An early start for the drive over to Flassan to do today's rides. Phil and Nick were recovered enough to ride, and chose an out-and-back ride instead of the main event today... which is Mt Ventoux. Legendary for the various Tour escapades, including the death of Tom Simpson, Armstrong "gifting" Pantani with a stage, and more recently, Chris Froome running up when his bike was destroyed after a moto pile-up.
Setting out together, the two rides split very quickly and the Ventoux group dropped down to Bedoin, the classic start point, took the obligatory photos at the start, and then set off. We were treated to the hilarious sight of Nick S trying to keep up with a rather bulbous guy on an e-bike, but it wasn't long before the group was further split, to let everyone climb at their own pace.
Ventoux from Bedoin is a ride of two halves once it gets going, and the first bit is a tough climb, often over 11%, up through the sinuous road in the forest. It actually wasn't too bad today, as it wasn't too humid, but it's still tough enough for me to stop a couple of times to stretch my calf and back muscles. Many seriously fit riders fly past, and delightfully this time, I even manage to grind past a few riders myself.
Out of the forest! The second part begins - the familiar barren moonscape starts after Chalet Reynard - the gradient eases a little up through the limestone rock garden and the road zig-zags towards the summit, tantalisingly distant. Trying to look in control for the photographers who capture your pain and then stick a business card in your back pocket so you can buy their wares. The last two km are butual, it steepens and you see the Simpson memorial where he fell. Then the final hairpin and pitch - 400 watts screaming out from my legs for the last interminable 100m. And then the pain stops. Familiar Corallian shirts enjoying the sunshine coalesce for the mandatory photo.
After a lightning-quick descent, we lunched on burgers and omelettes at Chalet Reynard, replenishing energy for the onward descent to Sault, where we met up with Phil and Nick.
The next stretch of the circuit was up to the top of and descending down the Gorges de la Nesque - an absolutely stunning limestone gorge that is neither too steep, too precipitous, nor too sinuous to preclude a really decent descent. Like the climbing earlier, we descended at our own speeds to Villes sur Auzon, where afternoon refreshments were taken, prior to the climb back up to Flassan.
This was a magical day out - grins, sweat, a bit of swearing, but no tears!