Today I took the day off work and travelled over to Provence to see a cycling race. That was my intention at least. The reality was a little less straight forward.
I bought a motorcycle last week to get me a little further afield than my usual 50 km radius of Montpellier, and intended to ride it over to (and up) Mt Ventoux, the mythic mountain of Tour de France fame. There is a warm-up race happening right now called the Dauphiné Libéré, a sort of mini-Tour de France, where you are supposed to be able to watch great mountain stages without the drunken crowds of bunny-suited, antler-headed, pitchfork yielding fans (you don’t believe me, watch the Tour next month!).
And since I haven’t been out on the bike much lately, I was very eager to get some good shots of the race. But too much reality…
What happened was, I rode over into Provence, right up to Mt Ventoux, as you can see here.
And then I was thwarted by a portly Gendarme, who told me with a smile that there was no way in hell I could ride up the mountain, since it was closed! You see, they close the roads before the cyclist come…of course. But my map told me there was another way up – to the north. I scurried over some little mountains towards the north side, and on the way saw the tell-tale sign of a cycling race in France – helicopters. This is actually the only photo I have of the race, and as you can see, you can’t see!
Knowing that the riders would be rounding Mt Ventoux and climbing from the south, I hussled up the the northern route. On the way, I found time to take a picture of a bike path, which I think went as far as I was allowed to (but I’m getting ahead of myself).
Now, for those of you are ignorant to the sport of cycling (basically like me…) Mt Ventoux has been used in many many Tour de Frances (the route changes each year), and is really mythic, as I said before. Some riders truly hate it, some dream of climbing it, others die on it (Simpson, a British rider in the 60s, collapsed on his way up and never woke up). Probably the only climb to compare is Alp duez in the – you guessed it – Alps. Here they are, by the way. This shot is taken from the spot where I was stopped again by those pesky Gendarmes.
Oh, that’s bad, isn’t it? Sorry about the crappy photos. My new camera should be coming – along with my wife – from Japan next week.
And the final shot is of the illusive finish to this epic stage, the summit of Mt Ventoux. Since I couldn’t get to the top and see the finish, I just laid down in the meadows and enjoyed the blue Provencal sky. As the saying goes, even a bad day in the south of France is good…or was that sex..?