Classic Climbs of France, Day 4, Mont Ventoux

Alan Gilbert
4 min readJun 26

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This is part of a series of posts from my cycling trip to France to experience the “classic climbs” of the French Pyrénées, Alps, and Mont Ventoux.

Today’s Ride

Our Provence region rides, today’s in red

Highlights

Today’s ride was a very special one — Mont Ventoux. The Mont Ventoux climb (from Bédoin) is a classic ride known for several things, including a grueling climb, its rocky landscape, wind, and extreme temperatures. Fortunately for us, the temperatures were mild — about 60 degrees at the top — the skies were overcast, and the winds were manageable, with a tailwind in the last few miles! Mont Ventoux, a.k.a “The Beast of Provence,” has been featured in the Tour de France 17 times since 1951. Here is a look at the climb, courtesy of Wikipedia. Even with good weather, the climb was still brutal.

A KM by KM look at the climb up Mount Ventoux

For me, a key to success was to find a pace that I could sustain indefinitely. One mental device I like to use is to think “assume I will be doing this for the rest of my life.” That way I don’t think too much about how much is left or “are we almost at the top?” I used the word “brutal” above, but of course it really was thrilling, beautiful, and a lot of fun. There were hundreds and hundreds of cyclists making their way up to the top, or flying back down to Bédoin.

The climb falls naturally into three sections: a milder stretch (4–6% grade) out of town, a steeper series of switchbacks (9–11%) through a forest with limited views, and the last third above the tree line, with more steep switchbacks (7–10% grade) with clear views of the top. So close, yet so far away.

We spent only a few minutes at the top of Mont Ventoux, because it was very windy and a great lunch awaited us at the bottom of the descent. It was also quite crowded, mostly with an enthusiastic group of Dutch cyclists. And the descent was incredible. Perfect, dry conditions, 10–15% grade, many straight sections, and 180-degree hairpin turns. I believe I hit my top speed ever (on a bike) at 45 MPH.

The photos are a bit light today, since most of my time was focused on safely climbing and descending.

Tomorrow we have another shuttle ride to the Alps, then a full day of riding and climbing!

Preride instructions from Diego
At the base of the climb and about half-way up with the peak just over my head in the background
Approaching the peak with our guide, Natilie
Approaching the top
Finally reached the summit
A look at the switchbacks before bombing back down and around back to Bédoin and Mazan
Time out to fill up with Mont Ventoux holy water

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