Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most grueling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain fifteen times since 1951. The followed trail mostly passes through Bédoin. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world. And I was no exception but we completed the ride although survival at times was not guaranteed!
We spent A nice day warming up before the race, coasting around leafy Provence where we stayed in beautiful spot – Le Fete Provence Hotel in Vaison-la-Romaine.
Very kindly invited by the Event Chairman, Toon and his wife Hida to join with family and friends for the pre-race supper. Their home is perfectly positioned looking out to the iconic white cap of the Ventoux. Guests included former cyclists, local celebrities and most importantly Eddie Merckx, the worlds greatest ever cyclist. After dinner news that Jackie would be joining Eddie and his old buddies was warmly received.
The day of the event started with news that the mistral would be joining us, which was a sobering thought. My cycling buddie Terry Byca had a mechanical problem early in the race which forced us back down 5 kilometres of the climb for technical support in Bedoin. A determined climb took us to chateau Raynard some 6km from the weather station famed for recording some of the highest wind speeds on earth (320km/hr). Although discouraged by organisers and just before it was officially closed for safety reasons, we pressed on to the top. Gusts threw cyclist off their bikes and some struggled to walk during particularly fierce gusts. The sensible ones instead choosing to sit with bikes flat until some calm was restored.
With honour secured and very quick pictures taken as evidence,Terry and I made a rapid decent to stave off hypothermia in the direction of Lucianne. There we joined Jackie who had split from Eddie and his buddies after experiencing gear trouble on a climb but, in the true spirit of the event, we proceeded to enjoy the Vintour between wineries – the most enjoyable part . The kilt was a challenge cycling but generated a few laughs for weary cyclists and endeared us to Jean-Michael the owner of one of the world’s best cycling Museums. He kindly invited me to ride his penny farthing – what a star.