The Riders Mont Ventoux Immortalised
As we saw in our last 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.
Picture : Fiona reaching the summit of Mont Ventoux from the south side, from Malaucène
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