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The heroes of Ventoux

Ten of the insurance and legal services industries' brightest downed tools and headed for the 'Beast of Provence' last weekend in a gruelling cycle challenge up the famous Mont Ventoux. Raising over £30 000 and counting, here's the riders' story.  Please click here to visit the Premex Ventoux Just Giving site. 

Anyone following the pedal revolutions of the #Ventoux cycle team on Thursday 26th June will have been surprised to hear that having reached the top, the riders were in actual fact 'only practicing' and that the 'real toughie' was facing them 24 hours later. 

Donald Fowler and Chris Wheatley from Premex Group, Peter Thompson from BGL Group, David Bott from Bott & Co, Andrew Simcott from Michael W Halsalls Solicitors, Jonathan Scarsbrook from Irwin Mitchell, Craig Budsworth from Garvins, Stephen Hare from Aviva, Russell Atkinson from National Accident Helpline and Darren Pardon from ACM had ascended the 24km of the Ventoux via the "easier" Sault route in preparation for the 120km ride to the Beast which culminated in a 22km climb up the famous 'Bedoin' side of the mountain which exposes the riders to the full glare of the sun and famous 'Mistral' winds in what is a barren, moonlike environment. 

Having made it to the summit well inside his target time of 2 hours, Chris Wheatley was overjoyed. "My target was sub 2 hours and I managed 1.34, Andrew (Simcott) just broke 2 hours so we're delighted. The ascent from Bedoin is really really tough…the forest sections in particular are just relentless; it goes on and on at between 8-14% gradient with absolutely no respite." 

Like a stage in the Tour de France, the riders' challenge was packed with incident, although officionados will note Jon Scarsbrook and Craig Budsworth's version of the 'feeding station' had a more comfortable feel than the usual energy drinks and carbs. "It was a massive grind for everyone," adds Chris. "Jonathan and Craig took more of a leisurely cycle up and stopped at chalet Reynard for a crepe of honey and sugar; apparently it was the best crepe they have ever tasted. Donald and David were paced beautifully by Stuart up the hill - following his cadence, standing up on the pedals in unison like they were following a 'super domestique'." 

However it turned out Stuart's tactics were also slightly underhand; "He became infamous for his fabrication," adds Chris. "When Donald and David asked him 'how many km to chalet Reynard?' the answer was always 1km and like carrying two kids in the back of your car asking 'are we there yet?' the reality was always considerably more."

Anyone who has done a similar endurance event like this will know that participants will learn a great deal about themselves and Chris says the Ventoux ascent was no different. "To a man everyone has talked about this as a life changing experience - to do something that you commit to and train at like this is unbelievable, the camaraderie of being completely empty and having people around you to push you on…together with the humour when Russell got a puncture and we all cheered so we could get a rest on the way back…" 

So far the team has raised a whopping £30 000 for their chosen charities and the aim is to top this up to around the £40 000 mark by the time Chris and his comrades have finished fundraising. 

Having come back down the other side of the mountain at breakneck speeds (maximum reached was an incredible 62.9mph), the riders have agreed that 2015 will include a similar challenge. "We'll definitely do another cycling challenge," adds Donald. "I think it's proven itself a great success, raising lots of money and giving all the participants a wonderful memory that they'll take away with them forever."

Chris and Donald with the 'The Beast of Provence' in the distance

Chris and Donald 

  Chris Wheatley and Andrew Simcott at the Summit Mont Ventoux at Thursday's 'practice' event.

Chris and Simmo at summit 

 The "Ventoux Ten" before they embark on their epic cycle challenge

Group picture