Lance Armstrong vs. Marco Pantani – A Legendary Ventoux Race
In 2000, one of the most memorable Tour de France stage races took place on Mont Ventoux. The cruel mountain saw Marco Pantani and Lance Armstrong battle it out for the stage win. The battle between the two men has become legendary in cycling folklore. Although later each man’s career would be marred by drug use, and Pantani tragically died a few years later, there can be no doubt that this contest between the two men is one that will be remembered for generations to come.
Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani
Armstrong had won the Tour de France the previous year which was the beginning of his seven year reign at the top. He
had already become famous for his attacking style of riding, and was considered to be a real contender to win the tournament which he later did. The Texan would be revered as one of the finest cyclists of all time until knowledge of his drug use surfaced.
In 1998 Pantani won both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France and was considered to be one of the best climbers of his generation. He is one of only a handful of cyclists to win both tours in the same year. A year later Pantani would be disqualified from the Giro d’Italia due to having irregular blood values. Later Pantani confessed to using cocaine. It is believed that this drug was behind his untimely death in 2004.
The Race to Mont Ventoux
With the summit in sight Pantani was in the lead and breaking from the pack. If you were watching first time round you could be forgiven for thinking he had it in the bag. Then out of nowhere, the yellow jersey of Lance Armstrong appears and takes the lead, heading out in front.
Armstrong held the lead for the final kilometres of the race. When you thought Pantani was out of it he would reappear, chasing down Armstrong’s back wheel. Armstrong responded, pulling away from Pantani, but the Italian attacked again, always staying on the wheel of Armstrong as the two approached the summit.
With Armstrong seeming to have the race won, Pantani snatched the stage win. After the race it transpired that Armstrong ‘gave’ Pantani the victory. Speaking in the press he said:
"I felt that it was like a gift on Ventoux, and it was also a mistake to give the gift. He is a great rider but he was not the best on Ventoux.
"At the time I thought that I was doing the right thing, but since I have been disappointed by his attitude and declarations. I still respect him as a rider. The last 12 months have been bad for him, and the way the other day he came back twice and attacked was admirable."
If it was a gift it would cost the American dear. He would never win on Ventoux. In the hours when he looks back on his career he must regret ‘giving’ the victory to Pantani.
Gift or not, this battle between Armstrong and Pantani is considered to be one of the best cycling duels in Tour de France history.
Tour de France 2016
This year stage 12 of the Tour de France begins in Montpellier and finishes on Mont Ventoux. This stage of the race is held on French National Day (July 14th), and will see the riders finish at the summit of the Giant of Provence. When they reach this point they would have ridden 185kms.
If you have read our other blog posts on Mont Ventoux you will see why the last 22 kilometres, when they start their ascent of Ventoux, will be the one they are looking forward to the least. It has its own micro-climate which does not lend itself to cycling.
After Chalet Reynard the weather can be radically different from what you experienced on when you began your ascent. Winds, stifling heat, rain, sleet, and mist, can all be waiting for you as you break the tree line clover and enter what can only be described as a lunar landscape.
The riders in the Tour de France will be grateful once they reach the top, especially if they smash their personal best times.
Ventoux, however, has the last laugh. For these riders the finish of the Tour de France is still nine stages away.
Riding Mont Ventoux with SportActive
Riding Ventoux with SportActive is an unforgettable experience. It is a real opportunity to emulate your cycling heroes you would have watched in the Tour de France, and take on the mountain that every professional respects.
During your Ventoux ascent we support you like a professional rider, from using a support car carrying supplies and spare parts, to Martin and his team riding with you as you ascend to the summit from two sides. Our tour takes you to the summit of Ventoux from both Bédoin and Malaucène. You also have the chance to ride some exciting roads in Provence, France, which are also used in the Tour de France and Paris-Nice races.
Ventoux is a cycling challenge like no other on Earth. You do not want to miss this. Ventoux will test your limits. Click here
Our 3rd Mont Ventoux post from 8/2/2016
What does it take to Ride the Beast called Mont Ventoux?
"I fought battles here in a past life."
Dai Parry, (Cwn Carn Paragon Cycling Club, S. Wales) 2km below Chalet Reynard.
Do you have the spirit to conquer The Giant of Provence?
In our last blogs we talked about why The Bald Mountain is so hard to ride. Micro climates, the gradients, the terrain, have defeated the best cyclists in the world. It has even claimed a life. So what kind of spirit do you need to ride the mountain the professionals fear?
Every Km is a Victory
You need to have a warrior’s heart to reach the summit of this beast. Every Km you ride is a Km you have conquered. That km is a km that can never be taken away from you. This belief will keep you going when every fibre in your soul will scream at you to stop.
When you emerge from the tree line at Chalet Reynard, you will be in one of two mindsets:
• Elated, knowing that you are over almost two thirds of the way and you can see the tower at the summit
• Demoralised, as a gruelling 6km of ride across a lunar landscape awaits you.
How you feel depends on the kind of ride you’re having. Sometimes kind, sometimes cruel.
Would you keep going when you see a lunar like landscape before you?
Ventoux has a way of getting under your skin like no other climb. The landscape and weather has inspired philosopher quotes. Ventoux often feels like it is mocking you. You are a mere mortal trying to conquer an omnipotent God. This God will expose your cycling weaknesses within a few Kms. You will soon know whether your Ventoux experience will be kind or cruel.
Either way you have to have the mindset to climb the beast. To keep going when your legs feel like they are going to explode, when the heat is stifling and the wind is whipping about your face.
It is not for the faint of heart.
Taking on Ventoux means you have to have put in the training hours, preferably taking on as many inclines as you can. You have to be fit, and you have to have a good idea at pacing. As well as having a good standard of fitness, your mind has to be sharp. Ventoux is known for riders that come out of nowhere when descending. This can make descending dangerous especially as riders say they have hit 100km/hr.
In our next Ventoux blog we look at one of the best races ever to happen in the Tour de France, when Lance Armstrong took on Marco Pantani in a battle to finish first on Mont Ventoux
our second Mont Ventoux post from 03/02/2016
The Riders Mont Ventoux Immortalised
As we saw in our Ventoux post from 29/1/2016, this is the mountain that defines you as a rider. Micro-climates, cross winds, psychologically draining landscapes, intense gradients, unpredictable weather, all contribute to the legend. The pro riders, however, have more than played their part in creating Ventoux, and Ventoux has played its part in creating them.
Bear this in mind as you discover some of the riders who are remembered for their Ventoux experience.
Lucien Lazarides – The First Man
Ventoux was first used as part of the Tour de France in 1951. The route was not a summit finish but crossed the summit. Lucien Laszrides was the first man that year to reach the summit and he achieved a podium finish overall in the tournament.
He was born in Greece in 1922 but became a French national in 1929.
Charly Gual – The First Summit Finisher
In 1958 Mont Ventoux was used as a summit finish in the Tour de France. Gual was an accomplished cyclist and before being the first man to win a summit finish on the Bald Mountain had already won the Giro d’Italia two years earlier. A race he would win again in 1959. After winning stage 18, he earned the nickname, ‘Angel of the mountains’. He would win four other stages in the 1958 Tour de France clinching victory in the race.
His Ventoux time was 1h 2m 9s starting from Bédoin. His time was the fastest recorded, and would last another 31 years before Jonathan Vaughters beat it in the Dauphiné Libéré.
Iban Mayo Diez – The Fastest Man
The fastest recorded time to reach the summit of Mont Ventoux is held by Iban Mayo who reached the top in 55m 51s in 2004 during the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. He was two minutes ahead of Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong.
Although he showed promise and achieved major stage victories in the sport, he tested positive for doping in 2007 and was given a two year ban. He decided not to return to the sport after the ban and retired.
Tom Simpson – The Tragic Man
In 1967 Britain Tom Simpson tragically died while trying to reach the summit in the 13th stage. During the stage he came off his bike but carried on riding the mountain only to collapse and die a few miles later. By all accounts he was zigzagging all over the road. A post mortem showed he had high alcohol and amphetamine levels, and was suffering with a stomach complaint. The humid temperatures combined with the arduousness of the climb are all believed to have played a part in the man’s death.
Simpson was reported to be under pressure from his manager to finish the stage and do well in the Tour de France. Simpson rode against the advice of his team mates who wanted him to quit. There is a monument to him on Mont Ventoux close to the spot where he died.
If you are planning to ride the Giant of Provence, just think that Lance Armstrong at the height of his prowess never won this stage of the Tour de France.
In our next Ventoux story, we look at the skills and traits you need to have to climb and conquer the beast called Mont Ventoux!
Submitted on 03/02/2016
our first Mont Ventoux post from 29/01/2016
Mont Ventoux – The Challenge the Battle
"The Ventoux is a god of Evil, to which sacrifices must be made. It never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering."
Roland Barthes, French philosopher and bicycle racing fan.
Mont Ventoux is returning to the Tour de France this year (2016). At 22kms you could be forgiven for believing that the ‘Giant of Provence’s’ reputation as being the toughest mountain to climb is overrated. There are higher climbs in the French Alps. If you are of this mindset think again. Mont Ventoux is unforgiving, and just when you think the ride can’t get any worse, guess what happens.
Here are some elements to consider about Ventoux.
Although the temperature varies depending on the time of year you climb it, the temperature at your starting point will be very different when you break the tree line at Chalet Reynard. Ventoux has its own micro-climate and beyond Chalet Reynard you often find that the temperature has dropped a few degrees. Sleet rain can be assaulting you even in the warmer months, and the wind is stronger than you would expect. Other times, you will be hit with a wall of stifling heat.
Ventoux’s reputation for being sometimes kind, sometimes cruel, is well justified.
The gradients on Ventoux are extreme, especially if you start from the Bédoin route. Most of Ventoux is at a steep incline. Most of the time you are riding gradients between 7-10%, but there are long stretches where you will be taking on gradients greater than 10%. You may be able to ride 30kms per hour on the straight, on Ventoux, you’ll be lucky to hit 10kms per hour.
Descending the ‘Giant of Provence’ is a daunting and scary prospect. Some cyclists have hit a 100kms per hour downhill. Riders seem to come out of nowhere, and your breaks are pushed to the limit.
It takes grit and determination ascending it. Nerve and crossed fingers descending it.
Ventoux is the ‘God of evil’ according to Roland Bartes. His description had to have been influenced by the landscape of the mountain. Standing taller than any other in Provence as if looking down on the entire region with disdain, the leafy villages and tree line gives way to a barren almost moon like terrain past Chalet Reynard. When you emerge past the leafy forest, past the half way point, you may feel you’re over the worst.
The truth is you’re just about to embrace it. Ventoux suckers you in with relatively easy gradients no steeper than 7%. The weather as we have seen is pretty unforgiving but let’s not rule out the sharp winds that can hit you when you make the climb. Ventoux is 1912m above sea level and exposed to fierce wind. If you’ve never ridden Ventoux, you would not have ridden in wind like this before. You could also be greeted by thick fog.
Arguably, the worst part though is the desolate landscape around you. As your muscles are pushed to their limit and your legs become weaker, the unpredictable weather conditions assaulting you, the barren landscape will expose chinks in your armour, challenging your resolve. The landscapes combine with the worst gradients Ventoux has. The mountain knows that if you are going to break it will be now as you push your muscles and your mind to the limit. You will feel an evil creature is telling you to turn back, to give-in and accept your fate.
Ventoux is the mountain the pros respect.
Mont Ventoux has a way of testing your mind as well as your body.
In our next series of blogs about Ventoux, we look at three riders the mountain immortalised, and not all are for positive reasons.
Submitted on 29/01/2016