Ventoux: The Ultimate Local Hill

I would guess that many of you have a ‘test climb’ in your area that you use to see how fit (or unfit) you are. Lance famously (Trek took the name had La Madone, near Nice:

Looking-down-on-a-section-of-the-Col-de-la-Madone-climb-750x562.jpg

Photo: azurecycletours.com

Hesjedal’s was Rocacorba outside of Girona:

Rocacorba_The_Col_Collective.jpg

Photo: The Col Collective

And Patterson? Unfortunately, mine just has to be Mont Ventoux.

Ventoux

Screenshot from 44|5’s new ‘trailer’ video…coming soon!

I don’t know how many times I’ve climbed Ventoux by bike (I’ve done it many more times in the car, supporting clients), but it has to be 30 or 40 by now. This number would be much higher, but I have been trying to take a sabbatical from it for the past couple of years.

Well, that has all changed. Yesterday I found myself on the starting ramp of Haute Route Ventoux’s final-stage time trial up Le Geant, thanks to the kindness of our friends at OC Sport, the organizers of Haute Route.

IMG_9233

I don’t really remember the last time I climbed Ventoux ‘with intent’, but I am sure it’s been at least 3 years. Since 2015 I haven’t trained for anything big and hurtful like Haute Route, and I certainly haven’t put myself into the red for anything more than an hour in that long. I’ve also gained a good 5 kg or more over my climbing weight (although hair loss is compensating for this) of 2013 and 2015.

And so it was a little surprising that as soon as I freewheeled down that ramp I kept expecting to be faster than I ended up going. As soon as I hit the famous ‘forest’, I was moving from the 25 that I used to climb Ventoux in, quickly to my 27, and even to the dreaded 29 from time to time. For much of the forest I felt that I was trying to catch up to myself, but at about an hour in I finally warmed up and got on top of the pedals a bit.

Knowing this climb as well as I do now, I was all too aware of where I ‘should’ have been at nearly every twist, turn, kilometer marker and trash can. It wasn’t looking good. At Chalet Reynard I was already 1:10 or more into my climb; or 10 minutes behind my best. All that could save me now would be a nice southerly tailwind up the ‘moonscape’.

There was no savior waiting around the right-hand bend after the chalet and I did my best to limit my losses till the top.

However, Ventoux, unlike mere mortal climbs, is a great equalizer. You can sometimes ‘fake’ a smaller climb by burying yourself for 30 minutes or even an hour, but Ventoux is just so big and hard and long that your weaknesses are eventually and inevitably exposed. What I’m saying here is that I couldn’t really limit my losses because I just got weaker as I climbed the last 6 km.

My final time was 1:42:56, which is not bad at all for the average MAMIL now in his 50s, but nearly 12 minutes off my personal best of 1:31:35 back in 2013.

With Haute Route Pyrenees only 10 months away, this wake-up call comes at a good time. Whether I want to or not, Ol’ Baldy will be seeing a lot more of me in the next year.


P.S. Am I right in guessing that other people have these ‘test climbs’? What do you use, dear reader?

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31 thoughts on “Ventoux: The Ultimate Local Hill

  1. My local climb Col de Vence is (thankfully) not in the same league as Ventoux which I have climbed from all three sides, just not in one day. I thought your time was pretty respectable but I know how annoying it is to go slower than your best.

  2. Ok , 1.2 km in length with 89 meters of elevation att an average gradient of 7%. Average doesn’t tell the full story but its the best i can do around here.

  3. Gerry: still a good time without training and with a little more weight! We don’t have ANY hill anywhere near Chicago… It sounds like you’re going to take this HR seriously so keep us posted. I am curious about whether/how large the “age effect” will be on your PB. We already know it will be less than 11min; probably only a couple minutes, or perhaps none?

    • Thanks, Jan. I’m not all that disappointed with the time. And I’ve seen your Strava account so I know how flat you have it 😉 I’ll be curious to see what age has in store for me in terms of this, too. My supposition is that I could definitely beat it if I trained like a pro. I only finished 125th or so in HRA 2013 and there were many guys my age ahead of me (including you maybe). It’ll depend on how much and how smartly I want to train, I think. Time will tell!

  4. 1:42 isn’t bad. As I recall, I was about 3 kms into my ride up Ventoux at that point! I’ve found that with advancing age, the key to setting new PRs is to take on new activities. My Ventoux climb, for example, was a PR!

  5. The good news is that it’ll take about 6-8 weeks of training and eating moderately healthy to get very close to your pb again. The bad news? Those two months will be horrible!

    Speaking from very recent experience. Just lost 3.5kg in 6 weeks and demolished a local pb. Starting the training was horrible!

    I have some short and sharp climbs I test my sprint power on, we’re talking two minutes here!

    My real test is an hour long lumpy time trial course. Same power required as a mountain, you’re just moving quicker.

    I guess there’s more variables on a flat course where wind and aerodynamics play a more significant part. Plus I’d need to increase it by 50% for it to match up to Ventoux!

    • Good on you, Human, for the weight loss! I’ve done the same several times now in my ‘career’, so at least I know it can be done. Then again, I’ve got friends of a certain age who say it does get harder as you get ‘riper’. We’ll see.

      I used to have an ‘hour of power’ course when I was training in 2013 that sounds a lot like that TT one you’ve got. It was a different kind of effort though, mainly due to the downs that allow you to recover that little bit. Ventoux doesn’t have those! Personally I like the former but Haute Route is full of the latter…oh well.

      • Thanks Gerry, good point about the mini-descents, not such temporary relief on the mountain! Be interesting to know if your training for such things changes as you get older? Just more of it? Or different? I know Friel advocates more strength training as we age and creek. Oh and longer recoveries too I guess. I’ve always struggled with recovery so not a good sign for the future!

        • I’m interested in that, too, Human! I don’t feel like I have the strength that I did in 2013, but that could very well be a training issue. I haven’t decided on a training plan yet, but will probably put more recovery days in there. For the first HR I was doing 5 or 6 days a wee, which Friel would definitely frown upon…

  6. Nice ride Gerry. Impressive actually. Even if a bit off your best time of 5 years ago! My test climb lately since getting back from holidays early September is to climb on the bike. Bit of a rest at moment. I assume your reference to seeing more of ol’ Baldy was not about your hair loss! 😎. By the way thanks for the offer to join team. I’ve done my ‘crazy’ once. Your welcome to come up this way. I’d supply the beer.

    • All is relative, Luc, but I’ll take the compliment anyway! Good luck on getting back from your ‘rest’. It’s always the first pedal stroke that’s the hardest. The offer stands if you have a moment of temporary insanity and thanks for the invite. Knowing there is beer involved certainly helps 😉

  7. Sadly, brother, it’s flat as a chocolate chip cookie in my neck of the woods. A lump here or there, but not much to climb. Best we’ve got is repeats on Denton Hill. It can be climbed in three-ish minutes.

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