Before writing this post, I searched the blog for posts that mentioned Mont Ventoux, the first of the three cycling challenges I have set for myself this year. The next two are Paso del Stelvio and As-Yet-Undecided-Long-Distance-Ride….. but there were loads of posts about Ventoux.

So what more can I say about this mountain?

That it means a lot to me is clear from the amount of words I have written about it. From the first time I saw it, over ten years ago on holiday in Provence, it’s brooding presence on the horizon transfixed me. I loved the sight of it. Especially on an evening walk when the colours of the setting sun reflected off the pale, bald summit so stunningly. Cannot find the photos I took and there were many.

Fast forward a few years and the diagnosis was in and so was the start of my cycling addiction. The crazy idea of climbing it to raise money for MS support took hold. A newer, more stable bike and continuing good condition meant this was feasible. I had never climbed on the bike before so why not start with one of my favourite places? OK, it’s ‘The Beast of Provence’, a ‘hors categorie‘ climb that breaks the best professionals but…… well, why not?

It was climbed, perhaps one of the best days I have had on a bike. Not the nicest, the road up through the wooded lower reaches of the mountain is…… unforgiving. But I have already written better posts about that day, fresh with the emotion of having achieved something personally.

That sense of achievement says it all. Mont Ventoux is more to me than just metres climbed. It’s a personal monument and signal that, despite the ‘bad’ days and the difficulties, life is about more than just functioning. Every moment on the mountain has been…. special. Feeling the pain from climbing and the relief of achievement, all are remembered.

That main thing? Ventoux marks the the point when I realised that, despite there being something ‘wrong’, there was still so much to do, that I can do and can still do. Plenty that is ‘right’. Getting to the top of the mountain and looking down on the clouds was more than a (really rather slow) sporting achievement. It was saying that, after all of the fear, there was plenty of future.

Punishing, painful and unforgiving. ‘Geant de Provence’. The Bald Giant. Looking forward to seeing a brutal old friend.

Disclaimer: This year’s climb is the easy one – least two thirds of it – but not going to underestimate the beast!


Peter Farmer · May 18, 2019 at 21:07

Brilliant article Steve, I remember the day you first climbed The Beast very clearly and you were so impressive.

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