Event Review

REVIEW: GFNY Mont Ventoux 2015 - Conquering the Giant and Paying Homage to Tom

by Nick Gregory

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REVIEW: GFNY Mont Ventoux 2015

Date: 28 June 2015 
Distances: 140km or 115km (both include additional 31km descent from the summit of Mont Ventoux back to Vaison-la-Romaine)
Entry fee: €49 if booked early
Participants: 1,050 
Website: http://gfnymontventoux.com/
Start
: Vaison-la-Romaine
Feedstops: 3 main feeds plus 2 additional water stops
Catering: Hot meal at the finish included for free
Timing: Seat post timing chip   
Signs: Plentiful signage, unfortunately tree-coloured (white arrows on green background) which occasionally made it hard to spot  
Roads: Fantastic route - stunning climbs, picturesque countryside and marshals on every junction stopping traffic
Event extras: Motorbike outriders, medical, mechanical and broom wagon support, event photographers, two-day event expo and concert
Goody bag: Event jersey (compulsory on the day), medal, product samples from local companies, bottle of wine, event magazine 
Event Partners: Wear-Design.FR, ProBikeShop, Région PACA, Vaucluse, Limar, Verve Cycling, Winning Time, Spinlister and Mavic
Review pictures: Sportograf, Nick Gregory 

The Giant of Provence. The Bald Mountain. Nicknames in cycling normally denote gravitas, respect and trepidation - think The Hell of the North or The Cannibal. The aliases Mont Ventoux, arguable the most feared mountain in professional cycling, is better known by are certainly no exception to the rule. 

The Ventoux has been the setting for some of the most dramatic moments in the history of the sport. Legendary riders such as Charly Gaul, Raymond Poulidor, Marco Pantani and The Cannibal himself have enjoyed Tour de France success here during the race's fifteen visits. Most recently, Chris Froome claimed a stage win at the summit en route to overall victory in the 2013 Tour. 

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At 1,912m high, Mont Ventoux stands tall and alone, sternly surveying the vineyards, olive groves and lavender fields of Provence. The highest point as far as the eye can see, it is the formidable gatekeeper to the Alps which rise up to the north-west. The Ventoux is exposed to the elements in the most extreme ways imaginable. As the name suggests, it gets windy. Very windy. When the mistral blows, speeds of 320kmh/ 200mph have been recorded at the summit, and the exposed 'bald' limestone top - other-worldly in its appearance - reflects the sun and heat, creating a furnace-like finale. 

The climb is inextricably linked with the events of the Tour de France of 1967, when it claimed the life of Tom Simpson, Britain's first yellow jersey wearer. Simpson collapsed agonisingly close to the summit during stage 13 of that year's race and died of heart failure, caused by the combination of heat stroke, exhaustion and dehydration. He had also consumed amphetamines and alcohol. A memorial now stands at the side of the road where Simpson died, and it has become a shrine for amateurs and professionals alike - who regularly doff their casquettes as they pass, or leave a bidon at the monument in memory of Mr Tom. 

Whilst at university I managed to convince a decidedly reluctant tutor to allow me to do a research project on Simpson and the history of cycling in the British media. Since then, Simpson's story and the Ventoux itself has held a special place in my heart. However, until now I had never had the opportunity to ride the Ventoux or actually visit the memorial in person. Naturally then, I jumped at the chance to take part in the inaugural edition of the GFNY Mont Ventoux. 

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Based in the stunning Roman town of Vaison-la-Romaine, the GFNY Mont Ventoux offered two routes: 140km with 3,600m of climbing or 115km and 3,000m of climbing. Both routes travelled over several Cols before finishing at the top of the Ventoux. At the summit the timing would stop and riders could then enjoy a relaxed 30km descent back to Vaison for the post-event festivities. The route included the same start area, first 50km and last 25km as the aforementioned 2013 Tour de France stage.  

In case you're wondering, GFNY (somewhat confusingly in this case) stands for 'Gran Fondo New York'. Originally consisting of just the eponymous event itself in the Big Apple, GFNY - set up by Lidia and Uli Fluhme - is now an organisation offering a global event series in exotic locations around the world, including Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. As mentioned, this was the first edition of the GFNY Mont Ventoux, but it still attracted over 1,000 riders from 30 different countries, and upon arriving in Vaison the day before the event, it quickly became apparent why. 

On the subject of arriving, for those living in London travel arrangements for the GFNY Mont Ventoux couldn't be any easier. Unbeknown to me until I started the process of researching logistics, Eurostar now runs a direct service from London to Marseilles, stopping only at Ashford, Lyon and Avignon - with the latter being less than 50km from the start town. Job done. 

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 6 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 10 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 10 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 10 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 92.2%




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