Tour de France : The three Mont Ventoux

The three Mont Ventoux

The giant of Provence © PP

For the first time in the history of the Tour de France, the riders will climb today 7 July, twice during the same stage, the Mont Ventoux, the giant of Provence which culminates at 1910 m. Moreover, they will make the descent on the north face made dangerous by dizzying speeds reaching up to 100 km per hour. There are indeed three Mont Ventoux, but only one is a Himalayan cycling sport and its justice of the peace.

It is also said that there are three Provence that symbolize in literature Henri Bosco, Jean Giono and Frédéric Mistral. The first is the Provence of the Luberon, a natural space forming a border and offering at the same time by the combe of Lourmarin – a village where Albert Camus, who was not a Provençal writer but rather Mediterranean, is buried -, a possibility of communication between the country of Apt at the door of Haute Provence and that of Aix, urbanized city, Latinized, even Italianised. The Provence of Giono, that of Manosque and the Montagne de Lure, is known by great works, Colline, his first novel, Regain, Le Hussard sur le Toit; it is harsh, wild, mysterious, we know where it begins but we ignore the outline of its real, physical and mental limits. The Provence of Frédéric Mistral finally gravitates around Arles and the plain of the Crau painted by Van Gogh as well as the Camargue; she is with Arles urban and intellectual:  Frédéric Mistral who was Nobel Prize winner of Literature brings together with the Felibrige poets aware of an identity and defenders of their regional language. We should add to these three ensembles Avignon, submitted to the Holy See until the Revolution, and the Comtat Venaissin, specific because definitively attached to France only in 1791, but this entity is particular and moreover the Tour de France rarely makes a stop there.

( Source: Tour de France )

The Tour today will approach the giant with humility by leaning back on the Luberon; it will cross Cabrières, Gordes become so Parisian that it would be better to mention les hameaux des Imberts and Saint-Pantaléon on the same commune, to reach Apt. From there, he will make an incursion into the domain of Giono up to Sault but will not really penetrate it. Thus it will not travel the stretches of Lavender of the terraced Valensole Plateau which covered the nearby Albion Plateau the former sites of nuclear missiles and gave back to nature all its rights.  At the end of 22 km of ascent with an average slope of 5% until the Chalet Reynard located at 1.417 m then at 9.5% in the last

 kilometers, it will reach the summit for the first time having in a way carefully bypassed the monument. The riders will roll on the wooded north slope, cutting with the stone cap, towards Malaucène as if in a desperate flight to get away from a monster they would dare to resist; In doing so, they will have left Provence, whose giant is a northern border, geographical, climatic and cultural, for a time to get closer to the Drôme, which, in my opinion, is not really part of it.

The caravan of the Tour will retrace its steps to launch from Bédoin, on 15.7 km to 8.8% of average on nearly 1.600 m of height difference, in the true conquest because of the Three Mont Ventoux, it is this climb that is incomparable; it is the Royal Way, that of eternal glory for some and for all a way of suffering and also of redemption: «To know this country, one must come to it by the dust of the roads and the head in the clouds», wrote a regional author.

Simiane-la-Rotonde © PP

On the first 7 kilometers from the bend of Saint-Estève, renowned since the time of the car races in the hill today abandoned, the percentages will be around 10% with peaks to 13,5%, oxygen by a strange phenomenon will rarefy in the crossing of the forest to such an extent that the carburization of vehicles will be affected. At the gradual end of this Dantesque environment, the riders will discover the Ventoux for the first time in the whole of a majestic Mont, a stone pyramid, such as those of Saqara in Egypt, transposed in an oversized way in Provence. This visual confrontation will be a moment of truth, that of renunciation or sublimation of the remaining forces. So long as the wind – like that of the country near Giono, which sometimes makes crazy because of its violence in the solitude of winter – is from the party, the last valid survivors of the stage will begin an initiatory journey, an approach that, at the top, as Richard Virenque, who was the victor, said, «allows to rub shoulders with the gods».

Some of the champions of this Tour de France preferred to give up before the stage, one for an alleged injury, another grandson of an immense champion Raymond Poulidor who distinguished himself there in courage and dignity, because they wanted to prepare the event relatively close to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. But the Trois Mont Ventoux are only one whose initiatory journey is the Royal Way of the second ascent of the day that surpasses all the other gold medals. And the Tour de France is an institution more than a hundred years old and without equal that deserves the greatest respect forgotten by the mercenaries of contemporary sport. On the contrary, Jean Giono, who described with such force the impulses of nature in Colline, would surely have said about the Ventoux and he has made it the title of another of his works: «Que ma joie demeure».

The gorges of Nesque ©️ PP
Sault, Vaucluse © PP

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