Cingles in French loosely translates to “nutter” or madman. They’d be right in saying so too. The Cingles du Mont Ventoux is a triple summit of the famed climb where Tom Simpson died.
Standing alone, bald in the thin air which robs trees of the oxygen needed for life, the Ventoux can be accessed from three sides. Cyclists, ever in need of a good challenge, flock to the mountain to conquer this great god and some join the Cingles Club too.
Collecting a brevet card and starting at dawn, the three summits will total around 150km, of which, precisely half will be uphill. The ride would be tough enough, but add in a film crew and an unexperienced cyclist in the form of BBC’s Mike Bushell and you’re in for a long old day in the saddle.
Finally making it to the top of the first climb, with a large, heavy camera strapped to the handlebars, strategically trying to cycling to get the top of the climb and Mike into the frame, the film guy looks at the camera and says, ah that was not filming. Nevermind, we got it set up for the descent down into Malecurne. Ah man what a descent it is, sadly I never got to see the footage. By now it was 2pm and we should have been at the top of the second climb. Full up on spaghetti we turned back towards the top in 35 degree heat. Saved by a man handing out frozen water bottles.
Up and over and onto Sault, where our penultimate stamp was pressed into the brevet card, we turning our bikes uphill for the last and longest climb back to the top. Famous for the Minstral wind thats whips up to gale force in the blink of an eye, the lea of the mountain provides a safe haven for a cyclist in these conditions. Unfortunately as you head to the final turn to the finish of the climb, a gap in the mountain channels the wind head on. The call to keep going straight or turn side on can be a fine line between upright or laying down.
I chose the only sensible option and that was to keep riding straight into the fence ahead, grabbing it with one hand and the bike with the other as I dismounted and watch my bike flutter horizontally in the wind. Two of the boys ran down to escort me into the lea of the building where I was able to remount and finish the ride with both wheels on the ground.
Brevet cards all clicked off, it was the final descent into Bedoin as the sun was setting on a very rewarding day in the saddle. We featured on the BBC breakfast on the morning the 2009 Tour went up the Ventoux for the penultimate stage. We had the support of the La Fuga team for the day and they then ensured we were well hydrated afterwards.