The climb up Mount Ventoux is legendary among cyclists and Tour de France obsessives. It’s a punishing 12-mile ascent, rising 1,500m to the summit. On Sunday, Britain’s Chris Froome smashed it to be crowned reigning King of the Mountains (KOM) and increase his overall Tour lead.
But it’s Laurens ten Dam, who came in one minute and 53 seconds after Froome, who came away as “virtual KOM”. This new, highly unofficial ranking came about after the Dutch cyclist uploaded details of his ascent to the Strava mobile app. Strava, as The Independent reported on 4 July, is an increasingly popular way for riders to use their phone’s GPS or a bike computer to upload rides and compare times with others, but is it really fair for professionals like ten Dam to grab all the glory? I mean, it seems a bit much that he’s KoM ahead of 4,000 other (mainly) mortal riders. He knocked off the ride in 58min 17sec, while the slowest on Strava took five hours. It’s just not cricket.
Take me for example. This weekend I cruised from London to Brighton as part of the British Heart Foundation’s excellent yearly night ride. With a car-free road I managed to nab 391st place out of 948 previous Strava riders on the gruelling Devil’s Dyke climb. I say gruelling – it’s only 2.6 miles long with a 70m ascent but took me 13min 44sec and I’d be bloody angry if some pro came sailing past my time. The current KOM is a local lad called Peter Morris from Lewes Wanderers Cycle Club. His time is an astonishing 7min 57sec but I assume, like me, he has a day job. I might be way off his pace but at least I’m not trying to compete with a superhuman Tour de France rider.