Bethan Male - Ventouxman
After months of races being cancelled left, right and centre due to Covid, finally I was going to be lining up on the start line of the Ventouxman. I was so excited to be able to race again but also started to worry that the race would be cancelled instead due to the weather. I was also nervous to race. Whilst my bike fitness was probably the best it has ever been, and run fitness was pretty good to, I had barely swum since February after the pools were all closed and definitely had done no structured swim training.
Race day arrived and the weather was like nothing I have ever raced in before. Torrential rain and overhead thunder and lightning.
Would the race even be able to go ahead?!
We all stood in transition, waiting for a decision to be made… Finally it was announced; the swim would be cancelled and the bike route changed. To avoid summiting Mont Ventoux in rather treacherous conditions we would instead climb from Malaucène and finish at Mont Serein where T2 was, around 6km from the top. It was then announced that anyone not wishing to start the race leave transition with their bikes now. My partner and I were very close to doing so, but so desperate to finally race we decided to brave the conditions.
We removed out wetsuits, put our bike shoes and helmet on and lined up to start the bike. I was wishing I’d taken the forecast a bit more seriously and had more than arm warmers to protect me from the conditions…
We set off and despite the non-stop torrential rain I was doing ok – third place on the bike, making the most of using the TT for the flat part of the course.
All of a sudden, my aero bars started moving around, a lot. I stopped and tried to fix them but I couldn’t tighten them up (I had forgotten about an internal bolt, not that I could have fixed it on the side of the road in that weather anyway without become hypothermic). Frustrated that not only had I lost time trying to fix my bars but I now couldn’t use them, I got back on my bike and tried to make up some time, getting as aero as I could without using the bars.
I then approached a roundabout and there was someone lying on the floor, I got closer and realised it was David (my partner). I stopped again to make sure he was ok, he didn’t look great but shouted at me enough times to carry on that I did so with his dad on the way to pick him up.
Even more time lost, I continued to push on.
The weather seemed to be getting worse and worse and the roads were literally turning into rivers. I was seriously beginning to wonder what I was doing but also knew the climb was coming and I could warm up there. I was extra careful on the descents, not wanting to slide out like David had.
Finally I arrived at Malaucène, and never have I been more happy to start climbing Ventoux.
The overhead thunder had returned to add to the atmosphere but finally I was feeling less cold and managing to push some good numbers on the bike, catching up a lot of people. I also realised I had barely taken on any nutrition as I was so focused on staying upright on my bike so took on a couple of gels, hoping that would be enough.
I made it to T2, and realised I had ridden myself back in to joint 3rd position during the climb. I was however regretting my lack of protective clothing on the bike as I couldn’t feel my feet or my hands.
What is usually a tricky but fun trail had been turned into a slippy slidey mudfest by the rain. Annoyingly I couldn’t run well to begin with due to a combination of not being able to feel my feet and some pain in my knee (I had fallen hard onto concrete a week beforehand, and questioned whether my knee would even recover enough in time to race). This meant at the end of lap 1 of 3 of was in 4th place. Normally the run is 4 loops but again it had been shortened due to the conditions.
At this point I could finally feel my feet again and my knee was also feeling much better. David told me I was catching 3rd place and looking strong. With a couple of km to go I saw David again who told me to go hard, I may be able to run myself back on to the podium. Sadly I couldn’t and didn’t have that 4th lap to make up the distance so had to make do with 4th place.
Ironically, the sun was now starting to come out. I saw David and he confirmed he was ok but had gone down very hard on his hip and had a big lump to show for it. Whilst I was a bit frustrated to have missed out on the podium so narrowly, considering the things that hadn’t gone so well that morning I was very happy to be able to race at all in 2020, and also to back up the improvements I have made in training with some good numbers in racing.
I would also like the thank the organisers of Ventouxman for doing everything they could to give us a race in 2020, hopefully next year I can return in the sun!
I have done this race twice now and love that it allows me to race with the pros as well as some fantastic age groupers on what is a tough but beautiful course.
I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a race to do next year.