Legend of the Tour de France and a mecca for cyclists from all over the world, climbing Mont Ventoux is a bucketlist ride for cyclists. But at over 20km long and 1500+m ascent, it’s a challenge not to be undertaken lightly. Each year we organise our cycling Mont Ventoux holiday, and have welcomed cyclists from all over the UK and Ireland, as well as the US and Australia. With that experience in mind, here are our top 10 tips for climbing Mont Ventoux as a road cyclist, to make sure your challenge is a success!
1: Training & preparation
Climbing Mont Ventoux will involve 2 hours or more of sustained effort for the average road cyclist. To do the climb in the best conditions you will need to be used to be riding at a sustained effort or pace for long periods. The best solution to be ready : ride often! Get as many km in the legs as you can, particularly on climbs. If you have no longer climbs in your area, training at sustained threshold pace even on the flat can be useful.
2: Bring the right bike
While there’s no need for a €10,000 carbon monster to climb Mont Ventoux, you will be the most comfortable on a relatively well equipped and recent road bike ; you won’t be needing the extra weight so no mudguards, panier bags or anything else that will add on the grams. And give the gears, brakes and wheels a thorough check up before you leave! On our Mont Ventoux Cycling Trip, we provide on option aluminium or carbon road bikes that are more than enough to get you to the top – with a minimum of pedalling of course!
You won’t want to be grinding and crunching your way up the 10%+ gradients, so make sure you have a transmission is up to the climb. We would advise at least a compact chainset ; a 28 cassette is OK but a 30 or even a 32 is probably better. If you have a triple chainset you may be carrying a bit more weight, but with the advantage of having a greater choice of gears.
Finally, leave the ultra deep rim carbon wheelset at home! Deep wheels won’t help you on the climb, and may even cause you problems with sidewinds in particular if the Mistral is blowing.
3: Choose your side
The Mont Ventoux has the advantage of having three distinct cycling routes. The classic tour de France Ventoux climb from Bédoin is the most popular ; if you’re looking for a (relatively!) easier ride, the climbing Mont Ventoux from Sault is not as difficult while still remaining a challenge. See our Mont Ventoux Profile for more information.
4: Choose your time of year
The Mont Ventoux has the advantage of being accessible for most of the year, with the climbing season running from April to November on the Southern side, and from mid-May for the northern side (compared to the Alps for example, where some cols can still be snowbound in June) Either end of the season can still be uncertain however – if you’re planning a trip from abroad, we’d advise planning between May and September to be certain of achieving your climb. We programme our own trips starting mid-May to be sure thet the Northern route is open.
5: Map the route & profile
Climbing Mont Ventoux, the routes are well signposted, and the Bédoin & Malaucène climbs have bornes kilométriques every km with ascent and distance ; however on any long ride it’s always a good idea to map your route before hand to avoid any problems on site. You may be a Strava user, which has a map route function (unfortunately no longer free). There are also other online solutions like Komoot or even Google Maps. On all of our cycling trips, we provide clients with daily maps, and GPX files for those who use Garmin or other devices.
It’s also a good idea to check out the Mont Ventoux gradient profile depending on the route you choose ; the site climbbybike.com has some gradient profiles presented in useful summary form, with colour coded percentages. Thus, on the Bédoin climb you can see at a glance:
- 0-6 km: blue – relatively easy
- 6-16km: orange & red : tough
- 16-17km: blue – relatively easy
- 17-21km: orange – tough
- 21km: red! for the last few hundred metres
6: Bring the right gear
It is said to never underestimate the mountain : in the case of the Ventoux it’s best to be prepared for everything. In summer the temperatures can be high in the valley, but at almost 2000m the summit can be another story. Be prepared for the climb ; and also the descent! Descending from 1900m, after the effort of the climb can quickly be chilling. On our cycling trips, you can leave your extra clothes in the support vehicle with the guide ; if you’re doing the climb on your own, bring at the very least a windproof jacket and pair of gloves in your jersey pocket.
Also don’t forget hydration & nutrition : for a 2+hour climb plan for 2 full bottles of liquids ; and get your nutrition in early rather than waiting for the first signs of hunger or even bonking. On our guided trips the guide carries extra water and snacks, and meets the group at pre-decided points ; as well as that, you can flag them down at any stage if you need anything.
7: Choose your company!
Climbing the Mont Ventoux is definitely doable alone ; however for more comfort you can choose to do it in company, either on the bike or off it. Riding in a group has the advantage of moral support and cameraderie; being accompanied by a support vehicle adds the extra comfort advantage of not having to carry any extra gear other than your immediate needs for cycling. Food, water, picnic lunch, warmer or cooler clothes – all can go in the vehicle.
8: Check the weather forecast
It may seem obvious, but the summit is at almost 2000m so when climbing Mont Ventoux be sure to check the local weather foercast beforehand, to be prepared. Cloud can come in quickly, even on a clear day ; the summit can also be windy, particularly during the Mistral, the North wind that blows through Provence. If the conditions are unfavourable don’t hesitate to call off the ride for another day. If you’re riding very late or very early in the season this is particularly true. See here for the Mont Serein webcam which can give a glimpse of weather near the summit.
9: Pace yourself!
We’ve all been there : it’s a fine sunny day, you’re in fine form and delighted to be out on the road – so you push a little harder than you should, only to end up a shivering, bonking mess 3/4 of the way through your ride! When climbing Mont Ventoux, it’s vital to pace yourself! On the Bédoin ascent it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security in the first few km, but keep something in the legs for kilometre 6-16, the toughest part of the climb! And on the easier Sault to Ventoux climb, the toughest part comes at the end, so be sure to plan for this too.
Choose your gear too – spin as much as you can, even if this means choosing the easiest gear. There’s little advantage to be gained in saving a gear “just in case” – slap it into the 32 cog and away you go!
This is the ride of a lifetime, so enjoy! Climbing Mont Ventoux a challenge that remains accessible to any reasonably fit cyclist who is prepared to take the climb at their own pace. And at the top, take in the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, with views as far as the Alps and massif Central on a clear day.
It’s also worth mentioning the professional photographers on the route, who will take your photo that you can later buy on their website : worth it for the souvenir!
Mont Ventoux Cycling Holidays
France Outdoors proposes Mont Ventoux Cycling holidays for individuals or groups, as well as guided cycling trips with vehicle support in the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and elsewhere. See here for all our cycling trips, or click on “Contact us” above for more information.