Spires Mountain Madness

On 31 st May, four Spires veterans set off to attempt the famous Mont Ventoux Challenge – three
ascents from three different villages, undertaken in one day. The white topped barren mountain
stands alone in Provence at 1909m high, it is visible from the Mediterranean 50 miles away. The
3 surrounding village heights range from 650m to 787m and the combination of the 3 routes give
a total climb of 4400m over 85 miles. With mid-day temperatures reaching close to 30 degrees,
this was going to be a grueling challenge. However after an early 7.30am start and a punishing
full day in the saddle, the Spires veterans were victorious; ascending the white limestone summit
three times to become Northern Ireland’s newest members of the elite Ventoux Cingles Club.

The following day, after a long drive through snow capped mountains, the group arrived in Bourg
d’Oisans at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. The next morning’s iconic climb awaited. With its 21
hairpin bends along an 8.5 mile climb at 7.9%, Alpe d’Huez features regularly in the Tour de
France, yet this famous climb proved more manageable than Mont Ventoux. All 21 bends were
slowly ticked off and an elated group crossed the finish line in the small ski town at the summit of
the climb. As both spirits and energy levels were high, an additional climb – the Col de Sarenne
was fitted in before a scenic descent across the dam at Lac du Chambon and back to base.

The Croix de Fer, which will feature in Stage 12 of this years Tour, presented the group with their
final challenge. With a 25 mile climb of 1729m of ascent up to the Col at 2067m, this giant
proved more difficult than Alpe d’Huez. Moreover, as weather conditions worsened, the cold,
sodden ascent became particularly arduous. However the summit was eventually conquered and
after a perilous descent, on wet slippery roads, the group could relax with a well earned,
celebratory pint. Next day it was time to cram 4 bike boxes back into the van and head home.