Sunday, June 28, 2009

France Post-Ventoux

Thursday: no longer a Ventoux-virgin (are the flowers sweeter? Grass greener?) Plan is to rest the legs, or at least the undercarriages. We go on a 7 mile run/ hike to a neighboring town, Crestet.

Lush vineyards, huge fields of lavender and yellow flowers everywhere-a total Nike ad. Southern France is a series of charming small towns with ancient castles and spectacular views interconnected by winding hairpin mountain roads. Afterward, more fine white wine from Sancerre with a Provencale snack, followed by dip in pool, leisurely supper and more wine. It must be a sign of my psychopathology that it strikes me how little we are training this week, how do the Ironmen get/ stay so fit?

Friday: Swing by Sault in search of an XS Ventoux jersey for Robin, but no luck. Just another lovely breakfast, in another beautiful French town.

We cruise around scoping out mountains to climb. Stop and change in Big Ethel, pee in the woods. Still have PTSD about running out of water because it is HOT. We reach the next climb, the sign says 42km, that’s a marathon. Shortly after starting off into the forest at the base of the mountain, it starts to rain, briefly but fairly hard. It feels lovely and cool, and the slope so far only 5% grade, felt luxurious. Then the climb got worse, about 12-15% grade. After the rain, the bugs came out in force. They were mainly flies, landing on my face, my hands, buzzing infuriatingly in my ears. At one steep part (17%) where I nearly toppled off from crazed swatting, I got off the saddle and pitched the snickers bar from my back pocket down the road to see if the bugs would follow. They did not want the snickers, they wanted me. Robin stopped with me to see why I stopped, and I could see she was surrounded by bugs too, we were a couple of pigpens with a black cloud surrounding our heads, no other bugs in sight. I picked up my snickers bar and continued up the 3300 ft climb, which was actually only 11 miles. It flattened out at the top and there is wonderful coolness up there. The descent was actually harder than Ventoux, being more sharp hairpins and the Chipseal causing total body numbness.

Driving to the next town, we get caught on the course of a bike race. I guess they thought we were a support vehicle, with 3 bikes on top of Big Ethel, and the officials wave us on right behind the Peloton along with a Versus car. (Hopefully this video clip works)

Saturday: after a lovely evening in the Augerge du Teillon in Castellane, we head off to Vence. We park at the base of another mountain near Greolieres, do another climb (this time it was less than 2500 ft) and another amazing descent down Cliffside hairpins before riding to the next town, Coursegoules, for lunch. Afterward, Toby goes to get Big Ethel and does his own ride, while Robin and I do part of the Ironman route to Col de Vence. I can hardly wrap my head around the Ironman distances (after every marathon, I think, ok now swim 2.4 miles and bike 112), but 10 miles of continuous 5-6% grade climb in 95 degree heat as part of that course?

Finally arrive at their rental home, owned by Michel and Anna, our gracious hosts. More rose wine and packing up Davey before heading off to Nice. The Ironmen are kind enough to take the bike rack off Big Ethel so she can fit in a parking garage, and shlep me all the way to Nice, just so I can relive running on the Promenade des Anglais and swim in the Mediterranean before I leave. I have to change my clothes on the beach but no one cares, it’s a topless beach anyway. Then it’s dinner and a quest for lavender gelato.

Aiming to retire to southern France has been my raison d’etre the past 5 years, at least. I love France. A bientot.

1 comment:

  1. i too would consider retiring in France someday, but i'm just not sure if they have enough wine in that country for me. you were right, southern france looks absolutely gorgeous.