewhat easy descent and a small climb into the town of Malaucene. We got to the roundabout here, and at that point we were riding the rest of the day on the route of today’s stage.

It felt a bit like a carnival, and a tailgate party. The folks on the road looked to be settling into a long day, with their baguettes and cafe and all sorts of things. Some played in the local fields, some slept, but it was a jovial atmosphere.

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Eventually we got into Bedoin, the foot of Mont Ventoux. The crowds were out in force. There were times were we had to unclip and coast a bit due to the amount of people walking up the mountain.

There was a local market in the town center:
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There were some old-style racers just outside of town that drew quite the crowd.
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But even with the crowds, Ventoux creeped closer.
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At last we arried at St. Esteve, to the restaraunt that would be our tour’s host for the next 7 hours, right at the first switchback, where Mont Ventoux starts to really sink its teeth into you.

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Hopped off my bike to give it a rest, tomorrow will be worse:
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Will dragged me up the hills so fast, we got there before everyone else.
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Though the restaraunt had a good view of the switchback:
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I decided that I would eschew the luxury of the tents and spend the day on the side of the road.
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The top of Mont Ventoux is over my shoulder… Where the big tower is…
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I found a bit of shade and watched the precession of cyclists and walkers head up the hill. The entire crowd would elicit a chorus of “Allez!” whenever any young riders were comming up the hill. I could hear them as they went up the switch back as the location of the cheers changed to wherever they were on the road.
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Apres une heure, the undercard started; the publicity caravan. It was almost an hour ahead of schedule, which I found out later was due to a nice tailwind pushing the Peleton along.
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With each brand, we waved and hoped someone would throw something at us. Though the Vittel trucks were the most sought after, as they passed out water bottles to ease the pain of standing in a ever shrinking patch of shade.

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Eventually the caravan stopped, and the waiting and anticipating began.
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I don’t have a data connection here in France, so I couldn’t keep up with what was happening on the road. We’d hear snippets in other languages talking about a breakaway, and as the peleton grew closer it was revealed that Sylvain Chavanel had jumped off the front of the breakaway group, which sent a jolt through the crowd. Where I stood it wasn’t as big as expected, as the people I ended up passing time with were Aussies, Kiwis and Brits. So here I am, in the south of France, on the side of a mountain, and the majority of the folks around me speak english. That just goes to the internationalization of cycling.

Afterwards, a couple of the guys from the group described the next 10 minutes as “It’s like sex. A lot of anticipation and foreplay, followed by 5 minutes of excitement.” The other “It’s like a football game where everyone showed up and tailgated, but the game was the 4th quarter 2 minute warning in length.” Which was very true. The excitement built, especially with a Frenchman leading the race to the foot of Mont Ventoux on Bastille day. As the sound of the helicopters grew, it wratcheted up the level even more, until from where we were standing, I finally saw the yellow motorcycle back down the hillside.

Eventually Sylvain Chavanel made it to where we were watching, preceded by the neutral service vehicle, an eschelon of gendarmes on motorcycles, and a lot of photographers and cameramen on motorocycles.
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About 30 seconds later, Jean-Christophe Peraud and Jan Bakelants (A stage winner earlier in the Tour) followed trying to stay away from the Peleton. It was here where kharma and being on the side of the road paid off, as Jan Bakelants tossed his water bottle at my feet.
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Yea, I know, another water bottle, but what a souvinier already on the first stage I got to watch in person!

About a minute later the peleton showed up, with Chris Froome ensconced behind his team.
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Then it was all manner of guys that had either done their jobs at the front of the peleton, or had been dropped off the back…

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After all the fun, it was back up to the restaraunt to watch the end of the race on the television. What a commanding win by Froome.

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But before that, once the last rider made it past, it became an neverending stream of folks coming down the mountain. “It was like trying to ride your bike at Mardi Gras.”
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Back at the bus, which was conveniently parked infront of a Communal Vinter, so we had some wine while we waited for the rest of the group who didn’t ride to make it down he mountain.

Eventually we got on the bus, made it back to Orange, and to the hotel.
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Tomorrow, back to Mont Ventoux. I will get to suffer like tomorrow like the pros did today.

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