By Penny Martinelli
Cycling Mont Ventoux should be on the bucket list of every avid cyclist. It’s the highest mountain in Provence, and because it’s isolated from other mountains of the same size, it’s one of the most prominent geographical features in northern Provence. You can access the top of Mont Ventoux by road, from where you can enjoy the spectacular views of Provence and Rhône valley, the southern Alps, and even the Pyrenees when the air is clear.
If you plan on cycling Mont Ventoux, here’s everything you need to know.
Where to Start
Mont Ventoux has three distinct cycling routes. The most popular of all these is from Bedoin, a lovely little village sandwiched between Mont Ventoux and the city of Carpentras. It’s a Classic Tour de France route, where the famous British cyclist Tom Simpson died due to heat exhaustion during Tour de France in 1967. You will find a memorial stand dedicated to him in the area. Starting in Bedoin, the ascent to Mont Ventoux is 21.4 km long. At this distance, you’ll be climbing vertically at 1,639 metres. Despite the extreme challenges, it has become a bucket-list ride for any cyclist.
If you want a more manageable way to climb Mont Ventoux, consider starting the journey from Sault, a little village on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley with blooming lavender fields. While it is not as demanding as the route from Bedoin, it still poses some challenges. The road from Sault is moderately challenging, and the last push in Chalet Renard is the most difficult.
If you are not yet too confident to take on difficult bike paths, take the route from Sault before attempting the more challenging way from Bédoin. This area is protected from much of the wind, which you will likely encounter during your ascent through Bédoin.
The Best Time to Visit
Mont Ventoux is accessible for most of the year, and that’s one of the advantages of cycling this mountain. But there are specific climbing seasons, depending on which area you will climb. If you are climbing through the Southern side, the best time is from April to November. Meanwhile, the best time to climb Mont Ventoux through the northern side is in the middle of May. However, it’s worth noting that the season can still be unpredictable. If you can, plan your climb between May and September to have a higher chance of good weather suitable for climbing.
Generally, the best time to visit Ventoux and its surrounding areas is in June, while the weather is still hot, and the lavender fields look and smell amazing. Also, the roads are not too busy with families on school holidays during this time.
Deciding on the best time to cycle Mont Ventoux will depend on your priorities. The weather in the region is changeable regardless of the time of the year, so it is best to check the weather forecast before you set out with your cycling adventure.
What to Expect
The fame of Ventoux does not just come from its length or height. But from something much more. It’s a climb that could test you to the very core. The landscape is wild, and the weather can be unpredictable. Mont Ventoux is part of cycling folklore and is on the bucket list of almost every cyclist.
A typical Mont Ventoux cycling trip is short and can be possible over a weekend. The most common route is from Bedoin, which requires a 21 km ascent to the summit. Your cycling holiday will pay homage to the famous Tour de France bike race. But on your cycling holiday, you will not be on a race, and your achievement will be measured by how you finish each climb. And instead of hordes of spectators, you will be cheered on by your cycling companions and your guide.
As one of the world’s top destinations for cycling, organising a cycling trip to France is easy since many tour companies can arrange the trip on your behalf. In fact, you will find some great places that offer cycling holidays to Mont Ventoux. It’s the perfect option for those looking to take the planning out of the trip.
Most of the cycling climb to Mont Ventoux starts from Bedoin, a small village in the heart of Provence. The first section is an easy warm-up climb. You will ride for about 3.5km, passing through a hamlet of Sainte Colombe before arriving at the St Estève bend. When you get to St Estève, the route will slowly kick up, and this is where the tough climb begins. It will not end until you reach the weather station at the top of Ventoux.
The route to Mont Ventoux will send you to a thick forest, where the climb can get mentally tough. However, there won’t be any distractions since there will only be trees on both sides.
When you reach the tip of the forest, you will find the famous Chalet Reynard, which used to be a mountain refuge and is now a restaurant. It’s the perfect place to grab snacks and water before you conquer the last 6km.
How to Ride Mont Ventoux
Cycling Mont Ventoux is not your typical mountain biking adventure. You must battle the mountain’s physical nature and some elements since you will deal with different weather conditions.
If you are up for the challenge, prepare well for the battle. You should develop a serious amount of mental focus as you ride. The first 10 kilometres of the journey will not relent, and there’s very little to take your mind away.
Cycling Mont Ventoux is an almighty climb unless you have done it several times. Tackle the ride at a manageable pace, and do not push yourself too aggressively.
Put your bike in low gear and get your legs spinning at the start. Wear a heart rate monitor if you train with it to determine how your body is faring while climbing Mont Ventoux.
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