If you're in the neighborhood or at least, at less than a mile or 50, you'll see him lying there. Like a sphinx turning at a tempting angle, ready to be... climbed.
The attraction of the Mont Ventoux is indeed enormous. During a holiday in the beautiful Provence, in the evening with a nice rosé from the neighborhood, plans are made that are bigger than what the legs can handle the next day. At least, if one is a less trained or even untrained cycling tourist. But why not? At least you know what it means to climb one of the toughest cols in France and the Tour. And maybe you'll come back better trained next year...
To climb the Mont Ventoux a minimum amount of training is definitely required. Unless you want to stand alone helplessly in the scenery of the forest, your bike as your last support. A pick-me-up for the others who climb whistling past you. No more. Still going to the chalet or back down with your tail between your legs? An illusion poorer.
Although more and more cycling enthusiasts want to climb Mont Ventoux, fewer and fewer cyclists suffer the fate mentioned above. Via websites such as Climbbybike, everyone is nowadays sufficiently warned and enough kilometres were cycled on the home front anyway to "get to the top". And that is quite an achievement! Not everyone weighs 60 kilograms or has 15,000 kilometers in their legs.
Although only occasionally climbed in the Tour, the Mont Ventoux is one of the top climbs in France and far beyond. The best professional riders do the 21 km of Bédoin in just under an hour or at a 'VAM' (velocità ascension media or altimeters per hour) of 1600 meters.
The better amateurs take less than two hours or an average of just over 10km/hour. But everyone is free to do the climb. But as already mentioned, only one advice: come prepared or you will see black snow instead of white stones!
The heaviest side-up is via Bédoin (official start from the D974 roundabout), although, according to some, the Malaucène side is equally heavy. Practice can be done from Sault, by far the least heavy side. The Bédoin side is also the most famous side because it was climbed most often in the Tour de France. It is therefore also the side where most drama took place. On 13 July 1967, the British cyclist Tom Simpson died on the flanks of the Ventoux. One can visit the statue about 1.5 km from the top.
The sound of crickets
The Bédoin side begins gently, almost sweetly, between the vineyards where the grapes for the local wine ripen in the midst of the continuous chirping of the crickets. On your left, when the weather is clear, you can see the top with its typical white-red pin of the weather station. Take a good look, because once you enter the forest past the famous St. Estève bend you will have to miss this view for a long time. Up to this point, you should only have used a minimum of energy, because the next 10 km you will need it well.
Once in the forest, the Ventoux barely goes below 9% and never gives you time or space to recover. Here the chaff is separated from the wheat and the corpses are picked up. Through the forest you hardly get an impression of the gradient of the road. Outside a chicane in the beginning, the road usually goes straight on with a slight bend. At the only, beautifully carved hairpin bend it gets really steep. Take the outside bend to relax a bit. It keeps on rising and waiting for that stretch of... 8%. Then it's back up to 10%. Where's that Chalet Renard? Some holiday chalets among the trees are a good sign. You're almost there. On the right the D164 joins your route together with some big cycling boys from the eastern Sault. Do they know what climbing is?
Cycling on the moon
Once the Chalet Renard is reached, the toughest part is over, unless... you're unlucky and the wind hits you in the face for the rest of the climb in the middle of a lunar landscape, unprotected by trees. The name Mont Ventoux means "windy mountain", and some experts know why: the local Mistral and Transmontana winds can be up to 150 km/hour here. But if you're lucky, after the Chalet Renard you can recover at human rates of 5-7% with some turns at just 3%.
Take advantage of this, because the last few kilometers Mont Ventoux will hit you in the face again. The last 1.5 km will go back at 10% and will take another extreme effort before you can show off at the top of the Ventoux and enjoy the "plane view" of the peaks of the Alps in the east, the Cévennes in the west and the Mediterranean Sea in the south. There you are. Congratulations! You were there.