A feel-good novel about friendship, romance, intrigue, and treachery. And cycling.

During the summer of 1982, a group of friends—five boys and one girl—travel to French Provence to climb the legendary Mont Ventoux on their bicycles. A tragic accident claims the life of one of them, the promising young poet, Peter. Thirty years later, the old friends return to conquer the mountain and the demons of their past. Ventoux is both a hilarious and insightful portrait of a generation and a stunningly accurate depiction of male friendship. While cycling aficionados will delight in recognizing the mountain as the scene of many classic races, Ventoux is much more—a glorious tragicomedy and homage to the importance of lifelong companionship.

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Publication date

May 14, 2019




Bert Wagendorp

Bert Wagendorp (1956) is a columnist for the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant. His novel Ventoux was proclaimed… Read more

Book Club Questions

  1. The opening quotes Petrarch: “Yes, the life which we call blessed is to be sought for on a high eminence, and strait is the way that leads to it.” How does this relate to the life of Peter in the book?
  2. How and to what extent did Laura change the friendship between Joost, Andre, and Bart?
  3. What different approaches do the five male protagonists have towards cycling, and how does that illustrate their personalities?
  4. Have you found looking at the way in which a person works or engages in a hobby a good way to find out about their personality in your own life?
  5. Bart lusts after Laura–to what extent is he used when he has sex with her before his climb up the Ventoux?
  6. To what extent does Bart drift after his friends, and when does he make his own decisions?
  7. Why is David the only friend to stay in Zutphen?
  8. The night before their second ascent, Bart and Joost have a fight. How does this catharsis relate to climbing the mountain a second time?
  9. Could this book have been written about another sport? How so, or why not?
  10. Do you cycle? If you don’t, do you think you would have had a different reading experience if you did?
  11. How would the book have looked if it had been written by Joost, Andre, or David?
  12. Did the death of Peter drive the friends apart? How would relations between the six main characters develop if he had survived?
  13. How do the different characters understand Peters death? Do they believe he chose to die?
  14. What would the conclusion that a friend chose to die do to the remaining group of friends? Would it make them pull together, or drive them apart?


“Wagendorp’s book manages to be funny, shrewd and moving, with a complex structure that never feels cumbersome, and a finale so intense that you want to read it very slowly, almost one word at a time.” —The Guardian

“Wise, funny, eminently quotable.” —Kirkus

“Bert Wagendorp keeps his readers firmly in tow in this glorious tragicomedy about friendship.” —De Morgen

“Where the novel succeeds most is in its wonderful blend of humor, suspense and poignancy, which will appeal to non-cyclists as well as those of us who understand what it takes to scale a mountain as evocative, daunting and symbolic as Mont Ventoux.” —FELIX LOWE, author of Climbs & Punishment

“Hilarious, stirring, feel-good” —NRC Handelsblad