The road to Ventoux - Part 17
The Ventoux3 challenge is all about raising money to support research into mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder) through the Out of the Blues charity. To sponsor me for this go to https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/outoftheblues. If you want to be involved in any way with the challenge, see the bottom of this post for details. You can follow my training progress on Strava (search for Hamish McAllister-Williams).
Just to remind you, the Ventoux3 challenge is to ride up all three road routes up Mont Ventoux, Provence, France in one day. Ventoux is a massive mountain (1910m or 6266 feet high) sitting by itself in the Rhone valley. It is extremely exposed, with winds of over 50km/hour recorded on over 200 days per year – hence it’s name (vent = wind in French). The Ventoux3 challenge is not far in distance (137km or 85 miles), but it involves 4400m (14,435 feet) of climbing. That is equivalent to cycling up Ben Nevis from sea level three and a quarter times. Achieving the feat qualifies you to become a member of Le Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux – or loosely translated as the brotherhood of the crazy people of Ventoux. From around the world for over 30 years, so far only 16,000 odd people have achieved the feat.
Given that I had never been on a road bike prior to November 2019, and not cycled for decades prior to that, this has felt a somewhat daunting challenge to take on. However, COVID has helped! I was due to undertake it in May last year. However, it had to be postponed to this year giving me an additional 12 months of training. I think I need it!
If you have been following this somewhat intermittent blog, you will know that last year, through to the summer, I had been making significant progress, completing a couple of 100 mile rides. With the wonders of modern technology, I have also been able to cycle up Ventoux virtually in my garage. This has confirmed to me the extreme nature of the challenge. Just once up the mountain has left me absolutely knackered, and this is without the disadvantage of the wind on the top of the mountain.
The challenge also now feels much more real that it has ever done before. I now have accommodation sorted in Bedoin – the starting point for the first and hardest climb of the mountain – and flights booked. The plan is to undertake the ride on either Thursday 2nd or Friday 3rd June, with a reserve day of Saturday the 4th. These dates coincide with school half term, at least in North East England. Which day I do the ride will be determined by the forecasted wind speeds on the top of the mountain!
To address my anxiety of the enormity of the challenge and its increasing imminence, I have taken on a new coach – James Walsgrove. James is based in Norfolk, but the joys of modern technology is that he can set my training and monitor my performance remotely. He has previously completed the Ventoux challenge and is a member of the Le Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux. His approach to my training has been to take it right back to the basics. After taking a bit of time off in early Autumn, he has got me to focus on my base endurance levels and improve my cycling technique, specifically increasing my cadence. To be honest, I was not sure about the amount of benefit I was getting from this given that the duration of rides was less than I had been doing, and the training did not include any effort as hard as I had been doing at times earlier last year. However, James has been extremely supportive, and he gave me faith in his methods. Over the last month or so, he has gradually been introducing increasingly tough sessions. Interestingly I am finding that I am achieving my fastest times up some (virtual) climbs, without riding them “eye balls out”. So, it certainly looks like things are starting to come together.
As an intermediate goal, prior to the Ventoux3 challenge, I have entered the “Mod Rocker” sportive. This is a 65 mile ride across the Otterburn Ranges in Northumberland. Much of the land is used by the MOD for live firing practice and the roads normally closed to traffic. They are only open approximately one weekend a month. If you read my blog from September last year I describe THE best ride I have ever done, which included going across the ranges. When I saw there was an event planned in the same area, I jumped at the chance of taking part. It is being held on Saturday 23rd April (see https://www.letsdothis.com/gb/e/mod-rocker-sportif-188408 if you are interested in taking part). It includes some tough climbing and will be a good indicator of my progress with training. The picture I have posted with this blog is of a rider doing the Mod Rocker (not me!). It gives a good idea of landscape the ride goes through.
Don’t forget the www.NorthernMentalHealth.org site that provides a wealth of advice around dealing with isolation, self-management of anxiety and depression. Please have a look at the site and share it with others – there is something there for everybody.
I wish everybody the very best and I hope you all stay healthy. Whatever your situation, try to make exercise of one sort or another a part of your daily/weekly routine. If you want to get involved in the Ventoux3 for Out of the Blues challenge in any way, then drop me an email at email@example.com. The dates are now confirmed as the 2nd or 3rd June, with a reserve day of the 4th. The exact day will be weather determined.