Ventoux – Why Again?

So, back to the mountain. Last year it was the achievement for me. This year? It’s second in a list of three. After Liege-Bastogne-Liege….. But a poor second? Absolutely not. It’s cycling up a mountain. Just a case of going up….. and up….. and up…..

So why do it again? One year on I am better cyclist and Ventoux is still scary but, after blundering up and (worse) down in Belgium it is not quite so intimidating. My condition is better as well. Last year’s warm-up ride was twenty kilometres with just under four-hundred metres climbed and I was shattered. Cut to this year and was forty kilometres, seven-hundred metres and even some descending and I felt fine. I’ll do another warm-up tomorrow. Looking forward to it, apart from the descending bit…… There is no comparison between the guy who climbed last year and the guy who will climb this year.

So let’s start by taking away the comparison to last year. It’s the same mountain but, after that, the similarities end. Besides the fact that I will climb from a different start point, in Malaucene, there is also the fact that this year’s ride has zero pressure. Last year was a sponsored ride and had to happen on a certain date. Even if I made plans for being unable to ride due to MS related issues I still felt I owed it to all who sponsored me to complete the climb on the specified date if possible. That meant whatever the weather which, on Ventoux, can be very tough indeed. Witness the 2016 Tour de France where a climb to the summit of Ventoux was called off due to high wind.

In the end, though, none of those who so generously sponsored and supported me would have minded if I would have been unable to complete the climb. I, on the other hand, would have minded immensely. It meant a huge amount, a stupid amount, a completely f*cking insane amount.

One year later and things have changed. No pressure, most of which came from myself. The climb from Malaucene is as tough as that from Bedoin but, apparently, the views are nicer. I may stop and take some pictures. There was also an early decision made not to ask for any form of sponsorship. I still feel very heartened (the overused word ‘inspired’ actually applies for once) by the support I received. Not just financially, all of the words of support that came in as well. So generous. Maybe I will do something next year but this year? Even for the best causes, you can ask too much. I will ask next year.

There is also the crucial element, for me, that I can go when I want. We are watching the weather, making sure that the wind is kind and that there is no rain. It will still be difficult but I would like to enjoy what is around me this time. Have a look, take a bit longer, also on the ride from Mormoiron to Malaucene.

At the same time it is important not to be cavalier. The freedom to go when I want and take my time still means I will respect the mountain. And it is a personal target because….. well…. I have been diagnosed with MS. If you had told me, around four years ago when I was initially diagnosed, that I would even be considering this I would not have believed you.

But you grow up and learn. My MS is Primary Progressive but it is not Progressing that quickly and each day with another target like this is another day to revel in. I won’t blog about the bad days, why should I? No, it’s better to think about that great feeling of climbing when I feel my right leg doing something. And looking forward again to seeing that tower at the top of the mountain. A special feeling. One that cannot rival last year but also one that will make the achievement of challenge number two so worthwhile.

That’s why I will do this again.

But let’s also be honest, the right hand means the jury is still out on any long (20km!) descent, though. So let’s keep this in perspective. It’s just climbing a mountain after all!

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