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 http://football.fanhouse.co.uk.
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.