My son, sitting in the back of the car with his sister, was as happy as Larry – especially as the distinctive peak of Mont Ventoux appeared above the skyline.
Mont Ventoux, all 1,912 metres of it, is famed in cycling circles. There are higher mountains in France but Mont Ventoux stands on its own, right at the heart of Provence. There’s an abandoned weather station at the top, while just below the punishing peak is a shrine to the memory of Tommy Simpson, the British cyclist who died from heat exhaustion during the 1967 Tour de France. “Put me back on my bike” were his last immortal words.
We arrived in the village of Bédoin at 9.30 am, took the bike off the car roof and my son raced away. The rest of us adjourned to a cafe down the road to keep our minds off his climb.
We’d arranged to meet him two-thirds of the way up - to hand over two more water bottles. But to our astonishment he’d got a lot further than we’d expected. When we caught up with him he gave us a cheery wave, said he was feeling fine and kept on pedalling.
We met him at the summit, which looks a bit like a lunar landscape, and it turned out he’d done the whole ride in just under two hours – his goal for his first attempt.
Then came the moment he was really looking forward to – the glorious ride down, followed by a stop at the bike shop in Bédoin to buy an I conquered Mont Ventoux cycling shirt...