Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux — Bedoin Ascent

Mont Ventoux — 1911m

The mere words “Mont Ventoux” are enough for an avid cyclist to know exactly what part of France we are talking about. In French the name means the “mountain of strong wind” — paying homage to the record wind speeds that have been recorded on the summit of the Geant of Provence.

Post one in our series focussing on the three ascents of Mont Ventoux which make up the Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux, sees us investigate the Bedoin ascent. Famous for many famous duels in the Tour de France’s history and the haunting passing of Tommy Simpson on the mountain in 1967, this is the classic ascent of Mont Ventoux and as of the date of this article, the only to be climbed by the Tour de France.

Departing the village of Bedoin, which sits in the shadow of Mont Ventoux about 40km north east of Avignon, the mountain looms ominously overhead (in fact you can see Mont Ventoux from as far as 100km away during your appraoch). This is the iconic climb of Ventoux over 21.5km rising to 1911m at an average of 7.5% the climb suddenly seems manageable: so why all the fuss? It’s a climb of 3 sectors: with all 3 being very different — making this one of the more unique climbs in Europe. The first 5.5km from Bedoin to St Esteve average out at 4.4% all while the mountain is sitting in view the whole time. This initial sector of the climb is the ideal leg loosening time ahead of the “Forest” that comes at 5.5km — a chance to take in the surroundings and how truly unique Ventoux is. Though upon reaching the village of St Esteve it suddenly becomes a whole different story, quickly changing from an enjoyable pedal through Provence into a heads down focus on surviving the Forest!

The Forest is what makes the Bedoin ascent so famous and gives it the brutal reputation. For the next 9km the average gradient doesn’t dip below 9% and doesn’t allow for a single moment of respite: with the gradient occasionally dropping as low as 7% but then quickly rearing back upto 11 & 12%. Thankfully being quite heavily wooded means that the elements are kept at bay until reaching Chalet Reynard. It becomes a case of survival and just ticking off the km by km one pedal stroke at a time, and forgetting about what lies ahead, instead just focusing on the kilometre at hand. Through the Forest there are several sections of those hellish long stretches of road where there isn’t a turn in-sight or any respite ahead, these are the toughest and can mentally test you as a cyclist (but this suffering will all be worth it upon reaching Chalet Reynard). As the kilometres tick by the trees slowly begin to thin out bringing a huge sense of relief, however with Ventoux this isn’t the case. The trees might lessen and the first signs of the moonscape (and the distant summit) will appear, but its still another 4km of high % and survival before reaching the famous Chalet Reynard where a massive sense of relief will be felt to have got the forest sector out of the way and dealt with! From here the summit will be in view in a very short distance and the full scope of the moonscape will become apparent.

The last 6km from Chalet Reynard are much easier than the forest section but also much more exposed and weather dependent. As you leave Chalet Reynard you have a short steep section which noticeably drops in gradient with an average of approximately 7% for the next 4.5km. By now with relatively tired legs this will feel like a welcome break and a great chance to take in the views and just absorb the climb in its whole. The final sector is also where the weather can really play a big factor usually from the wind, and often thunderstorms. If you have favourable winds then a tailwind will often follow to help those final few km fly by and that famous weather station tower will appear in record time, however you’ll definitely be hoping that the headwind doesn’t appear as you round several of the bends and change the final few kilometres of the climb in a drastic way for you, making your efforts feel even more labored than the time in the forest. Don’t forget to take a moment to observe the Tommy Simpson memorial at 1.5km to go which is also the mark where the road will jump back up to 10% for the last sector to the summit, but by now you’ll be that determined to finish the climb that a gradient of double figures won’t stop you! Especially knowing that the descent back down into Bedoin, or Maulcene for those tackling the Cingles du Mont Ventoux, is one to savour and enjoy!

How Can I join the Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux with Le Domestique Tours?

Whether as part of our King of the Mountains TdF challenge, or as a dedicated weekend, Le Domestique Tours would love to help you join the Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux:

Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux Weekend — two nights of Provence luxury with an attempt at the three ascents of Mont Ventoux.

King of the Mountains TdF — Tourmalet, Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez in seven incredible stages.

Bespoke Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux — Let us be your Domestique — we build your perfect Bespoke tour.

Originally published at www.ledomestiquetours.co.uk on August 11, 2015.

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