IT was the drug-fuelled race that went down as one of the most exciting – and notorious – in cycling history.

Ventoux is the name of the most daunting mountain encountered on the Tour de France, as well as being the scene of the famous story of Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani battling it out to win the race. Both champions in their own right – Pantani winning the Tour de France in 1998, and Armstrong winning in 1999 – the pair went head-to-head on Mont Ventoux in 2000.

The two cyclists crossed the finish line together, with Pantani taking the win, but their careers very quickly spiralled in different directions: Armstrong went on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles, while Pantani died four years later from a cocaine overdose.

Years later, we now know that both Armstrong and Pantani were guilty of doping during their careers, but while Armstrong continued to deny, lie, and cheat his way to success, Pantani paid the ultimate price.

The story of these two rivals has fascinated Tom Barnes, from 2Magpies Theatre, since he started getting into the Tour de France in 2012.

He said: “This was the sort of time when a lot of the Lance Armstrong stuff was becoming public. So I was looking back at that story with a very different lens knowing everything we now know about doping. That really changed the colour of it and the way people used to talk about it at the time was very different to the way people were talking about it then.

“That was when it became interesting and I started thinking about their different styles and traits but also the similarities in their lives which led them to that point – and then how everything changed straight afterwards.”

It was all those ingredients which made Tom, who is the show’s director, think he could turn the story into a theatre production for his Nottingham-based company 2Magpies.

He added: “It became a theatre show relatively quickly in my head but I really didn’t think anybody would want to watch it.

“So at first I didn’t mention it to anybody but then when I did people said they were interested.

“After that it came about quite quickly and now it’s doing its third tour of the UK.”

Alex Gatehouse will play Armstrong and Matt Seager will play Pantani in a show that will use road bikes mounted onto turbo trainers and a video accompaniment to give a sense of that intense race.

Ventoux is an hour which is similar to the time taken by the two cyclists to ascend the mountain.

And the production will also look back to moments in Armstrong and Pantani’s lives leaving the audience to make up their own minds about who the ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ is as more information is revealed.

Tom said: “I actually defended Armstrong a bit longer than most people did because he overcame other obstacles in his life and he still was an incredible cyclist, doping or no doping.

“But what really changed my mind was how he reacted to the allegations. He was a pretty awful person in terms of his demeanour around it all. One of the things in Ventoux is the way that despite doing very similar things Pantani and Armstrong are treated so differently now.

“One is pretty revered and the other is the grand villain of professional cycling but the lines are really grey. They are perceived to be so different but their actions were similar so I think that’s where the most interesting bit of it comes from.”

Ventoux was first put on stage in May 2015. Tom used to play Pantani then and got the added bonus of getting in shape.

He added: “After a six show week it is exhausting. When we did it at Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago we did 18 shows in 18 days and I lost a frightening amount of weight and gained quite a lot of new leg muscles.”

Ventoux is at the Pyramid on Saturday. Visit or call 442345