Ventoux: The Ride…And The Play

Some of you may remember that back in 2013 as I cycled from southern Greece to southern Portugal and shortly after arriving in France, I deviated slightly to the north north to meet a friend on a campsite in a small town called Villes-sur-Auzon. The reason? This is what I wrote at the time:

“Mont Ventoux is a place with iconic status but one about which I knew little about until just a few months ago. Scouting around for interesting cycling-related things to do whilst crossing southern France, I noted on the map that Mont Ventoux was in the very south of France… To British cycling enthusiasts it is probably best known as the place where Tommy Simpson met his demise in the 1967 Tour de France at the age of 29 just one kilometre from the summit. It was a nice coincidence that earlier this year I had met Nicolas… who was planning to be camping in the area of Mont Ventoux during the period of my passage across the south of France. We arranged to attempt the climb together…”

You can read the rest of my post here. To read what I subsequently wrote about the experience in my book, Along The Med on a Bike Called Reggie, you can do so here for free!

So that was the ride. The play? Well, it may be coming to a theatre near you as the Nottingham-based 2 Magpies Theatre are taking their production ‘Ventoux’ on tour:

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-15-45-02-png-opt412x597o00s412x597“Ventoux is a restaging of the dramatic battle between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani in the Tour de France 2000 on Mont Ventoux. Once regarded as the greatest race in the history of cycling, we now know that both Armstrong and Pantani doped during their careers. At the time both were champions in their own right – Pantani winning the Tour de France in 1998, and Armstrong winning in 1999. In 2000 they went head to head on Mont Ventoux. They crossed the line together but their careers spiralled in wildly opposite directions. Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles; Pantani died of a cocaine overdose alone in a hotel room. Armstrong denied, lied and cheated where Pantani was caught. Ventoux restages this race, knowing everything that we now know in 2015. With a pair of road bikes, stunning footage of Mont Ventoux and actual race commentary, 2Magpies bring the excitement of the Tour de France to the theatre.”

The tour kicks off in London next week – full details of dates and venues here – and includes a stop at my own local theatre, Square Chapel Centre for the Arts where I am a volunteer. If you are lucky enough to live near Halifax, you can look forward to a mini cycling festival at Square Chapel inspired by the Ventoux production. The provisional schedule of events is as below and tickets will soon be available to buy online via the Square Chapel website:

  • Thursday 6th April, 7.30pm: ‘Ventoux’
  • Friday 7th April (morning): ‘A Day Out’ (1972)“Alan Bennett’s first television drama, directed by Stephen Frears, is a charming comedy set in Edwardian Yorkshire [and filmed in Halifax], following a cycling club excursion, the shadow of war looming.” (tbc)
  • Saturday 8th April, 4.30pm: ‘Cycling Europe on a Bike Called Reggie’ – a talk by Andrew P. Sykes (yes, him…) – more details and tickets here.
  • Saturday 8th April, 7.30pm: ‘Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist’ – “Feature documentary charting the meteoric rise and devastating fall of Marco Pantani, the great cyclist of a generation.” (Trailer below.) Here is’s review of the film.

Categories: Cycling

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4 replies »

  1. Loved reading it again especially as I have been mad enough to have signed up for three ascents up Ventoux in a single day to join Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux. At my age (68) if I don’t come back down please build me a memorial next to Tommy Simpson!

    • Cinglé indeed! But good luck with that nevertheless. At least you get to relax for a few minutes on the way back down. Then again, I remember the decent being tough as I was holding the brakes for much of the time. Hopefully you will be braver than me and allow gravity to take over. Good luck with the ascents. When do they take place?

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