Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp tells a story of five friends nearing fifty who return to Mont Ventoux 30 years after their first trip when an accident claimed the life of one of the original six (five boys and one girl) while descending Mont Ventoux. It’s a fictional cycling story with camaraderie, romance, love, intrigue and treachery as well as of course cycling and riding Mont Ventoux.
Ventoux is written in nonlinear style jumping back and forward between the present, and the friends school years with Bart Hoffman as the narrator, he’s one of the original three with Joost and Peter to climb Mont Ventoux while the others drove behind in support. Bart Hoffman is influenced by Tim Krabbe’s The Rider as well as Tom Simpson’s death on Mont Ventoux, it’s one of the reasons for the journey and forms some of the background of the story.
Although the story is fiction there is more than enough to keep cycling fans interested with references constantly being made to cycling history with the Tour de France, Alpe d’Huez and Galibier, there is mention of Italian frame-builder Dario Pegoretti and the jazz played while he crafts his frames, famous brands like Raleigh and Bianchi, and more modern brands like Rapha are intertwined into the story.
Mont Ventoux features in this years Tour de France as stage 12 on Bastille Day, there’s a nice little passage comparing what the writer thinks of the Tours of previous decades to now.
“He put the television on. We saw a peloton riding past fields of Sunflowers.
‘Boring Tour’, I said. “The Dutch have given up and the Brits have sent a computer-driven team. According to the pro-gramme, Wiggins must win, so that’s what will happen’, André stood and watched for a moment. ‘They don’t take enough drugs, nowadays. In the past, they swallowed something and went onto the attack, but that’s not allowed anymore”
And another one the MAMIL’s will like, it’s from the second half of the book on the return to Mont Ventoux after 30 years.
“Great, isn’t it? There are not many things you can do better at 50 than 20, but cycling is one – at least if you smoke and drink a lot when you’re 20 and live like a monk when you’re 50.”
Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp was a best seller in the Netherlands and was then made into a movie and subsequently translated into English by Paul Vincent.
My thought on Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp?
Quite brilliant, I read the first 50 pages one night and the next day was raining so I read the rest in one sitting, only stopping to eat and drink. Time just flew while I was reading it and the middle section I just couldn’t read fast enough, it’s an action packed exciting book.
It’s not a book that’s going to tell you how to ride up Mont Ventoux, it’s not a book that will tell you the history of cycling on Mont Ventoux. What it tells is a story of friends and their bond with one another set to a backdrop of bikes, cycling and Mont Ventoux. It’s a book I could quite easily hand to non-cyclists and know they will love it as well.
I highly recommend Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp.
Take a look at our cycling books page for more cycling book reviews as well as other cycling books I have read.