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:
Hesjedal’s was Rocacorba outside of Girona:
And Patterson? Unfortunately, mine just has to be Mont Ventoux.
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.
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?