“The giant of Provence”
The Mont Ventoux culminates at 1 912m (6 270 feet) and dominates the landscape for miles around. The ascension is around 21km, (13 miles), and an accomplished cyclist can do it in 2 hours. It has been featured 16 times in the Tour de France and is known as one of the most difficult climbs on the tour. Indeed, there have been some tragedies over the years making the Ventoux something of a legend and on every avid cyclist’s bucket list.
A complete contrast of landscape on your cycling holiday in Provence
The foot of the Ventoux is surrounded by well-known wine making villages such as Gigondas, Sablet, Suzette and Beaumes de Venise and vineyards blanket the landscape as far as the eye can see. The climb up to the summit is at first alongside forests of beech, fir and pine trees before reaching the final 6km where the landscape can only be described as lunar. The summit is completely covered by a scree due to the repeated action of freezing and thawing, which has caused the limestone to break up into loams. The contrast is remarkable!
How to climb the Mont Ventoux?
There are 3 roads leading up to the summit, from Bedoin, Malaucène and Sault. Our Provence cycling trip to the Mont Ventoux starts in Bedoin which is considered the toughest climb. The road is fairly narrow in parts and the ascension steep. A large part of the road runs alongside the forest. The road up from Malaucène is much wider and offers stunning views over the forests and valley. Sault is considered the easiest climb of the three, it is the longest and steadiest climb with the lowest elevation gain. Cycling fanatics around the world like to set themselves the challenge of completing all 3 routes in one day. This adds up to 137km (85 miles) and a 4 520m (14 830 feet) elevation gain… and some serious leg muscles!
There are many factors to consider on your self-guided cycling trip before embarking on the ascent, it is no simple matter of ‘just heading off’.
1. The sun. In the heat of the summer, there is very little shade along the way and although the temperature goes down the higher you climb it can be very challenging in the Provencal heat. If you are planning on a summer cycling trip in Provence, then you need to head off very early to avoid the midday heat.
2. The wind. It is in the name ‘Mont Ventoux’ vent = wind. The wind blows around 240 days of the year at the summit, and this makes it seem much colder in temperature.
3. The mist or fog. Clouds often gather at the summit and remain stuck there. Visibility can be little to none on some days and can be dangerous when cycling up.
4. Tourists. It is a popular haunt in the region and the roads can get very busy with other cyclists, walkers and motorists making their way up and down the mountain.
Today the Mont Ventoux allows for many villages to prosper from its popularity. The Ventoux is a must-see sight on your Provence cycling holiday, even if you don’t fancy the climb itself, you, literally, cannot miss it!