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Saturday March 24 2018 
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Ardeche Tour 2016


The mad dogs of Mt Ventoux



Ardeche 2016 Day 1 - Caroline

After a long day driving down to the Ardeche we gladly got on our bikes, following Fred and Don on a lovely ride, that they had rehearsed the day before, when it was really hot, today was only slightly hot, but still around 28degrees. We were thirteen riders, Fred, Don, Bernie, Dave H, Phil C, Phil E, Raymond, Simon, Trevor2, Shane, Victor, Sonjia and me. The route started out of the campsite at Sampzon, , over the bridge and over to Pont de Vallon . FRom there the route went along lovely  lanes and over bridges, we arrived at a pretty little beach area at the river, where the previous day Fred and Don had had a quick dip, although it did look tempting, no one had brought swimming kit, and there was a young couple there having a romantic moment, not wanting to play gooseberries we quickly rode on.... It was soon lunchtime and the town of Villeneuve de Berg was our destination, it was market day so we rolled through town sampling the local nougat on the way through. We settled into our seats under the large canopy of  a bar , various salads and  quiches  were ordered along with beers, and coffees.  The waitress and the boss had some disagreement about what was a cheese flan and what was a quiche....we ended up with cheese flan and not quiche lorraine, which normally has ham in it, whatever, it was yummy.  As lunch ended we set off out of town and due to the heat had to make another stop for icecreams in a very pretty garden cafe, unfortunately the talk around the table was quite heated, so we banned the mentioning of anything Brexit related. After another few miles it was time for another liquid refreshment stop, well it was Wednesday, so a bar it was.

Just a short run back to the campsite, where some took a dip in the pool, to cool down.  Miles 42.6. Ascent 636metres. A very enjoyable route on really good road surfaces. Where do they get the money from to keep them in such good condition?.

Ardeche 2016 Day 2 - Sonjia

I think we must have had too good a night last night but I distinctly remember asking Victor to give me an early wake up call as we were due to set off at 9 am. He woke me with a loud knock saying it was 8.20!! Caroline wasn’t riding today so while she could take it leisurely, Victor and I got dressed rather hastily, had a quick breakfast and managed to meet the others just after 9…..proving we are fast movers!! It was a beautiful day again as we set off towards Du Pont D’Arc. What a magnificent sight it is. A huge arch formed by the elements over the river Le Ardeche. After a few photos we set off again and it wasn’t long before we started to climb. Up and up and up and going through a few tunnels. Going through the longest one I couldn’t see too well and managed to scrape my arm on the wall. They all thought my painful shout was me trying to yodel but, luckily, I was ok. It was worth the climb as there were great views once we had reached the top. After a rest stop we were off again with rather pleasant undulating terrain – well that’s what Fred said but I think Don disagreed at times. We had arranged to meet Caroline, Carol and Sue for lunch at St Martins. On the ride downhill to the café we had wonderful views of the river meandering below. Sitting by the river we enjoyed a lovely lunch. After lunch Fred wasn’t feeling too grand so he put his bike on Caroline’s car and went back with the girls (thankfully he was ok for Mont Ventoux). Simon stepped in to lead the way and we made our way steadily as we were all feeling the effects of the wonderful weather, especially so cycling uphill (I think I heard someone say “Mad dogs and Englishmen”), but we were all enjoying the ride. As we neared Barjac, Simon, Trevor, Phil E, Phil C, and Victor decided to take a detour for an extra climb (the sun had obviously affected them!), while Bernie, Dave, Shane, Raymond, Don and myself made the sensible decision and headed towards the nearest bar at Vagnas for some thirst quenching refreshments. Don had one drink then left to go back for a swim while we all stayed for another round. A brilliant day’s ride on excellent road surfaces covering 53.7 miles with a 1316 meters ascent.

Day 3 - Simon

After Fred had climbed into the broom wagon yesterday it was perhaps no surprise but a little concerning when he appeared today at the off, although not appropriately dressed.  He held out a note to the effect that young Frederick was under par and would not be coming out to play today.  There was a brief discussion whether this note was genuine. Was he suffering from a surfeit of miles or a surfeit of Carol’s cooking? But it was accepted and we bade him farewell.   

After a long and hot day in the saddle yesterday we generally felt a short ride would be a good idea before the “Big One” tomorrow climbing the Mont Ventoux.  A short 25 mile route with probably just one hill was found on the map by the chairman who was cast as Fred’s understudy.  So off we set across the long bridge over the Ardeche as usual heading for the nearby town of Ruoms.  Finding the town bridge over the river was problematic because the chairman mistakenly thought he could navigate though this town without the map. But we made our escape with the help of a French teacher who was shepherding her flock of youngsters along the road.

We followed the Ardeche up a very pleasant, gentle (no, I mean it) climb cut into the side of the gorge high above the river until it turned into another narrow valley.  The heat was bearable until you stopped which we did at the next available cafe. Not too impressed after simple coffees we turned onto the climb of the day where the Mont Ventoux pretenders flexed their muscles and stretched their legs.  Trevor was nearly wiped out when a passing lorry shed its loading trolley which then careered down the road towards him. We reached the plateau and took our time for a photo with the group stretched across the road keeping one or two patient Frenchmen waiting.

After a short detour through some tiny lanes of deepest France we descended steeply into another gorge for lunch by the river in the village of Labaume.  Raymond meanwhile set off determined to find an alternative way out of the gorge which he did to everyone’s surprise since the map showed no way at all.  Brownie marks for Raymondo!  So after crossing the river by an ancient cart bridge we got out of the gorge by way of a rather steep cycle path. But it saved a big loop and main road traffic. Soon we caught sight of the Roc de Samzon, the landmark peak which always told us where the campsite was and we were back in time for a swim and an early night for “the mad dogs”.  

25 miles for the Wheelers grupetto – almost like a Pathfinder on foreign soil.

Day 4 - Mad Dogs

Falmouth Wheelers homage to Tommy Simpson placed at his memorial where he died in 1967


Ventoux Birthday ride report - Kath

It was always going to be a good day, its was my birthday after all!  There was some very hurried card and present opening done in our van as we had to be ready for the off at 8.00 a.m.

Meeting outside Reception on the campsite was Bernie, NZ Dave, Phil Eagles, Clive and myself for Bernie’s car and Caroline, Sonja, Victor, Fred and Carol in Caroline and Victor’s car. We drove in convoy to Bedoin and all became very excited when we saw Mont Ventoux for the first time in the distance.  We then all went strangely quiet when I think we all realised what we had taken on.  Too late now!!

Wow, was it hot when we got out of the cars.  We all got ourselves sorted and organised the back up crew of Clive and Carol with water, extra clothes for the descent and any other instructions and then it was off. Oh, but first we needed coffee to get us up that hill.

The start of the climb is very gentle and a good introduction to the rest of the climb but its not too long before you are in bottom gear, well I was at least, and needing to find a rhythm which you maintain for virtually the whole climb.

It was fun to see the cyclists who had already completed the climb racing back down again – that will be me in a while I thought.

We started the ride together as a group but we had all said that we would ride our own ride and before long we had split up but its not long before you either catch up or someone would over take you while you were taking a water break.

There was a charity event taking place that day which added a great deal of atmosphere to the day. There were 600 Dutch riders doing a variety of routes, some doing all 3 routes, some just 2 routes, some running and some walking and they had fantastic back up crews which I think gave our 3 routers some refreshments on their 3rd climb.

I didn’t hide the fact that it was my birthday and several renditions of Happy Birthday could be heard across the mountain and sang not just to myself but to any Falmouth Wheeler that appeared.

Clive and Carol were well positioned and a welcome sight at the points that they stopped at to take photos and to fill our water bottles which were emptying far too fast.  It was very hot even under the trees.

The Slog had begun but the kilometres counted down to the café stop quite quickly.  We took a nice long break here with coffee and coke. We saw Trevor at this point making his way down to start his 3rd  climb, he looked as fresh as a daisy and loving every minute of the ride, well he was going downhill.  This was now the start of the exposed area of Ventoux, no tree cover and no cloud cover.  The advantage to this was that visibility was fantastic.

It was still very hot and I was on water bottle number 3.  The plan I had at this stage was to ride until I needed a break, have a drink and then carry on.  This plan seemed to be working.  There were some guys in blue who looked very capable and they were stopping as much as I was or I was stopping as much as them as I took their lead.

The top was getting nearer but it always seemed further than the kilometre makers were showing and at 1.5k to go I really didn’t think that I had it in me to make it to the top.

The Tommy Simpson memorial came into sight and this gave a welcome break and a photo opportunity.  So near yet so far. Maybe that was what Tommy thought.  The next kilometre marker said 507 metres to go.  Well, it looked a darn sight further to me.  Surely I could do the last little bit but I was beginning to wonder, its only just over a school running track distance.

You could hear the cheers from above when riders completed the climb which gave a terrific boost.  I could see the others who had made it to the top a long time before I had all gathered and ready to welcome our group of Fred, myself, Sonja and Don.  There is a nasty little kick just as you round the final bend which amazingly you find it in your legs to get up and around.

It was brilliant being cheered in by the others and boy was I glad to be at the top.  We were all smiles at the top and there was a surprise waiting for me in the form of Robin and Gill who had travelled all way from Italy with a birthday cake and bubbly for me.  Though I’m sure my birthday wasn’t the only reason that Robin had come to Ventoux.

A great experience shared with friends.  When’s the next one!!!

Ventoux 2016 - Bernie

The day started early, very early; 3 o’clock to be precise, as Simon made his breakfast and packed his creams and pills to tackle the mountain 3 times (Silly Bugger) with the other boys from the cabin across the street. Shane was a bit concerned about the reliability of VW and decided to run the van for about 10 minutes before the off, slamming the doors and ensuring that the whole campsite knew of their departure!

Our turn would come a bit later. By 8 o’clock we were all ready and packed. The day promised to be a bit cloudy and the temperature should be a bit lower than the previous few days, with even a promise of rain at the summit of The Ventoux.

Victor and Caroline loaded with 6 bikes and with Sonjia on board met outside reception to pick up Fred and Carol; and we picked up Kath and Clive. Carol and Clive were not going to tackle this ascent but offered to ride shotgun and be support car just in case!

Two hours later we arrived at Bedoin. We were held up by a rally of plaque bearing children with a police escort. Shouting something and blowing whistles; obviously stating their point of view and heading for the football ground to continue the protest. All in the bright sunshine which was starting to get hot!

We parked in an empty supermarket car park, unloaded the bikes and filled our water bottles.

With the bikes made ready and creams applied, a group photo was taken; well after Kath had answered the call of nature, yet again. Phil, Victor, Caroline, Fred, Sonjia, Dave, Don and I were off; leaving Carol and Clive to clear up and take the support vehicle to the first stop and hopefully give support.

Phil and I got to the outskirts of the village and realised we were on our own, we turned round to find the others looking for a coffee stop! Apparently coffee is what you need prior to the ride up!!! After the stop and pep talk we were off.

The temp was now nudging 28c but the climb was only about 6% out of Bedoin. After a mile or so we came to a set of roadworks and traffic lights which allowed us all to regroup. The support vehicle had already gone on and we hoped to see it a bit further on. Fred was still suffering from an earlier bout of stomach cramps and Caroline, I think had already had enough, not enjoying the climb one little bit! Don and Sonjia were holding the rear of the pack. I stayed with the lead group of Victor Phil and Dave, who then stated that he intended to continue to the top without stopping; so the planned stop at Chalet Reynard looked like a no-no.

The sun continued to beat down and soon the first water bottle was consumed. We had now pulled away from the rear guard and the forest gave some nice shade in places. The mountain was full of cyclists. It turns out we had decided to cycle on the same day as a huge charity event which included walkers runners as well as cyclists also doing the climb 3 times. There were probably several hundred people on the mountain which in some way helped, as we were overtaken by the fit ones and overtook some of the other participants. In places the roadside was full of supporter’s cars some with blaring, loud music and people shouting in foreign languages.

At about five miles in we passed our support car with Clive and Carol (quietly) cheering us on and taking photos as we sweated and panted onward. By now the lead group had pulled away and it was getting quite hot in the forest. After trying to keep up I decided to keep at my pace, which in that heat was remarkably comfortable. I remember Clive and Carol passing on route to their 2nd support stop and I could no longer see the rear guard so continued at this pace being overtaken and overtaking as I went.at about 7 miles I passed the support crew again with a wave and smile I continued in the heat, I believe Caroline threw in the towel at this spot and elected to ride with the support, not enjoying let alone understanding why we would want to ride the mountain.

On I went, up the hill until I arrived at the junction with the cafés and restaurants at Chalet Reynard and with Dave’s comments ringing in my ears I carried on without stopping; although the coffee stop did look very inviting.

From here you can see the top another five miles ahead and it was getting steeper. Barren, with no trees or vegetation, just rocks, stones and snow poles; also of course a continuous line of cyclists with walkers mixed in. It was getting cooler, the sky line was filled with the tower and aerials in front of a clear blue sky, all extremely beautiful and stunning.