A cursory survey of yacht crews would reveal a surprising number of keen cyclists. The reason is, perhaps, obvious: with limited opportunities to work out on board, a road bike is a portable exercise machine that can be stowed away in the tender garage.
Compositeworks, the superyacht refit yard in La Ciotat near Marseilles, has cottoned onto this fact and, for the last three years, organised a gathering of friends in the yachting industry to ride Mont Ventoux, the barren peak in Provence famous for testing the mettle of pro riders in the Tour de France.
European Editor, Justin Ratcliffe and Italian Account Manager, Luciano Aglioni were invited to the third edition of the Compositeworks Mont Ventoux Challenge from May 21-22 for a weekend of cycling interspersed with wining and dining.
Participants in the Compositeworks Mont Ventoux Challenge 2016 celebrate at the top.
"We organised the first event in 2014 as a social get-together among colleagues in the industry who enjoy cycling,” explained Compositeworks director Rob Papworth. “The occasion gathered pace from there, but any networking that might come out of it is definitely secondary to just relaxing and having fun among friends.”
Compositeworks director, Rob Papworth delivers a pep talk to the riders.
There are three ways up the 'Windy Mount', but the classic Bedoin route is the most (in)famous. At just over 21km, it involves a climb of 1,620m with an average gradient of 7.9 per cent.
Chris Froome did it in 58 mins in 2013; Tommy Simpson died doing it in 1967. The fittest amateur riders in the Mont Ventoux Challenge managed the gruelling climb in under two hours; the less committed (one of whom chose to ride in boat shoes!) arrived at the top up to an hour later.
Justin Ratcliffe (top) and Luciano Aglioni with the summit in their sights.
A couple of hardy souls even completed a triple ascent known as 'The Evil Beast' that takes in all three routes up the mountain—Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault.
“It was mentally harder than I thought it would be,” said a weary Steve Branagh of RSB Rigging Solutions in Palma de Mallorca, following his triple climb. "Cycling is huge among yachties, so this event is perfect and I certainly hope I’m invited back next year!”
Steve Branagh of RSB Rigging (pictured with his wife Kate) halfway through his triple ascent.