3 members of Wight Tri, Joe Norman, Grant Philbrick, and Anthony Mildenhall, took on the epic Ventouxman Triathlon, based in the Vacluse area in France.
This event is not described as a race but as an ‘Experience’, and it certainly was a fantastic one for all 3 triathletes.
The day before the race they had to register and rack their bikes in T1 by the side of Lake Girardes, a really pleasant man-made lake, about 40 miles west of Mont Ventoux in a town called Lapalud.
They were able to have a short swim in the lake – it was warm, but the rumours were that although close, it wouldn’t be a compulsory non-wetsuit swim. Having camped at 1550m altitude on the norths side of Ventoux where T2 and the race finish would be, meant a 04:00 start on race day and a long coach journey down the mountain and onwards to the start.
Arriving and getting ready in the dark, the sun finally came up just in time for the mass beach start for the 2km, 2 lap swim. On the gun, all 3 gave the keen ones a few seconds to run in and be on their way before they found some clear space to settle into a rhythm and head out to the first buoy.
Ant, doing his first big event triathlon, was soon up and amongst the pack and had a great swim and was the first of the trio out of the water, followed by Joe 4 minutes later.
The restrictions and patchy access to swimming pools over the last 18 months were probably the reason the swim times were slower than in previous big races and Grant struggled the most to find his form in the water and only very narrowly made the 1 hour swim cut-off. Ant posted 43:49, Joe 47:47 and Grant 59:36.
After T1 it was off on the bikes towards Mont Ventoux. The 90km cycle route travelled south-east, where Joe overtook Ant after about 10 miles, then north over a couple of small mountains before reaching the base of the big climb from the town of Bedoin at about 44 miles in. This is where Ant had a puncture and was passed by Grant while fixing it.
Ventoux itself is a 13.5 mile climb from the south side to 1909m. The first half winds up through the forest and has the steepest sections, up to 12%, and was hot. The second half comes out into the open moonscape appearance of the limestone, with the mountain’s famous strong winds.
From this point they should have been looking up and seeing the iconic observatory on the summit but it was hidden in thick cloud as they entered with about 4km still to climb. Once over the top they had a 3 mile absolutely freezing decent down to T2.
Keeping to any pre-race power target was out of the window for most of the climb. Just to keep going on the steeper sections and/or the windy parts took more watts than any sensible plan. Saving something for the run was a nice idea, but not happening.
Unfortunately after reaching the summit Ant just missed the bike cut off for being able to start the run, and his race was over! Joe posted 4:59:57; Grant 5:46:36; Ant 6:30:00 (approx.)
The 20km run was 4 laps of 5 km through the forest of Serein on the north side of the mountain. The terrain was challenging and Grant and Joe both needed to dig very deep to keep going and had to resort to some walking breaks at times – but they got there!
Joe completed the run in 2:17:21, with Grant in 2:21:32 to finish with an overall time of 8:17:48 and 9:16:43 respectively. They were now both Ventouxmen!
However, Joe had these final words!
“If you are looking for a race for next year I can thoroughly recommend you DO NOT pick Ventouxman. Yeah, it looks amazing on the adverts and YouTube clips but they don’t come close to putting over just how brutal it is and how strict the cut off times are.
“However, it was still an amazing experience.”