Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mont Ventoux - Encore!

Well, Sherry and I are back from our wonderful 2-week vacation in France where I once again got the opportunity to climb the fabled Mont Ventoux. To be honest, I tried to post this blog while we were still in France but have you ever tried to type on a European keyboard? After a frustrating few minutes at a cyber cafe I decided to go to the real cafe across the street and drink wine instead.

I was blessed with the opportunity to climb Mont Venoux in May of 2007. While thrilled, I absolutely stressed over making it to the top. Here's why. I was climbing from the town of Bedoin (pictured above) because that is the route featured in the Tour de France. It is a 13.1 mile continuous climb the gains 5,200 feet in elevation. And while the average grade is 7.6%, there is a 5-mile stretch, between 3.7 and 8.7, that averages 9.6% while the final mile tops out at 10.4%. Plus the winds can be (and were) fierce. All in all I did fine and finished in around 2 and a half hours.

I wonder what this year would bring? Once again I was climbing from Bedoin. However, since my last climb I have train for the Terrible Two, Levi's Gran Fondo and I am now working with a coach. The difference should be interesting.

When we arrived on Saturday, we picked up the rental bike on the way to our house in Loumarin where we staying. On Sunday afternoon I went for a short 25 mile ride to get a feel for the bike. As I headed out down the narrow streets of a Provencal village I was almost giddy with delight. With all systems on the bike a go, I was ready for the Giant of Provence.

Monday morning had us leave bright and early for Bedoin. We arrived to discover it was their market day. So as I started out, Sherry went shopping. Her plan was to catch up with me 2 hours into the climb. It almost didn't work out right.

Once I hit the base of the climb I found my rhythm almost immediately and settled in for a great ride. There were a lot of cyclists on the road and I managed to pass a few while only being passed twice. It was really cool reading all the writing on the road from the Tour de France. If paint can used as an indicator then the Schleck brothers were the most popular riders in this year's peloton. About 8 miles in I passed the point where I started weaving last time. This year I was still cruising comfortably along in the saddle.

The wind at the top was strong but not nearly as bad as 2007. However it was very cold and I had to put the arm warmers back on for the final 4 miles. When Sherry caught with me 2 hours later she was shocked at where I was. At that point I was less then a mile from the summit, still looking strong and feeling great. My time this year - just over 2 hours (thanks Coach Tim). After a rocking descent, where I passed several cars and more cyclists, it was time for a post ride coffee and quiet reflection in the town cafe.

There was one really cool difference this year as well. About 3 miles from the top, I came around a turn to see a guy with very professional looking camera. I wondered who was lucky enough to have this guy recording their climb. Then he started taking pictures of me. I just thought he was practicing. But as I passed him he ran along beside me and handed me a business card and a special number. He in fact worked for a company, Griffe Photos, that photos crazy cyclists like me and puts the pictures on the web for purchase. This actually happened a second time from a different guy, Blablaprod Photoventoux, just before the summit. (The links for these companies will take you to my photos. You need the number B10956 for Griffe Photos.)

I simply cannot talk about climbing Mont Ventoux enough. Any cyclist who comes to Provence needs to devote some time to climb the Giant of Provence. I know I will.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

A crazy 2 weeks (highlights)

Life in the Alderman household has been a little crazy to say the least. But it's the good kind of crazy. You know, the kind of crazy that always occurs before you leave for France for 18 glorious days. However, if your jobs are anything like ours, you know that the 2-weeks leading up to vacation can be hell.

Despite putting in massive hours at work, I have continued with some very strong training for the Gran Fondo. It is now completely sold out. This means on October 3rd, 3,500 of us will all clip in semi-simultaneously and hit the road. I cannot wait. Coach Tim's adjustments to my training plan have me feeling strong again. I feel like I am ready. I just need to maintain my fitness level while on vacation.

My plan? I rented a bike for 5-days and plan on cycling in Provence. This will be mostly easy rides of around 2-hours. The exception will the climb up Mont Ventoux. This is 13 mile, 5000+ gain climb that is feature from time to time in the Tour de France. I actually climbed it 2-years ago. It is very challenging but doable and will be the perfect final touch on my Gran Fondo preparations.

As if work and cycling didn't keep me busy enough, it was also our 23rd wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. It was on a Sunday but we ended up making a weekend out of it (just like Sherry's birthday weekend). Friday night was dinner with friends at their house. Saturday night was dinner with different friends at the Applewood Inn Restaurant where we discover an amazing new Napa Cabernet. On Sunday we just relaxed, had a wonderful Provencal-style lunch in the back yard (see photo) and then went to dinner.

Finally, because I have so much spare time (you need to find the sarcasm in that), I am launching a second blog - C'est la belle vie! (This is the good life). I will have help from Sherry as we post stories of our adventures in travel, wine, food and friends.

Now you're all caught up. I will try to post updates during our travels in France.

Until then . . .

Au revoir!