Uphill route to becoming an official madman

Wetherby resident and Seacroft Wheelers member Fred Lyn climbing  Le Mont Ventoux, approaching it from Malaucene. (S)
Wetherby resident and Seacroft Wheelers member Fred Lyn climbing Le Mont Ventoux, approaching it from Malaucene. (S)

Since writing last, I spent a couple of weeks in the South of France, catching up on some serious hill training.

I went with 14 other Seacroft Wheelers Cycling Club members for a week of riding up and around Le Mont Ventoux - the giant of Provence - a 1,912 metres high mountain rising up out of the otherwise fairly flat countryside near Avignon.

Alright, there are the nearby Dentelles, a small range of hills, and the Gorge de la Nesque and the Vallée du Toulourenc, but let’s not be picky at this stage!

All riders bar myself were experiencing the area for the first time ever and, indeed, most had never ridden up anything like Mont Ventoux in their lives.

I took great - if somewhat cruel - delight in mentioning every time we went up local hills that they would be faced with anything up to 25 times the length of climb on the Ventoux.

How did I reckon that?

Well, there are three ways up the Ventoux - from Bédoin, it is 22km long; from Malaucène, it is 21km long and from Sault, it is 26km long (13, 13 and 15 miles approx., respectively) and Kearby Cliff, for example, is half a mile long and Norwood Edge, one mile long.

There is a fourth way, but that is largely off-road, to the delight of walkers and mountain bikers!

I am delighted to say that all of us managed to get to the top on at least one occasion.

I have probably mentioned masochistic tendencies among cyclists and, to highlight this, I would refer readers and cyclists alike to the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux (www.clubcinglesventoux.org).

This club is open to all cyclists who have ridden up Le Mont Ventoux three times in a day, from each of the aforementioned villages. This means 136km (86 miles) - and 4,443 metres of vertical ascent!

Seven of us started the ordeal and five of us finished, ranging from nine hours (including lunch and natural breaks) to 13 hours.

The reward? Membership of the Club des Cinglés. Cinglé means madman.

So, we joined that illustrious band of official Madmen of the Ventoux.

The remainder of the week was spent riding around the other scenic routes mentioned above, which was all that could be done, as Le Mont Ventoux was virtually unassailable on several days, due to high winds (Ventoux means ‘windy’), poor visibility and horizontal rain at the top, not to mention a film being made, which meant that the last 6km of road from Chalet Reynard was closed.

The really good news is that the road from Sault has been resurfaced, so it is now billiard table smooth for the first time in years.

Everyone returned to the UK at the end of the week, in high spirits, having experienced one of the iconic climbs - which can be seen on the Tour de Fance on Sunday 14 July.

But I went down to the south coast for a week of afternoons on the beach (mornings spent cycling in the Massif des Maures mountains).