Climbing Mont Ventoux by bike

The Ventoux is probably one of the most mythical bike climbs around. Logical, because the climb is tall, steep and full of history. If the climb is not heavy enough on it's own, then there still is the wind, who can be strong and unpredictable. And if it does not blow, the cold or the sizzling heat will cause difficult conditions. In short, this 'bald mountain' rarely gets a gift. The climb of the Ventoux is a challenge for many men and women to ever be done. Therefore, you never drive alone on the mountain's steep slopes. Everybody is a hero here.

The Ventoux honors its name, the word vent means wind in French, and wind there is. The locals have even a name for the strong winds in the Provence region, it is called the "Mistral" here. The mountain is closed regularly because it blows too fast. Wind speeds up to 300 kilometers per hour have been measured. If that wind was the only thing that made the climb tough, then it would not be that hard. But the Mont Ventoux is also terribly steep and that for it's total length of about 13 miles (21 kilometers), maybe not continuous but more than enough to make it hard for every cyclist. And just when you think the hardest part is behind you, that wind will catch up again!

Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux towering over the Provence

The Ventoux is the highest peak in the wide perimeter. His nickname the 'giant of Provence' is therefore completely logical. Being so high above its surroundings also creates a meteorological microclimate. Of course there is always that wind. But on the Ventoux it also rains many, often and hard. About 90 days a year is rains. Stormy weather with 100 mm precipitation per hour occur each year, and it feels just like a neverending cold shower. Most rain is on the east side, the west side has a much more Mediterranean climate.

Climbing from Bédoin

The Ventoux can be climbed in several ways. The climb from Bédoin is the most famous climb of the Ventoux, over 13 miles (21 kilometers). On days with a strong wind, this is the hardest climb because you climb the longest in the 'lunar landscape' outside the protection of the forest. The first few miles from Bedoin start mildly. Once in the forest, the misery begins. The slope is on average 7,5% with peaks to 12%, and you may cycling in the shadows of this forest, but it's still hot down here. To make it more beautiful you will be accompanied by thousands of flies who seem to like flying with (and irritating) cyclists. If, despite all of this mayhem, you have still have an eye on your surroundings, you'll see the road swinging trough the trees. The beautiful forest also has a special vegetation. A lot of bushes and trees growing on the Ventoux are quite unique. The road is also unique, there are no traditional hairpins here, the road seems to be a meandering river.

Mont Ventoux forest
Winding trough the forest

Once leaving the forest, the environment quickly changes into a lunar landscape. No more trees here to protect you from the wind. And depending on that wind the climb will become nice (it's a lot less steep on this section) or a real hell. If you manage to get up on a windy day, you can call yourself a real cyclist. The last mile holds another surprise. It is quite steep, especially the last bit to the top itself, where lots of tourists do not make it easier for cyclists.

Mont Ventoux lunar landscape
The lunar landscape near the summit

While it is often warm in the woods, it is cold near the summit of Ventoux, even in summer. Keep this in mind before you start. From the top you can enjoy a panoramic view over the Provence. The natural descent is also very fun to ride. Many cyclists have broken their speed record here.

Mont Ventoux profile bedoin
Climbing profile Mont Ventoux via Bédoin

Climbing from Malaucène

There is among cyclists a lot of discussion which is harder, the Bedoin side or the Malaucène side. In fact, it doesn't matter as both sides are long and hard. Starting in Malaucène the road also steepens to over 9% for the first mile to ease down to sections of 4, 5 and 6% which is the story until the 9km mark (about 5 miles). After this "easy" part it's back to work again with a long stretch of gradients over 10%. A hairpin turn leads to another 6% section while you can see the Ventoux ski slopes on the left. Leaving the forest, the weather station at the top is still 250m above you. The last two hairpins turns are steeper again, but also show you some wonderfull views to the North. You can even see the Alps form here on a clear and sunny day.

Mont Ventoux profile malaucène
Climbing profile Mont Ventoux via Malaucène

Climbing from Sault

The ascent from Sault is definitely the easiest of the 3 possible routes. First of all, the elevation is much less because Sault is located higher then Bédoin or Malaucene. Secondly, the overall distance is longer 16 miles (26km) instead of 13 miles (21km) meaning this climb has an average gradient of just 3.6%. The last miles trough the lunar landscape are the same as the Bédoin climb, but you arrive in much better condition than if you have just slogged up through the forest from Bédoin.

Mont Ventoux profile Sault
Climbing profile Mont Ventoux via Sault

Route Cinglé du Mont Ventoux

The Club of Cinglés du Mont Ventoux is an illustrious company of cyclists who climb the Mont Ventoux from three different sides one day. For many, climbing from Bédoin is already enough to call it a day, other riders seek the challenge in this ultimate achievement.

For many, the journey begins in Bédoin, as this climb is seen as the heaviest ascent. Then there is the choice of the equally difficult Malaucène or the much easier climb from Sault. Personally, we would save the easiest climb for the last time. When the legs get tired, the steep slopes of Bédoin or Malaucène can kill your attempt very fast.

To make the performance official, you must register at least 2 weeks in advance at the Club des Cingles du Mont Ventoux. After your performance, you will receive an official letter at home. Of course you can decide to just ride it without official observation. Some pictures as proof can also convince your friends at home.

In addition to Cinglé, it is also possible to become Galérien. This can be done by a fourth (to many people completely unknown) climbing to the top. This Route Forestière was once neatly asphalted, but now in a terrible state. It is advisable to do this last climb with a mountain bike.

Facts

Average slope 7,5%
Max slope (1000m) 11,8%
Length 21 km or 13 mi
Altimeters 1576 m or 5200 ft

Climbing time

7 km/h 02:59:34
9 km/h 02:19:40
11 km/h 01:54:16
13 km/h 01:36:41
15 km/h 01:23:48
17 km/h 01:13:56
19 km/h 01:06:09
21 km/h 00:59:51