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Climbing Mont Ventoux by bike
by Philippe Baudoin

Mont Ventoux area

Known for its difficulty, Mont Ventoux attracts thousands of cyclists every year

Mont Ventoux is one of the most famous and mythical mountains in Europe. Terrifying by its slope, pitiless, it can scare the most trained cyclist. One can climb it once without fear, not twice... Mont Ventoux makes no pity. If many champions were able to dominate it, others have lost their illusions and even their lives like Tom Simpson during the Tour de France of 1967.

«N’est pas fou qui monte au Ventoux,
est fou qui y retourne»
(dicton provençal).

Mont Ventoux and Tour de France

Sommaire : Mount Ventor : a mountain that "is visible from afar" | Climbing Mont Ventoux, a real challenge | Mont Ventoux and the Tour de France | Itinerary description | Photos, profiles, pass status | Bédoin | Malaucène

Mount Ventor : a mountain that "is visible from afar"

A Giant raised-up in the middle of Provence

Coming from nowhere in the middle of Provence that it connects to the Alps, culminating at 1912 meters altitude, the Mont Ventoux carries well its other name : "Giant of Provence". Its name comes from the Occitan "Mont Ventor" meaning "that is visible from afar." Its former name, "Ventour", derives from the words "wind" and "windy", quite appropriate to the strong mistral that blows regularly there. This is probably for that reason that the pass located one kilometer away from the summit is called Col des tempêtes (Storm pass).

Mont Ventoux spreads twenty five kilometers from west to east and 8 kilometers from north to south. It is covered by a forest of larch, cedar and fir trees up to 1500 meters altitude. In addition, vegetation disappears to give way to a white barren summit made of limestones. Hence its other name, the Mont chauve (bald mountain).

Winds as high as 320 km / h

Make sure to check the weather forecast before venturing on the slopes of the Giant. Gusts can sometimes blow violently and destabilize cyclists. The site is known for its strong winds blowing up to 300 km / h. The previous record was of 320 km / h observed in 1967. Make sure to wear sunglasses to protect yourself from spoofed sand.

« Les épreuves que tu as endurées tant de fois, aujourd'hui, dans l'ascension de cette montagne, sache bien que tu les rencontres aussi, toi-même comme tant d'autres, dans la recherche du bonheur....nombre d'escarpements coupent cette route et fait avancer de vertu en vertu, par des degrés éminents. Sur le sommet et le but suprême, le terme de la route vers lequel tend notre voyage. »
Pétrarque, « L’ascension du Mont Ventoux », 1336


Cycling-up Mont Ventoux, a real challenge

The ascent can be done from Bédoin, Sault or Malaucène. The climb from Bédoin is by far the most difficult, the most famous too. Mont Ventoux is a difficult ascent because of its slope but also because of the aridity of its top which exposes the cyclist to the sun during summer, to the cold during winter and sometimes to very strong winds, making it quite unfriendly. The Giant does not easily get tamed. Cyclists must ensure they are seriously prepared before climbing it. Its difficulty and very changing and harsh climate should never be underestimated. See below our detailed report and pictures of the Mont Ventoux ascent by bike.

«Stranger, who for the first time dares touching the slopes of the Giant, be humble and armed of courage for thou shalt need it. And if you are to doubt, then go your way and forget for ever your crazy project...»
P. Baudoin

Mont Ventoux and Tour de France

Mont Ventoux is regularly part of theTour de France program. It was included for the first time in its history in 1951. That year, the French Lucien Lazarides reached the summit first in the stage Montpellier-Avignon, a race that Louison Bobet won. The pass is classified "hors Categorie" in 1987. In 62 years (1951 to 2013), the Tour climbed it 15 times, including 9 arrivals at the summit and 8 ascents from Bédoin, the most difficult ascent.

9 stages finishing at the summit

In 1965 it was the turn of Raymond Poulidor to conquer the summit. He decided to change bike during the ascent, opting for a lighter one.

Eddy Merckx, in 1970, was the first to conquer Mont Ventoux wearing the yellow jersey, a record that was unbeaten until 2013. Exhausted, the Belgian fainted but he said later that this was a tactic to escape reporters and return faster to his hotel!

In 1972, Bernard Thevenet won just before Merckx in the ascent from Malaucène.

In 1987, the French Jean-François Bernard won the second individual time trial organized by the Tour at Mont Ventoux.

Pictures cyclists Mont Ventoux Tour de FranceMont Ventoux ais included in the TOUR as of 1951. As of 2013 it has been climbed 15 times with 9 stages finishing at the summit.

Marco Pantani, in 2000, won the stage. After a long climb hanging to the small leading group led by Lance Armstrong, the Italian attacked in the last kilometers but was soon caught-up and overtaken by the Texan. However the latter let him cross the line before him.

Richard Virenque is the next cyclist to stamp his name on the slopes of the Mont Chauve. With almost 8 minutes advance on the peloton, he won the stage Lodeve - Mont Ventoux in 2002. Lance Armstrong tried to catch up with him but finally arrived third with 2 minutes and 20 seconds delay.

In 2009, Juan Manuel Garate is the first Spaniard to win at Mont Ventoux.

Last, on July 14th, 2013, Chris Froome tamed the Giant in a challenging Givors - Mont Ventoux stage long of 242 kilomètres. The British, whose team was gradually left behind, made a brilliant demonstration at the Chalet Reynard. Froome produced a brutal seated acceleration, leaving Alberto Contador behind after the latter had been sucking his wheel for a while. Nothing stopped him. He is the first British to win at Ventoux.

A terrible pass

The heat that often hits the slopes of Mont Ventoux in the summer, the steep slope and the fact that the climb takes place at the end of long stages make the ascent by the Tour quite a challenge. This explains why experts call it "cauldron of hell" or "cauldron of witches." The Giant turns the most ambitious people into modest ones. Many cycling champions were able to dominate the Mont Ventoux while others have lost their illusion, or even their life, such as the British Tom Simpson who suffered a heart attack during the Tour de France 1967.

23 km / h average from Bédoin

The fastest ever ascent of Mont Ventoux belongs to the spaniard Iban Mayo Diez and was recorded at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in 2004. The Spaniard reached the top in 55 minutes and 51 seconds during an individual time trial between Bédoin and Mont Ventoux, i.e. average of 23.2 km / h! Hamilton, Sevilla, Mercado and Lance Armstrong come right behind with delays spreading between 36 seconds and 1 minute 57 seconds.

Cycling itineraries

Ascent from Bédoin
The ascent of Mont Ventoux from Bédoin is by far the most difficult, the most famous too. The length of the ascent is 21 km, 1600 m of elevation, an average gradient of 7.5 % ( 8.9 % since the St Esteve curve), reaching 11.5 % at some places and almost no opportunity to rest during the ascent. This climb is to be reserved for well trained cyclists. Consider between 1 h 30 and 2 h 30, depending on your level, to reach the top.
See the itinerary
Ascent from Malaucène
If the ascent of Mont Ventoux from Malaucène is less known than that from Bédoin, it remains very difficult though. The length of the climb is 21 km of irregular climb, 1535 m of elevation , an average gradient of 7.3 % with short bits of nearly 13%. Some low-slope sections allow recovery. It is a difficult climb to be reserved to well trained cyclists. Consider between 1 h 30 to 2 h 30, depending on your level, to reach the top.
See the itinerary

Photos, profils, état du col

Pictures of Mont Ventoux Slope profiles Pass status


Bédoin, at the foot of Mont Ventoux Bédoin, start point of the ascent of Mont Ventoux

Bédoin is a pretty small farming village situated at the foot of Mont Ventoux. The town officially has 3,200 inhabitants (2010) but its population is up to five times this number in summer during the high season. Needless to mention exceptional events like the Dauphine Libéré cycling race or the Tour de France which, in 2009, brought 500,000 people on the slopes of the Bald Mountain. Admittedly, Bédoin is a strategic place. Starting point of the ascent on the South side, the most famous route, the more difficult also, the village attracts many cyclists and hikers looking for venturing on the daunting slopes of the Giant. Bédoin is also popular for its sunny weather and calm.

The town houses the largest communal forest in France (6,300 ha, i.e. two thirds of its surface). Heritage of antiquity, vines are also very present in the area, covering more than 800 hectares and benefiting from a very sunny climate. Bédoin produces a popular wine (appellation d'origine contrôlée Côtes du Ventoux and vin de pays) and has a wine cooperative. Besides tourism and wine, the town also lives on agriculture (fruits, asparagus, olive oil). Fruit production, cherries in particular, is the third source of revenue after tourism and the vine.

Car races are organized at Mont Ventoux since 1902

The region is of course famous for cycling and mountain biking but also attracts tourism for its car races, hiking, horse riding and skiing at Mont Serein station.

Do not miss: the roman chapel Notre Dame du Moustier. The Church of Les Baux de Bédoin. The Chapel of la Madeleine (12th century). The Church of Saint Peter (16th century), erected in the early 18th century and dedicated to St. Peter. It was partially destroyed in 1794 and rebuilt in the beginning of the next century. It dominates the village. Also, be sure to watch the sunrise from the summit of Ventoux.


Formerly a walled city (only a few doors and a fortified castle survived), the capital of Ventoux, Malaucène is a small Provencal village of 2758 inhabitants (2013). The city is known for hosting the summer residence of Pope Clement V, a monastery built in the 12th century and from which a chapel remains today. Clement V stayed in the town many times between 1309 and 1313. In 1309 he asked for Saint-Michel-Saint-Pierre church to be erected. The building was constructed in place of an ancient temple.

Malaucène was for a long time an industrial town. For more than 4 centuries, it was famous for its paper mills specialized in papermaking cuff used in cigarette filters. The last factory was closed in 2009.

The city now lives on agriculture and tourism. It produces in particular the famous "white cherries" "burlat" and "coeur de pigeon" of Ventoux. Its position at the foot of Bald Mountain slopes make it a favorite resort for hiking, horse riding, cycling and in winter, skiing and snowshoeing.

Do not miss: the gothic church and remains of fortifications, its carved pulpit and its historic organ. Houses and walls of the old town. The Clock Tower (1539). The Groseau Chapel (12th century).

More information

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Philippe Baudoin
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