It’s Ventoux

Bob the Builder seems like an unlikely song to hum while thrashing yourself half-to-death on the bike.

Except if you’re the father of young children and are racing your bike in a timetrial on a muggy Wednesday night.

Last night, as I was just beginning 10 miles – and 26 minutes – of leg and lung pain, I found the kiddy theme tune popped into my head and seemed to carry with it just the right tempo to match the turning of my legs.

Da-da-da-da and breathe, da-da-da-da and breathe, da-da-da-da… repeat to fade.

Time trialling is horrible while you’re doing it, but once you’ve reached the finish line you forget most of the bad stuff and bask in the high that remains.

Many time trialists find repeating a song as their legs go round keeps them focussed and their legs at a steady cadence.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I am, for the time being at least, back up to fitness. I’ve been seizure-free for just over two weeks and while I know they will come back, I’m making hay while the sun shines.

I’ve been racing hard in groups again, doing long miles at the weekends and joining our regular Wednesday night 10 time trial.

As long as the seizures stay at bay, I hope a fair amount of the next 10 days before my forthcoming MRI scan can be spent in the saddle.

Unknown-1Indeed, this weekend it’s Ventoux.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Provence to tackle one of the meanest, toughest and most legendary climbs used in the Tour de France.

The 14 mile climb (some of it over 10 percent gradient, often with a 20 mph side-wind) is so hard the 60s British cycling legend Tom Simpson keeled off his bike within a kilometre of the moonscape finish. And promptly died.

Then again, he did have a body propped up with a mix of alcohol and amphetamines. There’s a memorial to him by the side of the road where he died. It’s one that British cyclists in particular use as a staging post for that final brutal push to the top.

This Saturday the only medication my body will be absorbing will be half-a-bottle of suncream and a handful of anti-convulsant drugs.

I can’t bear the thought of having a seizure on the climb. Not because it’ll ruin the ride, but because other cyclists pushing past will assume the challenge has been too much for me and I’ve climbed off to walk.

The shame.

I don’t mind being passed by those stronger and fitter than me, as long as I’m still pushing down on the pedals.

Without seizures, I’m feeling pretty confident I’ll can roll up there at a fair pace.

UnknownLong steep climbs are a bit like time trialing. However good you are, you can usually get into a comfortable gear, point your handlebars at the finish and just grind out a rhythm to the end.

Usually that’s a rhythm that keeps you just on the threshold of your own personal hell. But it seems to work.

Something tells me Ventoux may extract from me a song somewhat slower in tempo than Bob The Builder. But can I get to the top without climbing off?

Yes I can.


IMG_0953 (1)I did the most difficult assent of Ventoux, from Bedoin, in 1hr 49 minutes. That’s pretty good by any amateur cyclists’ standards I think.

Then after a heart-stopping descent and a hearty lunch, I turned around and went back up the other side. The next morning, well I did it again. This time from the third direction.

There are three ways up the mountain… so I had to do all of them, didn’t I?

I was rewarded by some of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen on the bike. And some of the scariest hairpin bends on the way back down. All in all, an amazing trip. And not a word from Bob the Builder.


  1. As I waddle down the road, huffing and puffing, late evening because of the heat and humidity during the day here in Cyprus, taking my dog for a walk through the orchards – I shall think of you and your tremendous tenacity and wish I had even 5% of your vigour n great attitude. Am hoping that reading your blogs will somehow inspire me to greater things. Alternatively a giant kick up the arse might prove more productive? We shall see. Keep writing – when you have the time as your life is so clearly full.

    Warmest best wishes,


  2. Go for it!
    I find songs pop into my head when I’m playing golf. Some are better for your swing rhythm than others. I was originally told to sing the Blue Danube to get a slower back swing but quick swing down..da da da da dum swinging down on the dum. I went through a phase of singing monotonous children’s programme theme tunes (what’s the story balamory) but these days it’s worse… Gangnam and Beiber songs!
    Glad to hear the meds are holding those seizures at bay and you’re able to get out on your bike and enjoy the summer. Enjoy the ride.

  3. Thanks for planting that little bomb Gideon, I was out in the Cornish wilds on a big uphill section, into the wind, kept changing down then through the music on the MP3 player all I can hear is “Bob the Builder”

    Your right though good rhythm………………..

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