Vertically Challenged – Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux

Flt Lt Michael Masters, currently stationed at RAF High Wycombe, joined fewer than 500 other British cyclists in conquering this barren rock three times in one day.

There is no climb like Mont Ventoux; it is extreme, dangerous, and out of place. It is abrutally steep road to nowhere that climbs into the sky simply get to the wind-blasted summit. It is amountain that inspires awe and instils fear.Some say Ventoux, at 1912 metres, is the hardest of all the mythical Tour de France climbs, that it needs no introduction. Certainly for cyclists this is the case. The mountain achieved worldwide notoriety when it claimed the life of the great English cyclist TomSimpson, who died here during the 13th stage of the 1967 Tour de France.

This isn’t an organised ride with start times, feed stations, arrows and timings. The Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux (translating as the ‘Brotherhood of the Ventoux nutters’) is an informal club made up of cyclists who have been willing

to pit themselves against the might of the mountain, climbing the Ventoux by bike via each of the three main roads in asingle day,getting acard stamped on each ascent and descent. Fewer than 500 people from the UK have completed the Triple Ventoux.

Starting early to avoid the afternoon hell of the midday scorching heat for the final two climbs, Irolled out just before dawn at 0745 to start one of the hardest climbs. Apart from asteady stream of cycling pilgrims riding the slopes, the road is quiet as it steepens to over nine percent after 1km, waking my legs up violently.There is nothing to distract my mind from the aching in my legs as Idrum out atempo on the pedals with only my thoughts for company.The lack of vegetation on the upper slopes of Ventoux has seen it described as amoonscape, beautiful hairpins stretch across it like scars, and I am greeted with afantastic view of the weather observatory still 250m above me with another two kilometres of cycling still to go.

Even on the best of days, the summit is no place to hang around and Idecide to roll down towards the next town, Bédoin. Known as atough climb, Itake acautious decent down the steep mountainside. After 45 minutes descending with only the whirr of the brakes on the rim and the wind ringing in my ears. Istamp the card once more in the café at the junction, buy acoffee and set off for round two.

The climb starts deceptively pleasantly, with acooling breeze in the warming sun. Reaching gently up through rolling vineyards and olive groves, the Giant of Provence broods on your shoulder and taunts from afar.Suddenly there is adrop to one side and then the bend swings you into steeper gradient and over the mountain’s lower treeline into the forest. The road no longer slinks diagonally across the loosely spaced contours but cuts straight up the fall line at asheer gradient. The midday sun and searing heat, reflects off the road as the real climb begins with the tarmac rising to punch me hard in the face.

Rounding the corner in to ashort steep section, which bites at my tired legs. Igrind the gears and round the next bend. The mast at the top visible once but never getting any closer as the road constantly bends its way around the mountain. Battling with myself all the way to the Simpson Memorial, the road feels like awall of tarmac again, every pedal stroke astruggle, my body aches, my legs tired, but I’m not able to give in. Ipull over and take aquiet moment on the step of the Simpson Memorial to reflect on the last part of the climb.

Tough Climb – Grimacing. 16 Envoy Spring 2017

Reaching the top for the second time there is little space for celebration; the place is now an ugly mess of sweaty staggering cyclists. The descent to the penultimate village is shallow,easy and wonderfully pleasant. Am Istill on the same mountain? Swooping out of the trees, it gets even nicer,asifI’ve

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