This year the company bought John and me Haute Route ‘Infinity Passes’, which allow you to do as many events as you can in a given season. HR Ventoux was a no-brainer, especially since we never sold our support tour this year.
For me this was the 3rd and last Haute Route for the season and 5th in my middle-aged career. It was also in an area I know intimately and on roads that I’ve ridden many, many times. Local knowledge did little for to help, though.
I did this event with John and Rich, who I also rode Alpe d’Huez and the Pyrenees with. I say ‘with’, but none of us really rides ‘with’ Rich. He starts ahead of us and stays there till we meet for a beer after the stage. You won’t find him on the results for this one, however, since he had a cold and left for home before the final day’s ITT. Below is the 44|5 Cycling Tours team, all smiles but I think you can see the trepidation behind the eyes.
This year’s event took place under blue skies for the most part, but we had vicious wind on all 3 stages, even shortening the 2nd one to Chalet Liotard, 5 km from the summit of Ventoux. We did get to climb Le Geant twice, though, which was one more than the previous year. Below is a photo of me riding north into it on Stage Two.
I wasn’t in my best racing form all year and I’m sorry to say I never made a late-season comeback. My results were ‘moyen’ at best and pretty similar to what I managed in both HRAdH and HRP.
- Stage One: 99 / 199 finishers
- Stage Two: 95 / 181 finishers
- Stage Three: 106 / 176 finishers
- Overall: 89 / 167 finishers
John did much better overall, just like he did in the Pyrenees: 72nd. Here he is looking determined somewhere in the vicinity of Mont Ventoux.
I’m not one for regrets, but I really should have had more discipline in 2019 and laid off the beer and pizza (and magret de canard and pork cheeks and a few other things). I can’t say that I suffered more during these 3 events when compared to 2015 and 2013, but I definitely suffered longer. I never felt the spring in my pedal stroke very much because of the few extra kilos and that took the joy out a little, too. When climbing mountains it’s just so much more pleasurable to be light. There’s no getting around it.
But there were plenty of good times and I feel like I’ve got a history with these events now. It’s a little like a family reunion going back every couple of years because there’s always someone you know, or who knows you, or both. I ran into riders in HRAdH this year who remembered me from HRAlps 2013. You also meet people from all over the world and it’s not bad for networking if you are a tour operator. Everyone goes into these events with different objectives and attitudes and there’s really a place for all types, as long as you can haul your ass over the hills they put in front of you.
I won’t be back in 2020 (I write this during the Covid-19 confinement so I wouldn’t anyway), but I do look forward to seeing what they’ve got up their sleeves for new events in the future.