Paul Rozelle on one of four ascents of Mont Ventoux. Photo from Picasa.
Mont Ventoux is one of cycling’s great monuments. The highest peak in Provence, it’s been featured 18 times in the history of the Tour de France and the source of high drama and tragedy. Every year, the mountain draws huge numbers of recreational cyclists wanting to test themselves on the climb and connect with a tangible piece of cycling history. This year, Paul Rozelle joined those ranks and tackled the mountain as well.
Rozelle is an American randonneur. He traveled to France this summer to ride Paris-Brest-Paris and decided to take a side trip to Mont Ventoux three days before the start of PBP. Rather than simply ride it once, Rozelle rode each of the three roads and the unpaved fire road that lead to the summit in order to earn a medal that the Club des CinglÃ©s du Mont Ventoux awards for doing so. Adding to the extraordinary difficulty, Rozelle rode the whole thing on the only bike he’d brought for PBP, his fixed gear. Three days after completing the Mont Ventoux challenge, Rozelle went on to ride PBP in 80:01!
Rozelle wrote a great ride report on a randonneuring Google Groups listserv about his experience on Ventoux. He graciously gave me permission to republish the story here along with some photos he took that day. The report is long, so I’ve added links below to the start of each “chapter” to help you navigate and/or pick up where you left off if you don’t read it all in one sitting. Enjoy!
A lot of people asked me why I was climbing Mont Ventoux four times on
a fixed-gear bike just three days before starting Paris-Brest Paris.
Most inquired with some degree of bewilderment, like, “Why ever would
you do something like that?” by which they meant, I think, that what I
was going to do wouldn’t be any fun, I’d likely not succeed, and in
the process I’d seriously jeopardize the likelihood of completing
PBP. Â I have a greatly over-developed sense of adventure. Â How do you
There’s a nice medal for climbing Mont Ventoux by all three paved
routes in one day, and an even more elite recognition conquering those
climbs plus the unpaved forest road. Thatâ€™s 116 miles and more than
19,000 feet of climbing (and descending), including two HC climbs plus
an unpaved route on a mountain known for its bad weather. As far as I
know, this had never been done on a fixed-gear bike.
Fame and glory (and masochism) aside, I believe that just about
anything that can be done on a geared bike can be done on a fixed-
gear. Â Ventoux has been climbed by fixed-gear riders before. It was
probably the usual means of ascent for a long time, but that was so
long ago that most people have forgotten. I wanted to restore some of
that memory and perhaps inspire people to push their own limits in
cycling. Doing both Ventoux and PBP in the same week would help make
the point in a more extreme fashion: if this can be done on a fixed-
gear bicycle, then tell me what, exactly, cannot?
It turns out that driving from Paris to Provence — a mere 400 miles
— takes all day. What I thought would be a mid-afternoon arrival
after a leisurely drive through the countryside turned into a 12-hour,
stressful slog through traffic. We picked up the official route card
(similar to a brevet card) at a bike shop in Malaucene and then drove
up Ventoux using the Malaucene route and down the Bedoin route so I
could see those aspects, at least from the car, before riding them
just a few hours later. Driving those two climbs focused my mind on
the enormity and difficulty of the project. Our rental car needed
second gear to clear several of the pitches and both climbs were “as
advertised”: hardly a meter of road that didn’t go straight up the
My wife and I barely made the 8pm check-in time at our B&B in Saint
Columbe, just a few miles up the road from Bedoin. Checked in, we
ditched our stuff and ran into Bedoin for dinner and to get my route
card stamped at the first checkpoint. Because I would leave so early
in the morning, I was permitted to have the card pre-stamped the night
before. With that stamp, I was now committed to climbing the Bedoin
route — the most difficult — first.
Well fed, stamped, and now back at the B&B, we sorted gear and readied
the bike. I gave the weather a final study. There is no better person
to have on hand than Susan when you need to get a lot of stuff done
quickly and correctly and by 11:30pm the bike and I were ready to go.
I’d be lucky with the weather. It was forecast to be sunny, hot, and
not very windy. I could travel light. I would be able to carry all my
stuff in jersey pockets, the largest item being a light jacket to keep
me warm on the descents. I could fill bottles and buy food in the
towns and at the summit. I made the final call to try 48×18 (70.2 gear
inches) for the gearing. All set and ready to go, I made the decision
to push my start time back to get a little more sleep due to the late
hour and the travel delays. I’d get up at 5:30 and plan to roll by
6am, several hours behind the schedule I’d originally planned.
A little after 3:30am, though, I was awake and it was clear I wasn’t
going to fall back to sleep again. I got up and ate breakfast — some
fruit, bread, and peanut butter crackers — and tended to a few final
issues with the bike. I walked out into the totally still, moon-lit
night and looked at the clock: 4:20am. I had 24 hours to return to
this spot with 4 summits in the bag.
The first order of business was to descend the hundred meters or so
from Saint Columbe to Bedoin. There is a marble line embedded in the
road in Bedoin that marks the official start of the climb. I paused to
snap a few photos and was off.
The first 6km of the Bedoin climb are variously described as “easy” or
“flat.” They are neither. There is perhaps 100 meters of road in the
town of Saint Esteve that is flat riding, but the rest of it heads up,
and some of it significantly so. Even before reattaining Saint
Columbe, I was out of the saddle and focused on maintaining a pace
that would not make me anaerobic. If I taxed myself here, I would
never make it, a reality that inspired some dark thoughts and doubts.
This climb was already tough, and I hadn’t seen anything yet. I paused
in Saint Esteve to top off a bottle in the natural spring in front of
someone’s house and the sound of trickling water got me calmed down
Immediately after leaving Saint Esteve, the road from Bedoin turns
sharply left, enters the cedar forest, and goes straight up for 10km
without a single flat section. It’s utterly relentless. Even the long
lines through the switchbacks are steep. I did the best I could to
ride the longest (and hence, the flattest) line I could up the
mountain and even tacked to keep from bogging down in what I now
realized was a ridiculous gear. I knew I would be out of the saddle
without a single break for this entire pitch. Â The grade isn’t that
bad — it’s mostly 9%-11% — but what hurts is that there is so much
of it, with no rest whatsoever.
Despite my best preventative efforts, I was quickly anaerobic. I
stopped a few kilometers into the pitch and rested on a guardrail
until by heart rate recovered and then I set back to work. I completed
the 10km climb with only one more brief stop.
As I rounded a turn toward the top of this section, I saw the first
rays of sun strike the mountainâ€™s summit cone. Down below, the
countryside was still enshrouded in total darkness and the lights of
Avignon twinkled in the distance.
Soon after, I came to Chalet Reynard, a ski lodge that sits at the
tree line and that marks the start of the final, 1,800-foot push to
the summit through a lunar and barren landscape. The Chalet wasn’t
open yet, so I rode on. This section of the Bedloin climb is the scene
of the Armstrong-Pantani duel and of many other achievements, and
tragedies, before that. I won’t say it’s easy, but the grade
moderating to a mere 8% was noticeable to my heart and legs. There
were even a few sections where I could climb seated, though there was,
again, not a single flat spot on the climb. I distracted myself from
the pain by reading the now constant stream of inspiring and
encouraging words painted on the road and left over from previous
Tours. A giant drawing of a smail, though, brought me back to the
reality of my situation.
I kept a lookout for the Tom Simpson memorial on the right and was
afraid I had somehow missed it. It’s closer to the summit, only 1km,
than I had thought. I spent some time there resting and reflecting.
It’s an oddly moving tribute and shrine.
The final push to the summit met with some 40mph crosswinds courtesy
of the aptly named col de tempÃªtes. Surviving that, you then climb the
final, very steep pitch to the summit and you are there — on top of
The Giant of Provence. At 7am, I had it entirely to myself. I’d made
the climb in 2:32, including all stops. Hardly a record pace, but I
was very happy with it under the circumstances. I had three climbs
left. Having cleared the toughest one, I thought I could manage the
other two paved routes. The real trick would be the forest road. I
knew I’d suffer like a beast to get up that. These were my thoughts as
I snapped a few photos, validated my card in the punch clock, put on
my jacket, and began to descend to Malaucene.
The Tom Simpson memorial. Photo from Picasa.
The descent off the Ventoux required full concentration, a lot of
braking, and a huge amount of upper-body strength. Frankly, on a fixed-
gear bike, you just want it to be over with. There are spectacular
views all around you, but youâ€™re not looking at any of them. This
would have been a joy on a bike with a freewheel. On a fixed-gear, it
was an exercise in extreme focus: focus on the road, on your line, on
your speed, and on anything else other than how much pain you were in
and how quickly your legs were moving.
The last few kilometers I began to see cyclists ascending the route.
The sun was out and with was going to be a gorgeous, and hot, day.
In Malacuene, I stopped at the Blueberry CafÃ© and gorged on breads,
jams, croissants, O.J., and 2 cafÃ©s au lait. I filled my bottles in
the natural spring in front of the cafÃ© and was off at 8:15am for
climb number 2. With the toughest climb behind me and still feeling
fresh, I had little doubt that Iâ€™d finish all the paved routes. I had
concerns about the time (this was clearly going to take all day) and
about the unknown forest road. All the way up Malaucene, I thought
about whether to attempt the forest road third or save it for last,
which was the original plan. Part of me wanted to get it over with and
to face it when I was fresher. Another part thought that it would
break my will and that if I failed, Iâ€™d only have completed half the
climbs. I thought that if I had three climbs in me, and if the only
thing that stood between me and success was that forest road, then Iâ€™d
find some way to get up it. But I also thought about what a beast it
must be. Think about it: if the grade were better than the Bedoin
route, then the â€œforest roadâ€ wouldnâ€™t be the frigginâ€™ â€œforest road.â€
It would be THE road. The fact that it was a crappy, unpaved, rarely
used road meant that it must truly suck.
Unlike my solitary ascent of Bedoin, Malaucene was filled with
cyclists, which added a nice distraction both from my present work and
my fears of the future. Most riders seemed to be fairly serious,
middle-aged roadies, the majority of them French. In fact, I would not
encounter a single American on the mountain that day.
Once guy I passed shouted out, â€œWhat gear?â€ (in French), as I rode
past and accelerated to match my pace. I backed off so we could chat.
Recognizing the bike â€“ a â€œpignon fixeâ€ â€“ this exchange was the first
of several of the day that went something like this: â€œâ€You have strong
legs!â€ â€œNo,â€ Iâ€™d reply in French, â€œI have a small brain.â€ Before I
departed, the rider asked me to move farther left so he could shoot a
photo of me and the bike from the drive-train side. The French are
About halfway up, I passed the first of two people on the mountain
that day who blew me away with what they were doing. Â This guy was
running up the mountain, and he was moving fast. I was barely faster
than he was, and he was faster than a good many cyclists. We had a
little mutual admiration society going as we leapfrogged each other.
Iâ€™d have to stop to catch my breath and heâ€™d just keep flogging it up
Malaucene is easier than Bedoin, but it is still an HC climb. What
makes it easier is that it has a few kilometers that average â€œonlyâ€ 5%
or 6%, but it makes up for it with one especially ugly kilometer where
the average pitch is a whopping 12%. There are parts of the climb
where you ascend 600 feet in a mile. One part of the road is, in the
winter, marked as a black-diamond ski trail.
By the time I reached the ski lodge on the Malaucene side (different
from Chalet Reynard, on the Bedoin side of the mountain), I badly
needed some rest. Forty minutes and 2 more cafÃ©s au lait later, I was
back at it.
I think the summit cone from the Malaucene side is tougher than from
the Bedoin/Sault side. Thereâ€™s a long, murderous stretch that I had to
rest on twice. And, as with the rest of it, thereâ€™s not a meter of
ground thatâ€™s flat. The Malaucene side is also more scenic than the
(admittedly stunning!) Bedoin side. The views of the valley 6,000 feet
below are sweeping and the summit cone from the north side looks more
dramatic. Itâ€™s a wall.
I rode the last pitch from Malaucene with two Englishmen who were at
the same pace. The difference was that there were seated, spinning
away, and chattering while I was out of the saddle, totally out of
breath, and nearly cracked. At the top, the Brits introduced me to
their wives, who had driven up to meet them. We talked and took
photos. The summit was now crowded with people, including a few older
French guys who were there to watch the cyclists. I spoke with one guy
briefly who then summoned his friends and explained to them what I was
doing. I got a chorus of â€œCourage!â€ and â€œChapeau!â€ from everyone.
Neither word is administered lightly by the French, so I began my
descent to Sault feeling honored.
Descending the route to Sault is the same as the route to Bedoin until
you reach Chalet Reynard. There, instead of turning right and
descending into the cedar forest, you bear left, leaving the main
drag, and head to the south-east toward Sault. The descent of the
summit cone this time was trickier than earlier. Now, the narrow road
was filled with cyclists, both ascending and descending, and with
autos. I let it rip on the descent because I didnâ€™t want to get in
anyoneâ€™s way. On a geared bike, the descent would have been epic and
fast and I didnâ€™t want to block anyone who had earned such a sweet
reward. I was surprised that I overtook more riders on the descent
than who overtook me.
I took the left fork to Sault, having finally decided after much
deliberation to do the forest road last. Iâ€™d just have to find some
way to get up it. The Sault descent is, relatively speaking, gradual
and leisurely but the road surface is in poor condition and the road
is in places quite a bit more narrow than either the Bedoin or the
Malaucene routes. Sault is not a popular climb and so it had little
auto or cycle traffic on it.
Nearing the bottom of the descent, I witnessed an awesome feats of
cycling. A couple was headed up the mountain. The guy was riding a
hybrid bike and towing their kid, who had to be four or five years
old, in one of those Burley-like trailers. Iâ€™d see them a few hours
later at the summit. Now thatâ€™s tough!
Another especially memorable moment occurred as I approached the
valley floor. There are endless fields of lavender growing on the
Sault side, and you can smell them long before you can see them. The
smell was just sweet and divine.
Unlike Bedoin and Malaucene, the town of Sault is built on a hill. A
big hill. After descending to the valley, you then have to climb a
very steep, 300-foot hill to get into town. It was one of the more
difficult pitches of the day, and not just because it stood between me
and lunch. Finally there, I got my stamp and had a rest at a cafÃ© with
ample water, Coke, and jambon et fromage. I was refreshed, but it was
now officially hot. The temperature would get into the 90s before the
day was over.
The Sault climb back to Chalet Reynard is easy and it was good
recovery. I was glad to have chosen this route over the forest road
for my third ascent. I was riding fast and strong, and felt good.
There were many pitches I could handle from the seated position, which
provided some much-needed rest and recovery.
I made good time to Chalet Reynard where I stopped briefly to fill
bottles before tackling the summit cone from this side for the second
time. It was much harder now, with two other ascents in my legs and in
the full heat of the day. By reputation, there is the â€œwindyâ€ Ventoux
and the â€œhotâ€ Ventoux. I got the hot one, and Iâ€™m probably lucky that
I did. As a Florida boy, I can deal with hot.
The route was now choked with cyclists from every conceivable
background, from pro-looking guys on bling bling carbon bikes to young
girls in tank tops on rental mountain bikes. Climbing Ventoux seems to
be a rite of passage for cycling fans visiting the south of France,
and with the good weather, there were many people making the
pilgrimage that day. Many people were hoofing it and looking
positively worn out.
I made the top in 2:10 total time, and repeated the scene of
interacting with impressed French spectators. I didnâ€™t linger long. I
had a date with the forest road. I quickly set off to descend to
Bedoin. I made quick work of the familiar summit cone, but the descent
into the cedar forest was new terrain. It was steep! The 10km pitch
below the Chalet was, in a word, insane. I stopped mid-way down to
cool my rims with what water I had remaining, a necessary task. My
upper body and hands were in agony from the braking, and I was very
glad once I got off that pitch safely.
I stopped at the B&B in Saint Columbe. On the descent, I had decided
to put on the lowest gear I had to tackle the forest road. I simply
could not believe I had made it up the paved route earlier that day
and, with three climbs in my legs, I doubted my ability to clear it
again in 70 gear inches, especially this time on an unpaved route. The
lowest I could go was 48×19, but it would have to do. (Yes, I was very
much regretting leaving the 45T chain ring and the 20T cog on my work
bench at home….) I changed the gear, changed clothes to feel a bit
more fresh (which always works!), and then set back out on the road to
complete the descent to Bedoin, obtain my final town checkpoint stamp,
and to begin the fourth and final ascent. It was about 5:15pm. Iâ€™d
been at it for almost 13 hours.
The forest road is the same as the Bedoin route for 8km. It climbs out
of town through Saint Columbe and Saint Esteve, and then turns
straight up through the cedars for 2 brutal kilometers before turning
off the Bedoin route onto an unmarked dirt road. The paved bits were
definitely easier in 48×19 than with the 18T cog on, but it was still
a mighty effort to power the bike past Saint Esteve. I kept thinking,
â€œWhen is this â€˜forest roadâ€™ going to appear?â€ I really wanted to get
on it and get it on!
Soon enough, my request was granted. For the first kilometer, the
forest road actually had some pieces of old pavement visible. It was
seriously degraded, though, and was covered with loose stone and
debris â€“ sticks, rocks â€“ that made good line choice critical. Still, I
made it up the first pitch and thought, â€œThat wasnâ€™t so bad!â€ I even
entertained delusions of descending the forest road, which I thought
would be more â€œpureâ€ than taking the paved Bedoin descent, although
taking the paved descent is permitted under the rules.
After an initial steep kilometer, the forest road begins a climbing
traverse. What little pavement there was disappeared and was replaced
by two ruts packed with dirt, stone, gravel, and all manner of forest
debris. Mostly I was out of the saddle but at times I could remain
seated and handle the grade. Daylight was fading. Clouds were moving
in. The temperature cooled significantly. In the forest, there was no
sound other than my breathing and the crunch of my wheels on the
ground. The smell of the cedars was strong.
As the climb went on, the road-to-gravel ratio decreased
significantly. Picking a line that would let me keep the rear wheel
from spinning out became increasingly challenging. In places, the road
was washed out entirely, which meant traversing loose sand and some
I was still making forward progress on the bike, though, until I fell
victim to good intentions. Suddenly, huge amounts of loose stone
appeared. A road crew had decided to remedy the washed-out and eroded
bits by filling them with gravel. I was good for a short while, as
long as I could stay seated. But when the pitch kicked up
significantly and I pushed the crank all the way down without the bike
advancing one centimeter, I knew it was time to hop off and start
I walked for a bit until it looked like I might be able to get
purchase. Iâ€™d re-start and get maybe 50 or 100 meters up the road and
then Iâ€™d have to dismount again, lest I eat gravel. I repeated this
exercise a few times before I looked up the road and the reality of my
situation set in: the road remained very steep, uniformly covered in
loose stone, and there was no end in sight. I was about to go for a
very, very long walk.
Soon the flies found me. Remember those old guys photographed in
National Geographic, sitting in their remote African villages totally
covered in flies? That was me. I was all Zen about it â€“ just like
those old wise-looking dudes â€“ until the flies wanted in my ears and
nose and mouth. I didnâ€™t want to spend precious energy yelling and
swatting. I tried negotiating with God: â€œPlease. Anything but the
flies.â€ When the mosquitoes showed up, I asked for the flies back.
Then I fell victim to French energy bars. Iâ€™d picked up a few at the
bike shop in Bedoin Iâ€™d used as my final town checkpoint. They looked
like chewy fruit bars. I cracked one open. Inside the wrapper, the bar
had two little, dainty wax paper bits that that covered the bar, as if
you cared about getting your fingers sticky. I tried to peel this off.
No can do. I ended up with little bits of paper in my fingers and more
little bits of paper stuck to the bar. I gave up trying to peel off
the wrappers and ate all three of them, which was all I had left for
calories until I completed the â€œride.â€ I figured my stomach wouldnâ€™t
react negatively until this project was complete, one way or the
other. At least Iâ€™d been distracted from the flies for a few minutes.
After 90 minutes or so, the â€œroadâ€ leveled to a degree (meaning, it
probably dropped below 10%) that I could ride it without standing. Iâ€™d
covered barely more than a mile in that time. I hoped back on and as
long as I remained seated, I could get enough purchase with the rear
wheel that I could move more quickly on the bike than off it.
Now some of you may be thinking, why not ride the margins, Paris-
Roubaix style? Not possible, mes amis. There was no road shoulder. The
â€œroadâ€ at this point was like 5 feet wide. One side was a cliff going
up. The other side is a cliff going down. Instead of the little
annoying rocks that I could not ride on the â€œroad,â€ what little
margins there were covered in boulders and logs and all kinds of
ridiculous crap that was not rideable on a road bike with 23c tires.
My problem wasnâ€™t the â€œroad,â€ it was the bike. A much lower gear and
Iâ€™ve have been loving this stuff. In 48×19, though, I was trying to
pound a square peg into a round hole.
Back on the bike, I was at least faster than the flies. I made good
time up to where the road hits a plateau and forks, with one branch
going to Chalet Reynard and the other topping out on the southwest
ridge and heading over to rejoin the Malacuene route. My directions
called for the Malacuene ascent, so I turned left.
Soon after this junction, I came upon a cyclotourist who was illegally
camping by the side of the road. He was as surprised to see me as I
was him. I took his presence as a good sign that I was near the road
junction and that I didnâ€™t have much climbing left. This guy wasnâ€™t
going to ride far or descend much (only to have to reclimb it in the
morning) from the paved road on a fully-loaded touring bike. I was
pushing hard now. I wanted to summit before sunset.
The forest road rejoins civilization just above the ski lodge on the
Malacuene side. Real pavement combined with the lower gear, plus
knowing I was on the home stretch, had me totally pumped up and I
hammered on the pedals. At this hour I had the road entirely to
myself, just like Iâ€™d begun. It was now raining, but I didnâ€™t stop to
add the jacket. As long as I hammered, Iâ€™d stay warm.
Toward the top, I encountered a local who had driven up to photograph
the sunset. He was just packing up when I passed him. He was pretty
excited to see me and cheered enthusiastically as I went by, with all
manner of arm waving, jumping around, and shouts of â€œAllez!â€ He hopped
in his car, drove up the road a few hundred meters, and repeated the
serenade. He did this all the way up the summit, where all the
vendors, cyclists, and tourists had long since departed for the day.
At the top, the French guy drove on and I was greeted by a Dutch
couple, who was equally surprised and enthusiastic to see me there at
that hour. We chatted briefly and I punched my card in the time clock
for the final time: 9:18pm.
It had been a very long day, but it wasnâ€™t over yet. I had to descend
more than 5,000 feet in the dark. I was tired and the road was wet.
Needless to say, I took it really easy. After a few kilometers, I rode
out of the rain and I could see all of the lights in the valley
shining below me. It was gorgeous, and I permitted myself a few
glances of something other than the steep, twisty road in front of me.
The second descent through the cedars was less terrifying than the
first, only because I could not see far enough down the road to be
scared of what lay ahead.
At 10:05pm, I was back in Saint Columbe, my mission complete. I am
certain that I now hold the record for the slowest descent of the
Ventoux. Iban Mayo went up it to set his record in nearly the time it
took me to come down it!
The completed stamp card. Photo from Picasa.
Back at the B&B, Susan rounded up dinner (God bless the French and
their late dinner hour!) while I soaked in the tub. I had bits of
crushed gravel embedded in every place imaginable. Iâ€™d be picking the
stuff out of my hair and ears for a day. And my poor bike! Iâ€™d never
seen a granite-colored chain before: It was encased in dust and bits
Clean and fed, I could assess the damage. My hands were very bruised.
My upper body felt like I had worked every muscle to failure. My
triceps were especially fried. My lower back was the worst. Turns out
that hours out of the saddle, wrenching on the hoods for leverage,
really does a number on your lower back. Who knew? Surprisingly, my
legs felt pretty good. Tired and sore, sure. But they didnâ€™t even rate
compared to any of these other maladies. My real fear was my hands â€“
in addition to being very sore, it looked like I’d have a few blisters
to remember this adventure by (despite wearing gloves and changing
them out mid-ride for a fresh pair). They were really, really sore. I
could manage PBP with all these other deficits, but you can’t ride
1230km without touching the bars.
As I cleaned up, ate, and began to heal, I thought about how I didn’t
succeed in doing all the climbs in one gear. I’m a bit comforted by
believing that there’s no one, single combination of cogs and chain
rings I own that would have gotten me up — and down — Ventoux fixed
in one day. And, had I not changed to 48×19 for the forest road, my
walk might have been a lot longer, which might have put me on the
mountain in more rain and more dark and cold, all of which might have
jeopardized my safety or a finish. I don’t get a fixed-gear purity
award for my ride, but so be it. I’ll leave doing all four routes in
one single gear to another rider in the future. Still, I was pleased
that I didn’t walk a single meter of any of the paved routes.
Especially in 48×18, that’s more than I thought myself capable of.
The one statistic from the ride that I’m most happy about is that I
took no pain relievers before, during, or after it. I’ve been trying
to get away from using that stuff for years and getting up and down,
and recovering from, Ventoux without any drugs (liberal amounts of
caffeine aside) is an accomplishment I’m proud of. It sounds a bit foo-
foo, but I think by listening to my body and what it was capable of, I
was able to select an effort that made the climbs successful but that
also let me recover quickly and be in shape to start PBP just three
days later. There’s no doubt I could have done this faster, and that
some Vitamin I would have produced a faster pace. A faster pace,
though, might have wrecked my PBP. Pain was good: it slowed me down to
something sustainable. And it would have alerted me to any kind of
issue that wasn’t just muscle pain. Tweaking a knee or an Achilles
would have ended the ride. Had I been doped up, I wouldn’t have felt
that until it was too late to do anything about it. And, what’s the
point of a faster ride, anyway? The goal was to do it, period, and to
give everyone who told me — even during the ride! — that what I was
doing was “impossible” something to think about. No one cares whether
it took me 18 hours or if I did it in half of that. I’ll leave a
faster fixed-gear ride to another rider in the future, too.
In the end, I had fun — even while doing it and even while wondering
if I had the strength to lift myself out of the bathtub after my post-
ride soak. I made it up and down. And up and down and up and down and
up and down. Although I had some serious recovery to do, I thought as
I drifted off to sleep that I’d probably be ok for PBP. I’d be
fortunate to wake up the next morning and see my blisters looked more
like calluses. I’d be ok. And I’d definitely given some folks
something to think about when it comes to what’s possible on a fixed-