Path: Home | Mont Ventoux : France

Simon pictured on ventoux

Path of the Gods: Destination Mont Ventoux: France

Mont Ventoux 2010, I was there, just one of the many thousands that will seek out this extraordinary strip of tarmac and complete the pilgrimage up one of the Tour’s most iconic mountains. This was possibly one of the greatest cycling experiences of my life to date and two weeks on and my memory of the climb up Mont Ventoux is still vivid. Without doubt this is a serious cycling challenge and exhilarating conquest. The evidence of the Tour is everywhere from the names painted on the road to the iconic observatory that marks the summit.

It is undoubtedly a hard climb and it must be hell to race up. Armstrong described the Ventoux as one of the hardest climbs in France. At this point it would be easy to write a colourful commentary on each mile of gradient crunching ascending, however I feel memories like these are perhaps best left to simmer. Indeed, as the legs get tired these are the stories for rainy days in cycling cafes. I can hear myself now! All you need to know is we made it and we didn’t do too badly either. The view from the top is like looking out of the airplane window.

The Ventoux was only one part of the trip and not convinced with Armstrong’s appraisal we decided to compare and contrast the climb up the Ventoux with L'Alpe d'Huez. L'Alpe d'Huez was a real thrill, easier perhaps because of the hairpins but more exhilarating perhaps because of the towering mountains that surround it. Again the history and evidence of the tour is everywhere. I could go on but what I really want to write about is white knuckle adrenalin fuelled terror and I’m not talking about on the bike. Twenty one hairpins in third gear or fifth depending on which would go in, breaking without putting the clutch in and Arthur at the controls whilst eating a pan au chocolate! The drive down L'Alpe d'Huez was possibly the most terrifying twenty minutes of the entire trip. On every hairpin the engine strained against the break lurching us towards the edge. I counted them down as Arthur again veered onto the opposite side of the road, unconcerned about oncoming traffic or the sheer drop to the valley floor. A camper van! f**king hell that was close. Only eighteen bends to go. How long does it take to eat a pain au chocolate? Maybe I should have ridden down and met him at the bottom. Arthur seemed oblivious, “so how long did Pantani take?”, “Do you think it’s harder than the Ventoux?”, “Blah, blah, blah”. What a place to put a bloody SPAR shop, at the top of a massive mountain with a road built on a precipice, don’t they have planning rules in France. Ten hairpins to go, the imaginary break on my side is fully engaged, to say I was tense would be an understatement. Just shove the rest in your mouth and take the wheel with both hands. Clutch and break, clutch and break, “Jesus Christ!”

I told Arthur later I would rather ride down Wrynose without breaks (suicide) than go back down L'Alpe d'Huez in the car. Thankfully we didn’t drive up or down Mont Ventoux and I’m told that in time the nightmares will be vanquished.