Cyclo-therapy: 'The ‘Géant de Provence’ is synonymous with broken men. Even Armstrong calls it tough'

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The Independent Online

The other day, Lance Armstrong picked up his children from school in his Texas hometown, where it was raining. How do I know this boring fact? Because the cancer-beating cyclist is a prolific "lifecaster" with 730,000 followers on the micro-blogging site Twitter. On the day of writing, I also know he voted in local elections and, slightly more interestingly, was interviewed by Michael J Fox.

Of course, Lance also "tweets" about cycling. Here's a recent post from Aspen, where Team Armstrong has a house: "Kids = skiing. Dad = biking". A photo of the clan in the snow shows kids in ski jackets but dad wearing winter bike gear. Admirable stuff.

On the same day, I too was in the mountains but had downed wheels for a week's skiing. Fine, I hear you say, I don't have sponsors who forbid leg-breaking sports. And anyway, I'm not training for the Tour de France. But, wait, I am.

Well, sort of. On 20 July, I'm taking part in the Tour's amateur stage, L'Etape du Tour. Five days before the pros get their chance, thousands of masochistic all-comers will pedal up the fearsome Mont Ventoux.

The "Géant de Provence", which rises out of lavender fields to finish in a barren moonscape of sunbaked limestone, is synonymous with sweat and broken men. It's where the British cyclist Tom Simpson died in 1967, and even Armstrong calls it the toughest climb on the Tour.

I'll be cycling as part of the four-man Team Independent. Readers of the cyclotherapy blog (link below) have followed our early preparation for the 107-mile slog with its summit finish.

Now our date with destiny is alarmingly close. That's why I felt like I, too, should have been grinding up mountains, leaving the family to ski down them.

I got back in one piece but a ride the following day confirmed my fears – why does skiing seem to do nothing for bike fitness? Not helped by a cold picked up at a French youth hostel, I was forced to cut short a piddling Kent circuit.

It's going to take some Lance-like dedication to be ready for the Ventoux. It's a good thing the ski season's over. From now on – no excuses. or see