The big one. Rather The Big One. One of the most feared and fearsome rides that there is. One to be respected. One to be ridden.
One to be ridden in person I have discovered. The Mont Ventoux climb is the biggest and most challenging ride I have on the RealAxiom system that I run in my basement. I have only climbed it once before and I remember it hurting. After being inspired by the other climbing I have done so far this indoor season, I felt it was time to step up and challenge the monster once again.
Fearsome isn’t it? I wanted to learn more about the climb before I did it, so I went to fellow blogger and regular Ventoux climber Gerry Patterson over at Vicious Cycles. Gerry’s a Canadian currently living in France, and over the years he has done a lot of cycling through some pretty exciting places. Now he has easy (easier than me at any rate) access to some of Europe’s most exciting and challenging climbs, and Ventoux happens to be one of them that is quite near by. This year he is training for the Haute Route 2013, another supremely difficult physical challenge that I have no doubt he will rise to. I recommend his blog – it’s a good read!
Back to Ventoux, Gerry also has a business whereby he offers cycling tours of some of the local attractions, and he sent me to his review of Ventoux. I highly recommend it as it provides you with a complete overview of the mountain. You don’t want to climb it without having read it. So it was armed with all this information that I set about climbing to the summit, albeit from the relative warmth and oxygen rich air of my basement in Montreal.
The route followed by the RealAxiom is the principal route that climbs from Bédoin, the very one taken by the Tour de France when it appears on the route map (as it does once again in 2013). The stats are as follows:
- 20.6 km
- 1,703 metres elevation
- 14.6% Max gradient
- 8.3% Average gradient
It’s a bastard whichever way you slice it. You know it’s going to hurt, but you also know that finishing is going to give you an unmatchable sense of accomplishment. I thought that this would be true even on the trainer.
And to an extent it was, but as I have said multiple times since starting my ‘Climbing through Europe’ series, I could not help but wonder that it was just not as tough as it should be. I completed the climb, as described above, in 1:04:35, which is an average speed of 19.1381 km/h. Hmm….I got top thinking of how I feel when I climb Camillien-Houde here in Montreal, the 1.6 km climb with an average grade of 8% as well, and I know what speed I do that in. My best last summer was exactly 17.0 km/h and that was over only 1.6 km. So, one would think, correctly I am sure, that add an additional 18 km of climbing that average was sure to be lower, so the 19+ km/h average I did on the trainer was not a true and accurate reflection of my potential performance on the real mountain.
But how on earth was I to properly ascertain what I suspected to be true, when I live in Montreal and Mont Ventoux is some 6,500 km from my front door? Ah! Gerry comes to the rescue again. I would ask a man who has climbed it multiple times, and who appears to have a similar, if not advanced, level of cycling fitness to me how long it takes him to climb the hill….and so I did and he was very generous with his comments and information.
In a nutshell, at 1:04:25 I was climbing in near Pro time. I am not a Pro, nor do I pretend to be, so this is clearly not indicative of my true ‘on mountain’ performance. If I successfully managed to maintain an average of 17.0 km/h up the entire 20.6 km I would set a time of 1:12:42. An additional 8 minutes on my virtual time, but still quite aggressive when compared to the facts that Gerry shared with me. I am also quite realistic about the fact that keeping up the 17.0 km/h over 20.6 km would be a very tall order given how I knew I felt when I put in that time over the 1.6 km climb.
Gerry kindly shared with me that he and his trainer / cycling friends typically make the climb in the 1:32 – 1:36 time frame. This is an average speed of between 12.8 – 13.4 km/h which sounds where I would be, although some training up some serious hills would be required I don’t doubt.
The result is that the RealAxiom appears to be about 33% off the mark when it comes to measuring accurately the climbing performance, and indeed probably across the board over all kinds of routes. This does not mean that it is a poor training tool. Absolutely not – it’s all relative. It is still driving me hard and I still redline frequently in an attempt to beat my previous best time over a course. It is simply that I cannot translate the RealAxiom performance to the road and expect the same times.
On a last note, Gerry was telling me about the Ventoux Triple (you’ll read about it on his page that I link to above). There are three principle routes up Ventoux, and if you want to join the Club des Cinglés de Ventoux, you must climb all three ascents in the same day. Now that’s a challenge, one that I already stated I’d like to accomplish and Gerry cheerily said he would join me on the triple. Now to set a date!