Riding Mont Ventoux Wasn’t My Plan
Sitting in the north of the Vaucluse, on the border with the Drome, Mont Ventoux dominates the skyline. This mountain, with its white-scree summit, is an iconic landmark and its profile is instantly recognizable from afar, even as far away as the Camargue. Mont Ventoux can be seen from many places around the department.
The Giant of Provence rises to over 1900 metres (it’s been as high as 1912 m and as low as 1909m since we arrived). Many believe the name Ventoux relates to the severity of the winds at the summit, which is understandable, as they can reach incredible speeds, even causing the Tour de France stage finish to be changed 5 years ago, due to the dangerous wind speeds (and that was in mid-July). Continue reading here to see Julie’s photos and learn about her unplanned ride up Mont Ventoux.
Riding Mont Ventoux
There are three routes up this impressive mountain, often featured in the Tour de France. Starting in Sault, Bédoin or Malaucène, all three roads lead to the Mont Ventoux summit at 1909m. The peak is considered by many riders to be one of the hardest climbs they ever do.
The Sault route is considered the easiest, but at 26km, it is also the longest of the three rides. The total elevation is 1147m at an average grade of 4.7%. Riders on this route merge with cyclists climbing from Bédoin at Chalet Reynard.
The Bédoin start is the preferred route for the Tour de France circuit, most likely because of the ability to organise media, emergency and other services at Chalet Reynard. The bald, rocky top of the mountain from this side provides a striking background for the TV coverage. The town is located at 300m above sea level, from there to the top is 21.5 km, a total climb of 1609m at an average grade of 7.5%.
The climb from Malaucène is technically slightly shorter and a bit less steep than the route from Bédoin. However, there is no break at Chalet Reynard and no visibility of the summit, so essentially, it is a heads-down climb for 21km, 1535m and over an average grade of 7.3%.
Some cyclists are crazy enough (and fit enough) to complete all three ascents in a day.
10 Cycling Tips for Mont Ventoux
- Don’t start too fast. All three routes (Bédoin, Malaucène and Sault) include over 20km of climbing. It’s best to set a pace you can live with and ride.
- Carry lots of water and snacks. It’s a big effort. You will need the fuel.
- To stop or not. This is a personal choice, but getting restarted on a hill is tough. Just sayin’.
- Chalet Reynard is 6km from the top and the place where many who ride from either Bédoin or Sault stop to regroup, buy a snack or use the washroom. There is also a large parking area for buses or support vehicles.
- If it’s windy, do NOT go. There is a reason this mountain is called Mont Ventoux (vent = wind). Even Tour de France riders are prevented from reaching the summit.
- Take an extra layer. It can be cold at the top at 1909 metres and even colder on the way down once you have cooled off.
- Bédoin is the classic route of the Tour de France. Much of the ride is in the trees, which is a benefit in sweltering weather. This ascent is considered to be the hardest.
- Malaucène is the same length as Bédoin, and for many, this route is psychologically harder with a section of straight 12% grade. Additionally, on this slope, you do not have the option of stopping at Chalet Reynard, so there is no break.
- Sault this route is 26km in total, longer than the other two but more gradual in grade. In Paula’s words, “It starts in the wonderfully beautiful lavender meadows, it smells good, and it’s a much easier pitch. It’s longer but by far the most agreeable for any newbies.”
- Have fun and take your picture at the top.