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Global Cycling the Challenge of Mont Ventoux

At the start of the summer 2015 I had taken the decision to start riding for real, after discovering my love for riding and moving to a place that was perfect for road cycling. When I set my mind on something, I always go through with it, but this time I felt like I needed to define 'riding for real'. What did it mean for me exactly? How would I know that I was doing it, that I was 'riding for real'? These questions did not keep me up at night, but once in a while I wondered about how it would all work out. These concerns turned out to solve themselves during a sunny morning near the Alps.

In July, my partner insisted on driving out to the Vaucluse region to ride his bike up the mighty Mont Ventoux, while I still lived quite close to it. Of course I had already heard of the Ventoux before, but I didn't really picture how impressive or steep it was. I looked it up online, quickly finding videos of great cyclists climbing it during the Tour de France.

It looked like such a hard but magical climb! It was inspiring just watching it.

The next day, we got the bike inside the car and drove up to the quaint little town of Bédouin. I wished my partner good luck as he hopped on his bike. At this point in time we weren't sure if cars were allowed to climb the Ventoux, so I drove off to explore the surroundings. I didn't get close to the legendary Ventoux just yet but I still saw many cyclists riding up and down, enjoying themselves along the scenic roads. Upon receiving a text message telling me cars could drive up to the summit, I changed directions and started my own climb from Bédouin. It's all nice and easy when you're in a car, but clearly this road is all about the bikes. There were so many cyclists! Most were panting, their faces red and wet with sweat, exhausted, but at the same time they were all grinning, somehow. I drove all the way up, stopping the car ahead of my boyfriend to snap a picture of him riding his bike to the summit, suffering – but smiling.

I paused for a few minutes at the top of the Mont, which was absolutely freezing but had a terrific view on the Alps. I spent a little time observing all the happy cyclists who were enjoying a bit of rest, contented, before riding all the way down. I was in awe of their accomplishments! Seeing all these people who had given their all made me want to be a part of it. And if these people could do it, why not me? Sure I would have to complete regular, arduous training sessions, but wasn't I longing for a cycling adventure? I figured that the Ventoux was a genuinely worthy goal, and I decided to accept that challenge. I promised myself that a year later, I would come back to the same place and take on the mythical summit. In the meantime, I'd have a year to prepare myself and to train, starting my cycling journey with an exciting challenge in sight. This was six months ago and never once have I reconsidered my target. So far, this goal has helped me stay dedicated during the ups and downs of my beginner's cycling experiences, it has been a reminder of what people – what I – can achieve.

To meet my ambitions, I planned to get myself started at my own pace through the summer and then take on longer distance rides in the fall. I think I should keep those up during the winter, adding a few climbs to my usually flat rides. When I feel comfortable enough with short or easy climbs, I will try to find steeper ones. Spring could be a great time to climb up some summits in the Pyrénées, as they are the closest 'real' climbs for me.

I had sworn to myself I would work hard to reach my goal, and so far I've been keeping up with my training, developing my cycling abilities over the last few months as I will recount in more detail later on. And the next time I am on Mont Ventoux, I'll be there on a bike, riding along the cyclists I had admired the year before, pedaling to the top.

Marion Villette - France