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Fiasco & Ventoux - A Love Affair

The Bédoin ascent of Ventoux is fast becoming a Fiasco racetrack during each Summer holidays. Longy and Bomber started the trend in the Summer of ’15, which became the inspiration behind a Fiasco trip in September ’15. This cemented Ventoux, alongside Five Licks, as an adopted Fiasco segment. Imagine our delight when for our hollibobs in early August, Tony and I discovered that our wives had chosen a house that was situated in the shadow of the Géant. We arranged with precision to ride with David “Bomber” Payne, who was also hollibobbing locally, although we were unable to co-ordinate dates with David “Longy” Long, who was in residence the following week.

The three of us, bar the impact of celebrations and early holiday excitement, were all fresh from the Etape, so in theory, we were ready to tackle it. However that ride to Bédoin, where the ascent begins to lift you out of civilization towards the moon was eerily quiet. Bomber was contemplating / regretting his excesses of the previous week on the Med with Rapha Dom, Tony had got his piss-management wrong so was pre-occupied with finding a friendly bush and I was still trying to work out how to use Campag (Super Record EPS, I might add). Despite being on an eight grand bike, all I wanted was my Lappie and its 32 teeth sprocket, nice comfy saddle, gel padded bar tape and with the brake levers the right way round. Instead I was armed with a race ready machine with a 29 teeth sprocket, strange group-set and a saddle made for an Italian. It felt like a whippet, though.

Bomber and Tony “I can’t climb any slower” Egan settled into a good rhythm – I was losing ground on them as they disappeared into the forest section. Apart from a few glimpses of Bomber’s arse on the longer straights, the next time I was to see them was at Chalet Reynard for a brew. The first few kilometers out of Bédoin are still quite easy but it is from here that you realise you have 1,610m to climb. That is one whole English mile, straight up. In the intervening 9 months since my solitary ascent, I seemed to have forgotten every excruciating pedal stroke from Bédoin to the weather station and when I turned the corner into the forest, it all came flooding back.

Common advice is to keep a gear in reserve for when you need it higher up. I had quickly consumed this advice and spat it out as the desperately futile clicks on my new friend, Campag, searching for gears that were not there, confused me. Then I tried the other way, maybe I was pressing the wrong button? Nope. The chain went the “wrong” way. F%£$. Fumble back into the “right” gear, or is this the “wrong” gear? Front wheel wobbles. Don’t do that again. Leave the gears alone. There are none left. Deal with it.

And then…. there it was…. A mirage…. Something to focus on, in the distance, I now had a goal. It took me 4m 53s to achieve that goal and catch her up. It would have been longer but she had stopped in a layby for refreshment. I was about to unleash a bit of British charm with a fumbled piece of small talk when I realized she had pulled in to receive said refreshment from her boyfriend / husband. Onwards, alone.

So on a glorious 1st August morning, Tony and I met Bomber in Malaucène at 8am for some fun on the Mont. The Fiasco-clad triumvirate on a trio of Pinarello Dogmas (Dogmii?) headed along the D19 towards Bédoin, which is a stunning ride in its own right. As we undulated through lavender fields and pine forests, the iconic weather station is always visible, winking at you.

The trees on the steep section are now mocking me as each turn promises to reveal the freshly calibrated view I am craving - the winking weather station - only to lead my blurred eyes to another tarmac wall and more trees. Finally, relief as I hit the tree line, Chalet Reynard and the exposed lunar landscape. Bingo, Bomber and Tony were there filling their boots on Coke and coffee in the café. I temporarily abandoned the Dogma with the other Dogmii.

The final 6km saw us ride together and after some swapping at the front, Tony towed myself and Bomber up the final couple of kilometers. We didn’t have a lot left, just enough to doff our caps to Simpson. Amusingly, Tony almost fell at the final hurdle, rather than taking the left fork to the summit he shaped to take the lower road to the car park. Involuntarily, I corrected him with a shout but the devil in me subsequently told me that I should have let him carry-on, denying him the first to the summit accolade. Luckily I didn’t as Tony really had smashed this climb on his first outing and deserved it.

The summit was rammed and it was difficult to jostle through the throngs of people who had arrived under motor to get the money-shot photo under the summit sign, so we quickly descended back to Earth, to calmness and straight-forward civilisation. Bomber and I had time for a couple of beers before Tony finally made it down to join us for a burger.

Tony and I left the Fiasco baton in Malaucène for Longy to pick up exactly a week later while Bomber managed to squeeze in a second run at it later in the week, accompanied by a chain smoker.

Provence might be a popular holiday destination for the Fiascii next summer.

The Chairman

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