Mont Ventoux became part of sporting folklore in 1967 when Tommy Simpson collapsed and died near the summit on stage 13 of the Tour de France. The Wattmeister grew up with this fact, which cast its shadow over British cycling for 45 years. In 2012, Bradley Wiggins’ victory in the Tour de France finally liberated the ghost of Tommy and became the new focal point for the next generation of cyclists.
This huge edifice dominates the surrounding countryside of Provence in the Vaucluse departement of southern France. The delightful town of Bedoin lies just to the southwest, at an altitude of 311 metres. From the roundabout in the centre of the village, the road climbs to 1912 metres via 22 kilometres of tarmac known as the D974.
The climb is on most cyclists’ bucket list but for one reason or another, The Wattmeister had never tackled its fearsome slopes.
This situation was remedied on October 8th 2014. Inspired by Gray Goliath and BigMig the first two members of Muswell Hill Peloton to post times on the mountain, TW and The Wattmeisterin set off to slay the beast.
Blessed with blue skies but buffeted by a stiff breeze, the far-reaching views over Provence soothed the unrelenting pain of the climb. Once Chalet Reynard had been gained at 15 kms, and the stinging gradients of the long wooded section were behind, The Wattmeister encountered the renowned ‘moonscape’ backdrop so familiar from countless photos and TV footage over the years. Cycling history. TW could feel it over the final 7 kms.
But the heroine of this piece is The Wattmeisterin, who gamely clambered up the snaking ascent on her lightweight Giant hybrid, unaware of her achievement and the poignancy of her effort until stopping briefly at Tommy’s memorial about 1 km from the summit.
Then it all became clear.