Friday, September 5, 2014

Day 10: Mont Ventoux

Cycling is very demanding. Sometimes, I just want to get off the bike and throw it to the ground and jump on it (which obviously could be very hazardous). Yesterday (Thursday) was such a day, a subject to which I will return in a subsequent post.

Wednesday, however, presented one of those fleeting moments when I actually experienced euphoria. It was the second time on this cycling trip that I have experienced; the first was the day we rode to the Col de la Croix de Fer in the French Alps a couple of weeks ago. It is a feeling Mark has often described, primarily associated with perfect days on the slopes, as a feeling that he could just leave (die) right then and there, he feels so happy, content and alive. That may sound like a paradox, but I have come to understand what he means.

I experienced such a feeling as we descended from the Col de la Croix de Fer, and I experienced it again at the top of Mont Ventoux.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We left our hotel in Vaison around 7:15 and got on the road toward Malaucène, about 10 kilometers away. Just before we arrived, we passed through this alley of trees. The morning light was so beautiful. This is one of the benefits of cycling - one has the opportunity to see and experience how lighting creates such beautiful tableaux.

Since we hadn't had breakfast before leaving, we stopped in Malaucène for pastries. They were preparing for market day, and we watched them set up as we sat outside the bakery and ate our breakfast that consisted of a chocolate almond croissant - something I had never seen before. It had the typical two little bars of chocolate inside along with some almond paste, the top sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. It was so delicious that we bought a couple more to save for later in the day.

It was a gloriously beautiful morning. After several days of very windy conditions, there was hardly any wind. The sky was cloudless. As we turned to start the ascent, the church bell in Malaucène rang the hour - 8:00 a.m.

Nearly half-way into the ascent, I started taking pictures of these kilometer markers that indicated the average grade ("pente") for the next kilometer and how far it was to the top. After taking the picture of the marker, I took another picture of what I saw at the marker.

This was my second ascent of Mont Ventoux. The first time was two years ago, when Mark and I ascended via the Bedoin route. The third route up is from Sault.

I was thrilled the first time the Alps came into view. The jagged peaks in the distance are near Bourg d'Oisans, where we spent our first few days in France before joining the cycling tour. This means that we had at least 30 miles visibility. I could hardly believe we were so fortunate to have such beautiful conditions.

The scenery was part of what contributed to the growing sense of euphoria I felt as we neared the summit. 5,000 feet of climbing in 20 miles. I was doing what would have been impossible for me several years ago. The conditions were perfect. I was with my husband. Though my children were not present, I thought of them and felt their love for me and mine for them. Life was absolutely beautiful. 

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