Mont Ventoux Cycling
Mont Ventoux is the stuff of legend because it is where Britain’s former world champion Tommy Simpson “rode himself to death” during the 13th stage of the 1967 Tour de France. This Saturday 25th July, the current Tour will climax with an ascent of Mont Ventoux and experts predict that it could be this penultimate stage that finally sorts the men from the boys and will decide who joins Alberto Contador on the podium in Paris on Sunday. Could Wiggins be the first British rider on the podium in Tour history?
If you would like your very own taste of Tour de France then why don't you try Mont Ventoux for yourself? Our Cycle Provence & the Luberon 8-day self-guided Cycling holiday offers an optional ascent on Day-6 of the trip. There is availability on all of our trips departing any Saturday or Thursday from now until 24th October.
The alarm clock rings at some godforsaken hour and rising out of bed as slowly as the sun I make my way down to the breakfast bar to fuel up for the day’s ride. Michel, the barman who provided me with plentiful pastis the previous evening, has kindly prepared a packed lunch, however I think I’ll need a 3-course dinner and perhaps divine intervention to aid my gradual but gruelling ascent.
At this point I feel I have to be honest and admit that I am attempting the easiest of the three routes to the centre piece of this area. Starting at the town of Sault (694m) I must follow a 26km zig-zag road to the white limestone peak (1912m) and if I want my name to be in the record books I need to beat a time of 55 minutes 51 seconds set by Spaniard Ivan Mayo in 2004.
It all begins swimmingly as I breeze into the valley past a wooden hut selling lavender but my happiness is short-lived as I leave the scent of the purple flowers behind and climb deep into the barren forests. At times I can see my snowy-topped target in the distance and it almost feels like you are being passed from one mountain to another as the first 20km of cycling bends its way towards the pit stop at Chalet Renard.
Thus far I haven’t dismounted but I am mightily tempted by the sugar rush a can of coke would give me, however I decide to persevere as long as physically possible. Shortly after turning down the opportunity for a soothing break at Chalet Renard, I come into contact with other humans for the first time, as two coach loads of tourists park up by the side of the road. I can resist no more, tucking into my freshly prepared sandwich, growing ever more jealous of their motorised mode of transport.
Once I have regained my energy and spirit I prepare for the onslaught as the gradient increases another 3% and the landscape abruptly changes from forests to bare stony hillside. I think it is the combination of the sudden steepness and almost gale force winds that cause me to come flying off my bike. I now realise where this giant gets its name from as the French for windy is ‘venteux’ and the French lessons continue as I pass a group of hikers who point to the sky saying “c’est tres mistral”. I deduce that they are referring to the strong winds associated with Mont Ventoux and offer words of encouragement for their climb – “Bonne chance”.
I leave the French feet behind and push my pedals towards the summit, passing by the memorial to British cyclist Tommy Simpson who died from heart failure during the 1967 Tour de France. The yellow and black marker poles (used to gauge the depth of snow) also provide a countdown to the peak and this gives me inspiration until my legs can go on no longer but fortunately my battle is over. Soon after gorging myself on a mars bar and the sugar of that elusive coca-cola I am standing on the top gazing at views stretching from Mount Viso to Mont Blanc.
Alternatively, we also have a Classic Cols of the Tour de France with availability on the next trip departing on 13th September 2009. This one doesn't climb Ventoux but you will be challenged by many of the toughest climbs of the Pyrenees, including the Col de Tourmalet, already crossed on Stage 9 of the 2009 Tour.
Journalist Max Wooldridge travelled on our ‘Classic Cols’ holiday and wrote up his experience in The Guardian