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Ventoux vs. Ven-Top

Corona, it does something to a human being. For the first time in 10 years no holiday passage through Provence and therefore no Ventoux. Luckily there is Zwift which recently added the Ven-Top to its routes. So after all, we were able to climb the Ventoux, alias Ven-top again this summer. Or didn't we?

Let's start with the positive. The climbing route is very similar to the route of the real climb from Bédoin. We don't think it's that difficult to draw out. Therefore, we could recognize some points like the St. Estève bend and just before that the small ramp where you can make some speed. The bare mountain top itself was very visible the whole time to our left, but a lot further than in real life, it seemed. Almost upstairs we passed Tom Simpson's memorial and all the way up, past the arrival, we also saw the famous metereologic station. We only noticed the Chalet Renard and the junction to Sault during the descent.

So a number of physical characteristics are indeed included in the climb. For the rest, however, the Ven-top sketches a commercialised and romanticised image of the climb. Brooks and rivers are not present on the Ventoux and also the two tunnels, one built and one through the rocks, are not to be found in the real climb. There are no such tunnels. So no lights are needed. The cable lift near the Chalet will hopefully not be part of the Ventoux for the next decades. There are no waterfalls and the Mont Ventoux doesn't start at the Atlantic Ocean (when we returned we could even continue to the Mont St Michel?!), but in a lovely village with beautiful trees. That was nowhere to be seen. Also other villages you pass the first kilometers are absent or barely worked out. Houses in the forest and even after the chalet you shouldn't expect.

But the biggest disappointment is the forest itself, which appears to consist of some scattered trees. Not so. From km 6 to 15 you do drive through a real forest and have no or hardly any view of the surroundings, let alone the top of the climb. Dull maybe but it is part of the Ventoux. It is you against the mountain, and nothing else.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, the percentages. They are very different from the real mountain. On the Ven-top you're soon over 10%, where the real climb gives you the opportunity to warm up 6 kilometres. The percentages are also much more varied than on the actual climb. There are long stretches of 12%, where you only encounter this percentage once on the real climb and only for a very short time. Conversely, even in the forest, there are stretches of 4-5% to compensate for that, and of course you won't encounter those in real life. When you look at the Ven-Top profile on Climbbybike you will see that it only corresponds in (very) broad lines with the profile of the Mont Ventoux. The percentages seem to be fairly arbitrary. Was this the intention or does Zwift not know Climbbybike?

Conclusion: this Ven-Top version (who came up with that silly name?) of the Ventoux is a pimped, out of context version of the real climb. But maybe that was the intention? Yet, nowhere do you get the feeling to be in the beautiful Provence. So next year we will definitely go back to do the real climb a few more times. And we recommend that to everyone. So you smell the lavender and Provencal smells, feel the warm wind blow at the bottom, wonder why you're struggling in the woods and get that magnificent airline view of the surroundings at the top. The feeling when you reach the top will be many times bigger. A well-deserved Coke from the shop and in the evening a pastis. The Ven-Top, we will keep for dreary winter evenings.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Our KOM. We did 1h34 minutes over the Ven-Top, about 20 minutes faster than what we normally do over the Ventoux. On Zwift you indeed ride up a lot faster than in real life. ...read more

  • 8/4/2020
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