Tag Archives: mont ventoux

The Death of Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson is a British cycling legend. He was the first Brit to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, first to win the World Championship rode race, and won several Spring Classics and Vuelta a España stages. He died in 1967 on the 13th stage of the Tour de France, while climbing the Mont Ventoux. A potent combination of amphetamines and alcohol in his system allowed him to literally ride himself to death.

In 2010, BBC produced an hour long documentary about Simpson called Death on the Mountain. It not only looks at the fateful 1967 tour, but Simpson’s escape from poverty through cycling, his rise to fame, and the circumstances that lead to his unfortunate death. The program is filled with interviews with Simpson’s teammates and competitors and excellent footage of professional races from that era.

Paul Rozelle’s 24-hour, pre-PBP, fixed-gear, Mont Ventoux ride

Paul Rozelle on one of four ascents of Mont Ventoux. Photo from Picasa.

Mont Ventoux is one of cycling’s great monuments. The highest peak in Provence, it’s been featured 18 times in the history of the Tour de France and the source of high drama and tragedy. Every year, the mountain draws huge numbers of recreational cyclists wanting to test themselves on the climb and connect with a tangible piece of cycling history. This year, Paul Rozelle joined those ranks and tackled the mountain as well.

Rozelle is an American randonneur. He traveled to France this summer to ride Paris-Brest-Paris and decided to take a side trip to Mont Ventoux three days before the start of PBP. Rather than simply ride it once, Rozelle rode each of the three roads and the unpaved fire road that lead to the summit in order to earn a medal that the Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux awards for doing so. Adding to the extraordinary difficulty, Rozelle rode the whole thing on the only bike he’d brought for PBP, his fixed gear. Three days after completing the Mont Ventoux challenge, Rozelle went on to ride PBP in 80:01!

Rozelle wrote a great ride report on a randonneuring Google Groups listserv about his experience on Ventoux. He graciously gave me permission to republish the story here along with some photos he took that day. The report is long, so I’ve added links below to the start of each “chapter” to help you navigate and/or pick up where you left off if you don’t read it all in one sitting. Enjoy!

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