The Mont Ventoux climb is one of the most challenging in the Tour the France, in which it has featured regularly since 1951. For cyclists, the Ventoux can be climbed from 3 sides, with the classic route taking the climb from Bédoin. It is on this climb that British cyclist Tom Simpson died from heat exhaustion during the 1967 Tour de France; today a memorial stands on the spot.
Nicknamed the “Giant of Provence”, at 1912m the Ventoux towers over the Provencal countryside for miles around. It is famous as one of the iconic cycling climbs of the Tour de France, but is much more than just a cycling destination. Its unique biosphere has been classed as a reserve by UNESCO, and unique flora and fauna can be found on its slopes. Situated between the Alps and Massif central, it is separate from both and dominates the Rhone Valley, Drôme and Vaucluse departments and the lavendar fields of the Baronnies Provençales.
The summit of the Ventoux is often windswept, particularly during the Mistral (the north wind that blows in Provence) but the views are spectacular, over rolling Provencal countryside to the Alps on one side and the Massif Central on the other. After completing the Mont Ventoux climb challenge, take the opportunity to get a photo at the ultimate borne kilométrique or the altitude sign.
Mont Ventoux Climb from Bédoin – Tour de France challenge
The classic Tour de France route to the Mont Ventoux climb & summit starts at the village of Bédoin, and is known as one of the toughest in the Tour de France. The 1579m climb is 21.3km long at an average gradient of 7.4% (by comparison, the similar 7.9% Alpe d’Huez climb is only 13.8 km long ; while the Cime de la Bonette of a similar length, has a 6.6% average gradient.
- 0-6km: The climb starts quite easily, from Bedoin through Provencal farms of olive groves and vineyards, until the hamlet of Les Bruns.
- 6-16km: At les Bruns you pass into the forest, with tough 9-10% gradients and a winding road.
- 16-20km: At Chalet Reynard the gradient lets up for a couple of hundred metres, so take what chance to recuperate you can. You leave the forests into the typical lunar landscape of the Ventoux, with biting gradients and often a stiff headwind.
- 20km: At around 20km, pass the Tom Simpson memorial, often garned with cycling jerseys and bottles.
- 20-21km: The final stretch to the summit is open with breathtaking views; if you’re lucky you won’t have a headwind! In the final km the gradient ramps up to 10% again, for one last effort before arrival!.
Mont Ventoux Climb from Malaucène – another challenge!
The second option for climbing the Mont Ventoux by bike is via Malaucène. The northern face is more wooded and cooler, which is to be appreciated in the hot Provençal summers. The length and gradient is similar to the ascent from the Bédoin side, with the exception that there is little initial warmup period as the gradient ramps ups immediately to 7%+ after the first kilometre. While the Bédoin ascent starts easily with a difficult middle section, the Malaucène ascent is more varied, with easier & more challenging sections alternating throughout the ascent.
- 0-10km: alternance of difficult stretches at 12%+, and stretches where the gradient eases off
- 10-14km: around the Chalet Liotard, average gradients of 10% : a challenging stretch!
- 15km: arrival at Mont Serein at 1437m
- 17-22km: the gradient evens out to about 8% average per km until the top. In the last few kilometres you get above the treeline into the typical lunar Ventoux landscape.
Mont Ventoux Climb from Sault – the easiest one!
The climb from Sault is the least challenging of the three Ventoux climbs (relatively speaking, I know!). The final 6km join the Bédoin route at Chalet Renard, but the preceding kilometres are not as challenging. The climb has an average gradient of 4.5%, with 1152m altitude gain over 25.7km.
- 1-12km: relatively easy climbing, with gradients of up to 7% through Provencal meadows, olive groves and lavendar fields.
- 12-20km: the climb flattens out even more, with gentle slopes up to Chalet Renard.
- 20km: Chalet Renard – here you join the classic Tour de France route, and the challenge starts! (The difference being that on the Bédoin route, this represents the end of the hardest portion!)
- 20-25km: climb past the Simpson memorial in the lunar landscape of the Ventoux ; and keep some energy for the final stretch of 10%+ gradients!
Mont Ventoux Cycling Holiday
Take the Ventoux challenge on our 4-day road cycling holiday, based in the beautiful Provençal village of Sault. The trip includes the Mont Ventoux climb from Bédoin on the Tour de France route, as well the Malaucène ascent and a ride through the excellent roads of the rolling Provençal countryside on the Sault Plateau.
See here for more information : Cycling Mont Ventoux Trip
Provence Cycling Holiday
If you’re looking for something a more relaxing cycling holiday in France, we suggest our Provence Cycling holiday, a moderate cycling trip in the heart of the Lubéron region of Provence, setting of Peter Mayle’s classic A Year in Provence. 7 nights B&B at the foot of the Mont Ventoux and moving on through the Lubéron to Gordes and Roussillon, through vineyards and quiet olive groves.
See here for more information : Cycling in Provence