Famed French Mountain Writes Memorable My1x Tale
SRAM Ambassador Anja Kallenbach filed this dispatch after a memorable day riding SRAM Force 1 in The Club de Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux
The French are crazy about cycling, so it’s no surprise they come up with events like this. Mont Ventoux. Three times. In one day.
The Club de Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux is a selective club… open to maniacs who would climb the “Giant of the Provence” via the three main routes from Bedoin, Malaucène and Sault within a single day! This makes 136km and 4,500m of vertical climbing! On Mont Ventoux, you expect extreme weather conditions –wind, heat and thunderstorms. So the day has to be well chosen and you have to start early.
We plan to start from Malaucène, where the 21km climb has 1,679 meters of climbing. This is the longest, but not the hardest side... good for the morning start. Then from Bedoin, 21km with 1,609 meters of climbing. The hardest part is with 8km before the Chalet Reynard where it’s never less than 9 percent gradient. We save the “easiest” side, from Sault (26km with 1194 meters of climbing), for last.
My bike is a Focus Cayo Disc with SRAM Force 1 components and Hydraulic Disc Brakes along with Zipp 30 Course Disc-brake wheels, which all contribute to the precise handling of the bike. SRAM Force 1 let’s you simply enjoy the landscape and not think about shifting. The silence of the chain is incredible. Normally, I choose a 42-tooth Force 1 X-SYNC chainring and an 11-36 cassette for the mountains, but as I knew this would be a very hard day with no flat sections, I changed the chainring to a 40. My crankset is a Quarq Riken AL, which helps me to choose the perfect pace and preventing me from going too fast in the beginning.
Another important part of my bike setup is the handlebar, because it has a huge effect on the comfort of the bike. I choose the Zipp SL-70 Ergobar because of its contoured top section for a natural ergonomic grip, compact reach and drop dimensions for a comfortable position when descending.
For our big day I started early in the morning when the temperature was still agreeable with my boyfriend and another friend. I didn't know this side of the climb from Malaucène. I just knew the famous one that was a part of the Tour de France from Bedoin. This side is already beautiful from below. Even after 4km you get a great view of the landscape with the little hills covered in fog. We were alone on the road and just enjoyed the silence. But after 7km it started to get steeper at 9 to 10 percent for 5 kilometers. My Quarq told me, without any pity, that this was not going to be my day. I pedaled with 30 to 40 watts less power than typical. I already was happy that I had chosen the 40t chainring in front with the 11-36 cassette. I told myself to stop thinking and just turn the cranks.
After 14km, mercifully there was a less steep part to give me time to recover before reaching the summit at the day's first light. What a beautiful view! So we finally could take our first photo beside the sign and collect our first stamp. You have to collect stamps on your card to prove that you did the three sides.
Then we started the descent to Bedoin. The road is narrow and a lot of cyclists were climbing this side, as it is the most famous one. The cars passed cyclists without looking to see if there was someone else on the road. So, I was riding extremely slowly on the far right side. I was passing a curve and a car was coming up just on my side of the road with no space left to pass. Without disc brakes I would have surely hit the car. I managed to stop the bike on the grass besides the road after a few meters without falling. So, with trembling legs and I finished the descent even slower.
We got our stamp in Bedoin along with some water and then turned to climb back up again. Now it was really hot. After the first seven kilometers, the road became steep. I can't remember how I got up to the Chalet Reynard – I just remember pain, sweat running down my face and flies hovering around me. There where a lot of people picnicking, and it was great as they encourage the cyclists and were always shouting a little louder when a woman passed.
I knew that after the Chalet Reynard there was a fountain. I told myself, ‘You just have to arrive there and you’ll will feel better.’ Cold water on my head and the arrival of cloud cover felt great and gave me newfound power. The last kilometers were steep, but this is what makes this portion of the climb so famous. We passed the monument of Tom Simpson and arrived at the top, again.
We hurried up to take a picture and put on our jackets because with no sun and a cold wind we were almost trembling. I should have taken the time to eat something because on the descent I started to feel dizzy, but my bike luckily brought me to Sault safely. As a bad surprise when we reached Sault we discovered a 2 kilometer climb, which is not fun when you are running out of sugar. So at Sault I entered a bakery and ate two delicious little fruit pies. After that I felt much better!
When we started to climb for the last time, the sun came out again. This side is easy with just a 5 percent grade up to Chalet Reynard. You pass some lavender fields and the smell is incredible. But my batteries were empty. I was just able to climb slowly and was wondering all the time if I could do the last 6 kilometers, which are the same as from Bedoin and much steeper then 5 percent. But seeing the top and knowing that I was able to finish, made the last kilometers a lot easier than expected. Finally, we stopped at the monument of Simpson to leave our bottles and then I could even enjoy the last kilometers! It was done! Third time up to Mont Ventoux and the card full of stamps! Now there was just a beautiful downhill ride to enjoy. My bike was in top form, even though my legs weren't. But I am proud I finished.