Monday, July 25, 2011

Mont Ventoux, Le Fin & Mon Mari--Le Cycliste Guerrier

We went on vacation last week. It was the holiday I've always dreamed of--lots of kids, friends, a big pool, great food and wine and time spent laughing and talking; the deal sweetened because it was all in English. Sweet nectar of the mother tongue. All English, all the time.

You may not know this but Mon Mari is in love with his bicycle; like I fall in and out of love with my running shoes I guess. I didn't bring my runners on our vacation but he hooked his bike on the back of the car and away we went. He went riding the first morning, tackling the hills around Nyons, sweating out the first-night-on-holiday hangover.

It was after this morning ride that he and another of the Maris hatched a plan. A plan just crazy enough to work--ride to the top of Mont Ventoux.
If you've seen any photos of Provence, read anything about the area, or seen the Tour de France, you know Mont Ventoux. Reaching 1912 metres/6200 feet high at its summit, it's a great challenge for even the best cyclist. And our guys, after riding around, talking about it while having a cold one next to the pool, and buoyed up by the excitement of watching the Tour every afternoon on television, decided it was something they just had to do.

An afternoon was spent in preparation of the big event--renting lightweight carbon road bikes, buying foil packets of sugary goo and a camel back water thing-a-ma-jig, and planning the whole thing out. Where to start, how to follow, what time to leave, etc., etc.

To be honest, I was nervous and just wanted it to be over.
The whole shebang was scary to me--the difficulty of climbing that high, legs barely moving as they pump against gravity, the high altitude making it all the more challenging. I didn't want Mon Mari to keel over halfway up, or fall off and hurt himself, not to mention all the cars. It's not that I didn't believe in him but just that I couldn't imagine doing it myself.

Turns out he's not afraid of much. And he's made of some strong, hang in there, gut it out stuff.
the last climb

Littlest, Le Cycliste Guerrier, Le Fin, & Middlest
My boys and I drove to the top with Msr Banque, the sensible husband of my other Irish girlfriend. Mon Mari and sportsman bar none, Le Fin, got there by the strength of their own two legs. Le Fin is a natural athlete, running marathons like they're the Saturday morning 10k, his body using up all he can eat at a rapid pace while the rest of us consider the work it will take to get rid of that morning's pain au chocolat. When we reached the top he was already there, having finished in 1:58. Not bad for someone who says he's 'not comfortable on a bike'.

Le Fin at le fin
Driving to the top was breathtaking. Fields of lavender, vineyard upon vineyard and rows of sunflowers, faces turned skyward lined the road that climbed and twisted along hairpin turns turned into white rocks and blasting wind. Guess it's called Mont Ventoux for a reason.
Msr Banque and I kept sighing and gasping in disbelief as we passed cyclists who looked like they were standing still despite incessant pedaling, backs bent against the climb.

The summit looks like the moon--all white and rocky. You can get up close and personal with the big tower and there are all kinds of people milling around speaking German, Dutch, French and English buying candy and cookies from the stallholders with prime real estate for exhausted cyclists in need of a sugar rush.

see, like I said, just like the moon
We stood in the wind and watched, waiting. We kept thinking we'd seen him but it would turn out to be someone else. But then, a rider in black shorts and white shirt appeared, pushing and grinding it out to the last hairpin turn. He stopped to take in the view and we all waved and cheered. I even texted him to say we were there and could see him. Almost there!

boys at the top on the lookout for their Dad (they've had haircuts since then)
We watched with butterflies as he finished, the Middlest running down to meet him and run alongside for the last few meters.
And so it was done. The hard part of Mont Ventoux. Conquered.

he doesn't even look tired
After some photos and commiserating it was time for the fun part. The downhill. We drove behind them just like in the Tour and marveled at their speed and the way Mon Mari sat confidently, zipping down the side of the mountain, turn by turn. At one point they got up to 65 km per hour and when we told them later Mon Mari's response was a youthful and exhuberant, "No sh*t?!!?"
flyin' it

I was so relieved. And proud. Still am a bit, can you tell? And so from now on Mon Mari will occasionally be referred to as Le Cycliste Guerrier. I think he earned the name.
post mountain celebrations

The only problem is,  now he wants to buy a 'proper' road bike. I need to find a more expensive hobby than jogging....any suggestions?


  1. Wow, very impressive! That's really something!

  2. Congratulations to your husband. He's a champ.

    I think you should consider taking up Olympic shopping; everything you could hope for -- expensive, exhausting and a good incentive to keep fit.

  3. I've found your blog by chance and have become an instant follower. I've always wanted to live in Provence. Still, in my dreams, the place is there. Well, we do not live that far away.
    As for cycling, félicitation a ton mari!

  4. He will be thrilled to hear your congrats. However this will only spur on the need for a new bike!
    Thanks for following Pet, I'm glad you found me.
    aidan x

  5. He's awesome.
    And as for your new hobby... I'm thinking wine tasting, and I'll do it with you. We can become Sommeliers! x

  6. My DH was drooling over this post. He so wants to ride his bike (waiting to get it fixed after breaking on the flight over). Congrats to yours!

  7. Tour de France speed on the downhill side BUT they don't have traffic driving in the opposite direction! Many Congrats. We had a leisurely picnic, in the shade, and watched some of the brave go up.

  8. Oh my gosh! Your husband is a total rockstar!!! And also, Le fin? Holy hot as hell. I would hit that in a New York second...if I weren't married naturalement.

  9. We too drove to the top...and watched, in awe, as the endless line of cyclists pumped away! I cannot imagine doing that! Congrats to your husband...and yes, I think, Sara Louise's suggestion of wine tasting sounds like the best advice!

  10. Colour me all kinds of amazed, ton mari is very impressive! We've gotten totally caught up in cycling since the Tour de France (well, by "we" I mean mon mari, not me because ..... ugh, I don't do hills) so I showed him this post and he was very impressed too.

    If it makes you feel any better - regarding men who get it into their heads to take on crazy new hobbies, M just finished reading a book called "Solo" about an Australian man called Andrew McAuley who tragically died while attempting to be the first person to cross between the Tasman Sea (between Australia and New Zealand) in a one man kayak, 30 days at sea. My response: this is awful and tragic and a waste and crazy. M's response? I might take up kayaking.

    Why are men so stooopid??


It makes my day to read your comments. They're an answer to my floating words in blogland.