The town that we live in was built in the round as many of the old medieval towns in France were, and sooner or later, I like to say, everything comes around the town. In the summer bulls run round pursued by gauchos on horseback, marching bands blow their trumpets and bang their drums, town folk dressed in ancient costume parade with children and some years, even the cyclists from the Tour de France come whizzing round our town.
Every year the route for Le Tour de France changes and as the riders drive through the towns and villages of France, the people come out to cheer them on with flags and hands made out of green foam.
I first saw them in the nearby town of Fontvieille. We stood alongside the main street and waited with great anticipation for at least an hour.
The first signs of the race is the publicity caravan, this consists of sponsors driving past in customised cars and motorbikes advertising their products and throwing hats, key rings, sweets, etc. with their logo into the crowd. The caravan began in 1930 to help pay for the Tour and has become as much a part of the race as the cyclists themselves. It takes about 40 minutes for the whole caravan to go by and covers 20 – 25 miles.
When the cyclists come by they are so quick, that if you blink you’ll miss them. The first year the only photo I got of the cyclists was the back of a motorbike holding up the rear.
You can imagine how disappointed I was when I got back and saw I had missed the whole thing……
The next year the Tour de France came through our town and The Artist, being more astute than me, had set his camera to sport mode and did much better than me.
I am told that the best place to see them is to stand half-way up a hill, so you can watch them coming up towards you and one of the most popular places around here to see them is when they climb Mont Ventoux which is just 64 kms north of us.
Mont Ventoux is the cyclist’s mecca and is where British cyclist Tom Simpson collapsed and died close to the summit from dehydration and exhaustion, having consumed a cocktail of amphetamines and Brandy before setting off on the morning of the 13th July 1967 for the Tour de France. There is a memorial to him where he died where people today still leave offerings to him.
Many cyclists come from all over the World to climb Mont Ventoux…….
to reach the summit at 1,912 meters
There are three ascents to the top of Mont Ventoux, via the towns of Bedoin, Malaucène and Sault. If you climb all three in one day you get inaugurated into the Club des Cinglés (nutters club) and you get a certificate and medal. If you fancy doing it yourself, here is the website for the club
And here are a couple of personal accounts of people having completed the challenge
And why Mont Ventoux is such a symbolic ride for cyclists
So, what are you waiting for? Get on yer bike and climb up Mont Ventoux!
The Tour de France for 2013 begins this Saturday, 29th June and finishes on Sunday July 21st.
If you want to follow it interactively, You will find everything you need to know here
Meanwhile, please leave a comment on why you would or would not like to cycle up Mont Ventoux!