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A lifetime’s ambition fulfilled

Posted on 8 August 2009 | 4:08pm

Forgive the utter self-indulgence of this being my first blog in quite a while, and possibly the last for another little while as I rediscover proper holidays.

There are all sorts of things I could have written about – Vladimir Putin’s latest strip-show, Silvio Berlusconi’s observation that he loves women – I think we kind of got that one, the latest disappearance from view of the Tory Party, the annual silly season nonsense around the ‘who’s in charge of the country?’ question (answer: the Prime Minister), the interesting comments by the next head of the Army on the long-term nature of the campaign in Afghanistan (just read The Bookseller of Kabul by the way – excellent book.)

Talking of books, I got an email on Facebook this morning from a woman who said my novel, All In The Mind, had led her to reject cocaine. I was pleased about that, and also able to tell her I have never been offered cocaine in my life. Sheltered existence? Don’t think so. But I have actually never even seen cocaine, other than in films.

Anyway, it is none of the above that brings me back to the blogosphere. It is not even football. I have been doing a bit of that anyway, having signed up to write a weekly column on Burnley for the new AOL website

No, the lifetime’s ambition referred to above, on Twitter and on Facebook, is that as of today I am able to say I have cycled up all three routes to the summit of Mont Ventoux. Not in the same day, which some real cycling crazies do, but in my own time, at my own pace, and with an enormous sense of satisfaction.

I chose the Sault route as the last of the three. It is the easiest. But I surprised myself and my son Rory, who gave me a start of almost an hour, in making it up in 1hr 47 minutes, half an hour longer than he took, but having got there first I have declared myself the winner. I overtook 21 other cyclists, was overtaken by two. Rory is now trying to renegotiate the terms of a race we had planned next week involving the two more difficult sides, from Bedoin and Malaucene respectively. (Best time on those  so far a rather embarrassing 2hrs 30, but Rory clearly thinks on the back of today’s performance that new Personal Bests are looming.)

Many thanks to Maria Callas for helping me through some of the trickier climbs. I have been using Fiona’s rather more cultured iPod and since our night out at the opera in Orange have been using Nelly Furtado and Akon when  going nice and steady, but opera for really tough hills.

Thanks too to another Facebook friend, Craig Entwhistle, who runs a cycling holiday firm called Veloventoux from nearby Faucon and has been full of good advice on technique and training routes. Thanks to the man in Cavaillon who rented us bikes almost as good as the ones we use at home. Thanks to the Belgian motor cyclist who took photos of us at the top. Thanks to Cathy Gilman at Leukaemia Research for getting me into cycling in the first place. Thanks to Eddy Merckx for signing my cycling shoes – it’s amazing how a quick glance at his name can help spur me on. Thanks to Fiona for the lunch that awaited our return.

This is beginning to sound like a Kate Winslet Oscar acceptance speech when all I did was ride a bike up a very steep hill to the top of a beautiful mountain, so I’ll stop now.

As for Putin’s pecs, yeah well fine, not bad for a man of his age. But has he cycled up all three routes to the summit of Mont Ventoux? No, didn’t think so.

  • Alina Palimaru

    Congratulations!! Keep up the sport and enjoy the rest of the vacation!!

  • Paul Mills

    Am jealous … have done Bedoin but not the other two. Sault tends to be forgotten, I guess because the start is higher above sea level alresdy but you still have that horror 6k after Chalet Reynard. so well done

  • Cassie

    I thought Putin looked absurd. Talk about trying too hard to come over as the strongman!

  • Charles Weller

    Come on, silly season or not, you have to admit the Harriet Mandelson saga is funny

  • Ann

    Well done on the cycling, enjoy the rest of your holiday and although I’m not a real fan of football hope you enjoy writing your weekly column.

  • botogol

    well done

  • Viviane King

    I hadn’t realised how much I had missed the blog until you popped up again today. Enjoy Provence.

  • George Woodhouse

    I gather that Mr Putin is not to be outdone by you Alastair and is even now making plans for the assault on Mont Ventoux riding a unicycle – backwards!

  • Bunny Smedley

    How I love it when heterosexual men have the sense to ‘get’ Maria Callas! I have spent much of this summer listening to her 1960 La Scala performance of Poliuto, loaned to me by a (straight, male) friend – absolute magic – there’s enough charisma there to help anyone up all sorts of mountains, literal or otherwise.

  • Simon Gittins

    I think most are of the opinion that the Prime Minister isn’t even in charge of his own party, let alone the country !

  • alex

    I suspect that were Putin actually bothered to engage in sporting rivalry with a buffoon like Campbell he would, despite his age, wipe the flaw with AC in most sports. He trained in judo to a fairly high standard in his younger days (he was on the fringes of the Soviet Judo Squad – which would make him European class) and was a natural athlete by all accounts; no amount of therapy induced training in middle age (not to forget boring us to death about your very modest achievements in the Times) can compete with proper sports conditioning from an early age.

    ‘Forgive the utter self-indulgence’…. Yawn – that is what blogging is you cretin. Perhaps you could do us all a favour and remain on holiday permanently rather than poisioning the blogosphere you numpty.

  • Watch Metheor Shower

    Very nice.
    I could tell you similiar story.
    Will you look at metheor shower this night?
    I read it will be great show.

  • gary Enefer

    Why so much anger Alex? Thank you for helping me to forgive such outbursts on this blog you poor thing.

    No one is forcing you to blog. AC was entertaining us in a light hearted discussion about cycling the mountain and Putin’s photo.

    AC,look forward to hearing from you.


  • alex

    Gary – not sure why you believe you need to play the role of forgiver here or what exactly it is that needs to be forgiven by you, but crack on if thats what you like to do.

    Not so much angry at AC, (I’ll leave that to others with more direct cause to be), as bemused by AC and his enormous ego. If I had behaved as he had done whilst looking after TB’s interests I would have withdrawn from public life (including the blogosphere) in shame. Each to their own I guess.

  • Thomas Rossetti

    Congratulations Alastair! I’m generally not a big fan of yours, but this is a considerable achievement. I’m happy to put aside any differences I may have with you to give credit where it’s due.

  • gary Enefer


    AC has been the strategist,for better or for worse , of our time. He has also made up for any doubts,shortcomings , egocentricity,by raising money and awareness for Cancer. he could have ‘ retired’.

    Yes , he does have a huge ego but he has done a lot of good. you are also good.

    best wishes


  • Eddie Truman

    “But I have actually never even seen cocaine, other than in films.”
    I have to say I’m very surprised Alastair, you have obviously led an extremely sheltered life, some may say totally removed from reality.
    Not really qualified as any kind informed commentator on drugs then.
    Having said that, I don’t believe you.

  • Ben

    I’m with the guy below on the drugs thing. The Minister (or is it Tsar) responsible for drugs always makes the point they have never tried them. Surely that’s not a good thing.

    Would we want an education minister who had never tried school/exams/college etc?