The road to Ventoux- Part 13

Alpe Feb 2021

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 make a donation go to

As I posted in the Road to Ventoux blog last month, I have taken the decision to postpone the Ventoux3 challenge (to ride all three routes up Mont Ventoux in one day) till May 2022. To maintain focus over the next 15 months, I have set up the “Ventoux3 Challenge workout series”: monthly event through the spring and autumn. The first of these was held on Sunday 21st February and involved a group ride up the virtual Alpe d’Huez on Zwift (Tour of Fire and Ice). Despite some technical issues eight of us completed the ride and tried to chat to each other along the way. Chatter decidedly dropped off as we got nearer the top. The Alpe is a tough climb! However, to put this into context, it is just over 1000m of climb, while just a single ascent of Ventoux is just short of 1500m of climb. This is the challenge awaiting us in March.

To facilitate the group ride, we used a feature in Zwift that makes it a “no drop” ride. In other words, what ever pace people cycle at, the group is help together by virtual rubber bands! If you try to cycle off the front of the group, your pace is slowed. The speed of the group as a whole is roughly determined by the average watts/kg that the members of the group are peddling. This means that the actual time taken to climb the mountain is rather artificial, though each rider’s power output exactly matches what they did. Overall, the feature worked really well though it did produce some strange speeds for individual riders when we were descending!

This “no drop” function means that anybody with a smart trainer and a subscription to Zwift can join the rides. It also helps if you have Discord on your phone or laptop so that you can join in the chat. The next ride is on Sunday 21stMarch at 09:30 GMT when we will be going up the virtual Ventoux, but just once! If you would like to join the ride, then you firstly need to follow me on Zwift and secondly drop me an email ( and I will invite you through Zwift.

Meanwhile, my training following Ed Collins’ advice (see seems to be starting to pay dividends. Over the last month I have increased my FTP (essentially a measure of how hard I can peddle for one hour with an all-out effort) has increased by around 5%. I have also managed a lot of personal bests on various routes and climbs (e.g. last night up Box Hill virtually), both indoors and out (though till recently the weather has not been conducive to riding outside!). The toughest ride I have managed was two weeks ago when I did a Fondo on Zwift (basically a long group ride/race). For Zwift aficionados the route was the Mega Pretzel – a tough 111 km (69 miles) with over 1600m (5,500 feet) of climb that took me four hours to complete (15 mins faster than the previous time I had ridden the route). I was pretty knackered at the end!

This weekend, I also have a stiff (virtual) challenge: the Haute Route Watopia series. Haute Route are a company that organise challenging cycling tours in real life, often featuring stages and climbs used in the Tour de France. The idea is to try to give amateurs a feel for what a grand tour is like with tough rides on consecutive days. The company have started running events on Zwift during the pandemic. This years involved three tough stages getting progressively harder over Friday to Sunday. The final stage on Sunday involves a stage that ends with Alpe d’Huez after having done a separate 400+m climb (Epic). This might make last weekend feel like a walk in the park!

Don’t forget the site that provides a wealth of advice around dealing with isolation, self-management of anxiety and depression, and how to stay safe at these difficult times. 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

Hamish McAllister-Williams