CycloWorld is invited at the Haute Route Ventoux. An event that we previously described as the Ferrari among the cycling events. And this was immediately apparent upon arrival on Thursday.
A beautiful finish village, a corona proof registration, beautiful backpack, a well-filled goody bag, and a nice jersey from Lecol.cc were just the beginning. In the evening followed the pastaparty, which turned out to be a complete 3 course dinner with wine. This was followed by the riders briefing, in which all ins and outs were explained. A lot of attention was paid to the weather, because it was clear it was going to rain. But nobody had foreseen how extreme it would be.
At 8:00 the participants gather in Bédoin. The atmosphere is friendly, it is still dry and not cold although it looks threatening. Immediately it is clear that we will not ride to the top of the Mt Ventoux today, the finish line will be drawn at Chalet Reynard. The choice of kit is difficult in this weather, most riders ride with waterproof overshoes and of course a raincoat in the back pocket. Extra clothing for the descent can be left in your backpack at the start - super arranged.
Once the pack is moving, it's full gas on the Col de la Madaleine right away. Not to be confused with the alpine giant, this is a namesake of only a few kilometers. The next climbs are the Col de la Suzette and the Col de la Chaine. Herman has a good pace, I start a bit more careful myself. We skip the stop. The weather forecast is right on the minute: at 9:00 it starts raining.
We look for a group in Malaucène with which we drive quite simply to the Col de Fontaube. Several motorcycles and racing cars drive around us, and we are filmed and photographed continously. This is very cool.
The first part of the Fontaube goes fine, although the strong and gusty wind is more and more present. The rain becomes stronger. Our group is falling apart, I stop to put on my raincoat. On top, at the stop Herman and I find each other again. It is now raining heavily and the wind reaches storm speeds of over 100 km/hour. The descent of the Col des Aires is really tricky: everywhere there are branches on the road and we are repeatedly almost blown off our bikes. We descend apprehensively. After that, we conquer about 5 km of strong head winds to Montbrun, where the short and the long route seperate. We haven taken into account that we have to do the short route, but that turns out not to be the case.
So there's nothing else to do but climbs the Col de Macuègne - Col de l'Homme Mort. The ascent turns out to be a rather epic battle against the elements. Heavy showers and gusts of wind make it almost impossible to continue cycling at all. The entire road has turned into a river. One rider after the other in our group has to drop. Herman and I are both flat land heroes, so a little wind doesn't scare us. But this? This is very extreme.
"Is this still safe?", I say to Herman. When we have passed the Col de Macuègne, thunderstorms roll in. It's still about 5 km to the top of the l'Homme Mort, where there will be another stop. The temperature continues to drop. "I'm in survival mode," says Herman. At this moment I have already decided for myself that I will not ride the descent of the Ventoux. But that will not necessary, because at the top the organization pulls the plug (quite rightly so). The race is stopped and everyone has to take shelter in vans and cars, waiting for a bus to arrive an hour later.
Video in Dutch, but you'll get the message :)
The totally freezed riders are safely delivered back to Bédoin and the transport of the bikes is also be taken care of. Again: kudos.
This was the most epic, extreme ride I've ever ridden. Rarely have I seen so much violence of nature. A pity of course about the weather, but nothing but praise for the organization for taking such good care of the riders and making the decision to abandon the race. Again Haute Route showed why they are known as one of the best organizers: the crisis plan was ready and everything was prepared. Even heat blankets were handed out in the bus.
We'll try again tomorrow. The weather seems to get a little better then.