There was only ever one place for Coffee Cycle Society to lay down its roots.
After all, our goal, metaphorically, is to inspire, to challenge, to enable cyclists to greater achieve greater heights. So, when we were searching for our perfect first location, one steeped in cycling history, myology, and folklore, as well as swathed in natural beauty, that our search quickly zeroed into a short-list of one.
The mighty Mont Ventoux.
Unlike most alpine mountains that are often somewhat hidden, shielded from view until you are literally upon their lower slopes, the Ventoux stands alone. A great polished white beacon beaming its dominance across many hundreds of square miles. There aren’t many places in Provence where you can see ‘the Giant’ there, off in the distance, that is unless the cloud is in – but all mountains love to play that game of hide and seek and the Ventoux is no different in that respect.
The weather station at the summit, with its tall red and white painted tower reminds us of a lighthouse, warning passing ships of dangerous currents, treacherous reefs, and rocky shore. In a way the Ventoux weather tower is doing the same for cyclists. From the casual visitor keen to make it to the top for the best panoramic selfie in France, to the club riders looking to challenge themselves against the legendary gradient and exposure the road to the summit possesses, to the real gladiators, the professionals who earn their living from pitting every fiber of their bodies to claiming that King of the Mountain title – the Ventoux is issuing a warning –
“Don’t mess with me! I am the Ventoux, I choose who climbs, who wins and who, occasionally loses the challenge I set”.
Many riders of course complete the long and arduous ride to the summit, without exception all leave something on the road to the top. Of course, there’s the sweat, that goes without saying. But there’s more. To climb Ventoux, even at a pedestrian pace, requires a physical sacrifice that can’t be asked, only given. It’s the mental game that’s the real battle riders must search their legs, lungs, and mind in equal measure to find the ingredients required to succeed.
Can I get out of the saddle again? Can I hold this cadence? Can I make it through this next patch of blazing sunshine before I reach the shade? Why won’t the top show itself to me? The Ventoux sets the questions that appear in your mind as you climb it.
Sometimes the mountain bites. The word fearsome is often used when describing the Ventoux. Sure, everyone likes to build the reputation of a climb – it’s good for business, but with Ventoux, there’s the chill, mortuary coldness of truth about it. People do fail to conquer this toughest of peaks. Sometimes in the most tragic fashion.
None more famously than the British professional cyclist and 1965 Word Road Race Champion Tom Simpson, who collapsed and died during the 1967 Tour de France Stage to the summit of the Ventoux. His is a sorry tale that we’ll tell another time, but the granite memorial for him, as the very spot where he turned his last gasping pedal on the barren windswept roadside, with the summit in sight up ahead, is a perpetual shrine for cyclists. They stop to leave club caps, bidons, and other mementos, to pay homage to Tommy, but also as offerings to the mountain itself. The Ventoux swallowed Tommy that fateful day and he will ride the mountain forever. By their offerings, the visitors hope to assuage the temper of the Giant.
The Tour de France returns to Mont Ventoux in 2021, with a double ascent and descent of the mountain on the same stage. It will, hopefully, be full of drama, but of the safe sporting kind, but when the Ventoux is challenged, there are no rock-solid certainties.
That’s why this mountain is a true cycling legend and the natural home for Cycling Coffee Society. Join us at the roadside in July, and stay with us this summer.