off to make the transfer between the Alps and the
Pyrenees. But, not me. I was meeting Eddy Merckx for a small ride up the Giant of Provence. I did not have confirmation of my rendezvous, but since I had publicly issued the challenge, I had every intention of following through. Only one thing stood in my way. I had come over 3,000 miles and just 40 kilometers from our great hotel at St Paul Trois Chateaux; the van gave out on the freeway. Leaving
Grenoble we had gassed up. I mean this exactly, we had gassed up. The only problem was the van required diesel fuel. We caught the mistake at about the half tank mark. This was not a regular van, it was a rental and the driver was relatively new to
Europe. He had been with us the previous year, but had never refueled. We were hoping the van would mix the two fuels and let us off with a scare. All portents seemed positive as we cruised down the verdant valleys as night fell and we watched celebratory fireworks displays exploding to the right and to left of us. I should have thought of Tennyson and the valley of death as we rode, the brave two, Allen Parsley, my second and me, instead of how dazzling each town?s explosions were. We got about 200 km and had forgotten about the fueling snafu when the van just conked out at 11 PM. By the time we got to the Hotel Esplan it was after 2PM and I was too tired to get a quick start on sleep. All seemed lost. I was sure Eddy Merckx had been sleeping for hours.
The next morning we got up and going between 7-8 AM. We rode a rolling 40 kilometers through the sunflower fields and vineyards to Bedoin, the village at the base of Ventoux. Zoot alors , it was 10 AM, not the designated 9 AM. I looked around for Eddy and waited for another 15 minutes. No Eddy and no word from a second. What to do? I conferred with my second, fifty-nine year old, Allen Parsley, and he suggested, as he always does, take some pictures and move out slowly. We did just that and after a last search of Bedoin, we embarked.
I never did see Eddy the entire day, nor did I catch even a Belgian whiff of him. I did see lots of riders and I did make it comfortably to the top. Maybe Eddy was off in the bushes catching a nap like I saw many riders doing. The climb is just plain tough. It is just as tough as the Galibier or the Tourmalet. It strains the body and the mind. The spirit, it doesn?t touch except to release its wonder into the stratosphere. The mind