Tour de France Friday 7/15

Wake up to news reports from Nice, but mostly choose to ignore. The morality of continuing to go on with your fun day when there’s terrorism all over is an interesting topic to think about, but I don’t know if I think that thought leads anywhere. 

Breakfast at blah hotel in Avignon, but self-serve coffee yay. It has been hard to live on one tiny shot of espresso per morning. They would make more at the Chateau when we asked, but there was only one person in the dining room and it took a long time. 

Today was one of our big days: Mt. Ventoux, one of the legends. We drove to the village of Monmoiron near the foot of Mt. Ventoux. After a few km to warm up, we joined the hundreds (thousands?) of other bike pilgrims on the route to the moonscape. The hill was steep, for sure, I thought as I neared the top, but not impossible, and I was surprised that the bare rock part was so much smaller in person (since I hadn’t seen it yet). 

And then I saw a marker on the road informing me I was less than half done. 

Oh. Shit. Shit. Shit. 

But, I was able to keep pedaling, and I got a super help from Vitor, one of our guides. He perfectly matched my pace, so all I had to do was look at his wheel.

When we finally did get out of the forest and onto the rock, it really is awe-inspiring. And windy, really windy. 

When it was blowing in my face, even with Vitor helping to deflect the wind I could only manage about 5mph. But, when the road switched back the other way, it was pushing us up twice that fast. 

There was a whole lot of traffic: the day after the passage of the Tour, the day after Bastille Day, … We had a couple of close calls in our group, but everyone made it just fine. At the top, it was miserably cold and windy. I bought some souvenir socks. We took a group shot at the Tom Simpson Monument. 

When the van finally got to the top, we put on all our extra layers and began the descent. The first few km were kinda scary with the wind, and I got kind of stuck with n traffic, but once we got into the trees it was a magnificent descent. 

We took a different road down, miles and miles of sweeping turns, emerging from the forest into lavender fields. Wonderfully, almost embarrassingly beautiful, brings tears to your eyes, felt like skiing on a perfect powder day. 

Nice lunch in Sault (Vlad finds a table full of pretty Russian girls and chats them up like a pro. But of course), then more lavender before climbing back up and then descending the gorge of the Nesque River, also spectacular. Saw wild boar, but not close enough to get a picture. 

Stuart’s backflip into the gorge needed a better camera angle but was still a good concept. 

After the ride, we regrouped and walked back in to Avignon for a so-so dinner. 

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