French Renaissance by Jeremy Whittle

French Renaissance by Jeremy Whittle

Author:Jeremy Whittle [Whittle, Jeremy]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK


‘The Ventoux is a riddle, an elusive summit whose obsessive power and whiff of tragedy addle the mind.’



Marseille, 13 July 1967

It’s been baking hot the past few days, as we came down through the Alps, to the coast. I’ve struggled to cope with it, if I’m honest. My guts have been playing up again and I’ve had a rotten stomach. It always seems to get to me. It’s even worse this morning, here in Marseille – boiling hot and bloody smelly by the old port.

I know some of the lads are worried about the heat today, up on the Ventoux. Now the press are all making it into a big thing. They keep asking me about it – ‘Can you handle it, Tom? How will you cope, Tom?’ – and that’s not great for the morale.

They keep banging on about Malléjac in 1955. Apparently, he had a bit of a turn halfway up and got carted off in an ambulance. But I know what’s coming and I’m ready. I’ve taken care of myself. Most of us have. The Ventoux’s the last place you want to come up short, especially in this heat.

It’s the same for everyone, though, isn’t it? I mean, everyone’s knackered and the heat just makes it worse. Nobody’s looking forward to it. It’s lucky Barry’s here, because I know I can lean on him. We try and have a laugh, mucking about for the snappers. We’ve been messing about on boats this morning. That’s where the bowler hat comes in! Keeps your mind off what’s ahead too.

I’m still not quite right though so it’ll be tough, but if I get over Ventoux, then I will have ticked off the worst of what’s to come. I know I can still get higher up the classification. We’ve got the Puy de Dôme, just before the final weekend. It’s a steep finish, but that won’t be anything like as bad as today.

Mind you, you should never take anything for granted. It was chaos this morning. We’d just got out of Marseille, through some little village, when a dog ran into the road and took half the lads down. Later on, I heard Gimondi lost Mugnaini from his team. You don’t want to see a lad quit like that, of course, but that’s good for my chances, even if it’s bad for his.

By lunchtime, we were all burning up. There’s all those scrubby little hills and narrow roads through old villages, no air and hardly any shade – Lourmarin, Roussillon and then bombing down the Col de Murs – before you get back down to the plain. That’s when you can see the Ventoux, up close.

Forty-two degrees, they told us, when we got through Carpentras. The lads were all grabbing what they could to drink along the way, from bars, fountains, hosepipes. Colin picked up what he could and passed it over. But in that heat, it was never enough.

I knew Poulidor would fancy it on the Ventoux.


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