Mont Ventoux

July 2000 - Mike Harper's on holiday and feeling in need of a challenge... 

Mike getting cold and wetWhilst on holiday in France, (coincidentally) the Tour happened to be passing quite nearby to where we were staying, and L'Etape Du Tour (stage of the tour) in which anyone is entitled to take part. So with a bit of gentle persuasion, I was allowed to take my bike.

After a few days of lying on the beach, we travelled to Carpentras (the start) village and eventually booked into a bed and breakfast after hours of searching in a village full of cyclists (about 7000) looking for accommodation. We finally got to bed at 12 o'clock after a bowl of pasta from one of the local restaurants, most of which were completely sold out.

I could hardly sleep thinking of what lay ahead tomorrow. The alarm went off at 5 am, still dark outside. I made my way to the start, about 4 miles from the B&B. At 7 pm the first riders left in lots of 1000 at 5-minute intervals. Weather was dry and quite warm. "Fit like i day" said a voice from the back, last thing I would've expected to hear amongst thousands of cyclists in the south of France. Alan Campbell From Deeside Thistle who was also on holiday. I was glad to see him and felt a lot more comfortable after speaking to him a while. After about 25km of relatively flat roads, we started to climb gradual but long hills (lost Alan in the crowd). Beautiful scenery and warm weather, I was really starting to enjoy this experience. There were feed stations every 40km and the villages were lined with spectators. Been riding for about 3� hours and hills beginning to get steeper legs starting to ache, I saw a rider with one leg, he seemed to be managing with little effort. Coming to some major climbs, one at 1400 metres, roads were wide and smooth surface, managed 52 mph on one descent as fast as I was prepared to go and still riders coming past me.

127 km covered, legs and body aching, came through Bedoin the village at the bottom of Ventoux, where wife and kids shout encouragement as I pass through which gave me renewed strength to attempt the final climb of 17 km to the summit.

Oh well, here goes, started climbing through tree lined road up and up getting very hot, down to 23 x 39 and out of the saddle, computer reading about 5mph, this was getting serious. Lots of riders off, walking. I was determined not to put a foot down, endless climbing, km's going past very slowly, every muscle just aching by now and been standing on the pedals constantly for over an hour, starting to wonder if I'll make it to the top, just passing Tom Simpson Memorial 5 km to summit lots of riders stopping to pay respects. Starting to get very cold and snow showers and strong wind making it feel even more uncomfortable, never felt pain like this before. 2 km to summit beginning to suffer badly, can't appreciate scenery any more, just looking at road ahead. 1 km to summit, think of my family waiting back down in Bedoin, I'm determined to make it. I keep on going longest km of my life but I make it over the finish in over 6 hours. Don't know whether to laugh or cry!! Descend back down to Bedoin, very tired, glad to see my family again.

Lying on beach next day relaxing, legs still aching. I think of the experience and how much I enjoyed it. Already starting to forget about the bad parts, wonder how the guy with one leg got on? (well done) hope he made it! Can't wait to return next year.

Mike Harper

P.S learned later that Alan also made it to the top.

[Editor's note: Most of you will know that due to extreme weather conditions on the Ventoux during the 2000 L'Etape Du Tour, only a small percentage of riders made it to the top. As the weather rapidly deteriorated the organisers decided to close the top section of the climb for safety reasons. Mike was one of the select few to make it through the epic weather conditions to complete the course on top of the Ventoux. Well done Mike!]

See also Mike's account of his ride in the Gran Fondo Campagnolo in 2001.







QD Design - Web Design in Stonehaven