A YOUNG cyclist from Leamington has followed in the tyre tracks of his hero Chris Froome.
Nine-year-old Ben Machin has been determined to cycle up Mont Ventoux in France ever since watching Froome on his way to victory in the 2013 Tour de France.
The Brookhurst School pupil had hoped to complete the fearsome 22 kilometre climb last summer but was prevented from doing so after he broke his arm.
And having prepared hard over the past year – cycling the hills of Wales and increasing his distances up to 100 kilometres – he finally got the chance to make the climb in the south of France this summer.
Many regard Mont Ventoux as the hardest of all the mythical Tour de France climbs – with the summit at 1,912 metres.
The mountain achieved notoriety when it claimed the life of the English cyclist Tom Simpson who died there in 1967 from a combination of a stomach upset, heat exhaustion, and amphetamines.
Setting out from Bedoin – the very same route used in the tour since 1951 – Ben and his dad made it to the eight kilometres point before Ben’s legs started to ache and he felt sick.
Even though his dad Richard reassured him it was better to try and fail, than to never try, the youngster was determined to continue and took a short rest before continuing.
Ben said: “I remembered Chris Froome never gave up so I got on my bike and carried on. I never stopped again and came out of the forest and onto the final climb.
“So many people cheered me along and spoke as I was climbing and lots of cars slowed down and shouted ‘Allez, Allez’ out of the windows – it was amazing!
“The last two kilometres past the Tom Simpson Memorial and up to the summit were really hard and I was out of my saddle for the whole time.”
They took in the sights at the summit briefly before heading back down and Ben clocked a speed of 74kmph on the descent.
Wearing his favourite Froome Team Sky top, Ben’s reward for persevering was a big ice cream and a cold drink.
The youngster has his sights set on one day competing in the Tour de France – so he could well face the climb once again sometime in the future.