Riders were treated to a stunning route for Stage 2 of Haute Route Ventoux today as they left Bédoin this morning and headed towards the Gorges de la Nesque and its beautiful cliff roads. With an average gradient of 2% over the 20km climb, this was the perfect way for riders to start the day after a challenging Stage One yesterday.
“Yesterday was fun although the last few kilometres up Mont Ventoux hurt, they were tough with the wind. Today it was really great to have a long climb that wasn’t too steep, so we got to appreciate the beauty and the scenery without struggling too much,” said Martin Hæstrup from Denmark.
Indeed, the Gorges de la Nesque is considered one of the most magnificent climbs around, with the remarkable rock formations and wild canyons spoiling riders with spectacular views as the balcony road wound its way around the beautiful Provence mountains and through several tunnels.
After the descent, it was time for the Haute Route Compact Course riders to continue straight on their 101km course via Col des Astauds and Col de la Madeleine, whilst the Original Course riders peeled off right past fields of lavender to take on the Col de l’Homme Mort.
Not every climb was going to be as kind to riders as the first climb up Gorges de la Nesque however, with the following climb up ‘Dead Man’s Pass’ from Ferrassieres proving a challenge for many riders. Despite its eerie name, the gradient remains relatively shallow throughout at 4% but thanks to the ever-increasing winds, many riders commented that they felt like they were riding backwards up this col.
The wind soon became the main competitor of the day, as riders battled head-on with their meteorological enemy. Andy Pearson from London, UK could feel the extra energy expanded after battling for hours against it: “Today was great and the scenery was fantastic, but it was made really tough with the wind. Even on the flats it was really important to try and stay in a group just to try and shelter a bit from the wind and I felt like I was having to pedal on the downhill at points too.”
After assessing the situation at the top of Mont Ventoux, race director Jean-François Alcan made the wise decision to shorten the course, with extreme wind rendering it unsafe for the Haute Route peloton to race to the summit. Riders were pleased with this decision, knowing all too well about Mont Ventoux’s famous history and how brutal the winds can be at the top.
Andy added: “Even though we didn’t go to the top, the first part of the climb up to Chalet Liotart was still great. I was happy when I heard that we were not going to the top, especially after knowing how tough it was yesterday in the last 4 or 5km of the climb with that wind. I know this was the right decision and we still got to finish with a great climb”
With the final four kilometres to the Chalet Liotart proving particularly tough – with the gradient kicking up to over 10% for the final 4km – riders certainly didn’t feel short-changed as they gave it their all to get to the finish line. Taking a moment to take in the beautiful panoramic views of the valley below, riders the collected their Kitbrix bag and made their way back to Bédoin to recover before the final stage and the all-out time trial tomorrow.