Ventoux. Ventoux.

My goodness, it’s hot up here. The sun, even in the middle of the afternoon, and even at this altitude, was strong off the white stone. There is no shade. None. Nowhere to hide, to cower from the Sisyphean task of the Géant. Why do we toil up here, being slowly baked, jersey unzipped, when the motor car was invented long ago? A man rode to his death up here. What made him do it? But, as the sun hit me about the head like a thick, heavy blanket, I slowly ticked off 100m at a time. Soon – sooner than expected – 5km au sommet was showing. Another pause by the motorhomes full of crazed, baking Belgians and Dutch. Back into the saddle, legs slightly renewed, and heart below the limit. The temptation to get out of the saddle was strong, but in so doing lactic flooded my legs, slowing me to the pace of the many head-bowed walkers and bounced my heart rate off the day’s imposed ceiling. Stay in the saddle and make a rhythm. Stay in the saddle and you’ll make it to the top.

A voice said England have won the cricket. I didn’t respond. The voice appeared alongside me, barely going any quicker, weighed down with deep section carbon wheels and an English complexion. England won the cricket. By how many wickets? Five. Flintoff took five in the test. Oh, good. And he slipped behind. There’s 11 of them, I thought, but only one of me. One of me and this road. And this mountain and, oh look, Simpson himself. A drunk glance to the right, and thumb and forefinger pulled down the peak of my cap before straitening up. He went down for the final time, like a beaten boxer, around 1km from the top. I’m 1km from the top. Right then. A slightly faster rhythm and, looking up again, the searing ribbon angled up to the left. Slowing to catch my breath, I crawled, readying myself for the steepness to follow. The outside of the bend provided no launch, but I chose that line, hugging the scree on my right. Rhythm slightly faster than before and, then, pop. I was at the final bend, a hairpin. Taking the outside line, and shifting up, I lifted myself and, for the first time that day, attacked the slope, sprinting over the line.

Finished.

Which was followed by throwing up. Throwing up at 1,912 metres and in a Unesco World Heritage site. That’s what the Ventoux does to you.

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