Cycling Mt Ventoux

Cycling Bédoin


Let’s face it, probably around about two thirds of the visitors to Bédoin are there for one thing and one thing alone – to cycle up Mt Ventoux. And also, let’s face it, what we really mean by cycling up Mt Ventoux is cycling from Bédoin. There is some debate about which face of the mountain is the toughest climb, but really there’s no argument; Bédoin to the summit is what it’s really about.

When Sir Edmund Hilary was asked why he climbed Mt Everest, his reply was ‘because it was there’. In some ways, this is the point about Le Ventoux. If you like cycling and you like a challenge then, at some point, you’ve just got to do it.

There are longer climbs in the world and there are ones where the gradient in places is steeper and there are certainly ones at higher altitudes, but I’m going to argue that there isn’t one that’s more brutal. The mid section of the ride – almost ten kilometers from Les Bruns to Chalet Reynard is a merciless and relentless slog through the forest at an average gradient of 9%, but the worst is yet to come. Having reached Chalet Reynard, taken on liquids and carbs, you might be forgiven for thinking that you’ve broken the back of the thing. Not so far away you can see the Observatory at the summit; in full view and apparently almost in touching distance. What could go wrong? Almost everything.

What you don’t realise is that there’s another six kilometers to go, but now, where  the pine trees had sheltered you, you’re more exposed than you can imagine; not a bush nor a blade of grass between you and the summit. Instead, a moonscape of weathered limestone rocks whipped by a viscous wind that was once recorded at over 300kms per hour. Bend after bend and somehow the top doesn’t seem to get any closer. Until you’re there and, as you gaze out over the spectacular, uninterrupted views of the Vaucluse to the south and the Drôme to the north, it all seems like fun.

I’ve done it five times. Twice from Bédoin, twice from Malaucene and once from Sault – I have just a few words of advice. Firstly, don’t think you can wing it. If you’re not cycling fit and also have not put in some meaningful kilometers on the hills, at best you’re going to walk quite a bit (which doesn’t count!) and at worst you’re going to do yourself some serious damage. Secondly keep hydrated and properly nourished. Even on the coolest of days you’re going to shed more liquid than you can replace. I always have two litre-sized bidons with hydralytes on the bike and expect to replenish at Chalet Reynard or Mt Serein if going from the north. (Please note: neither Chalet Reynard nor Mt Serein ae open year round).

And finally, despite all the prose written about what a shocker the mountain is – don’t be daunted. Apart from the fact that positivity is nine tenths of the battle, if you’re properly fit and prepared to dig in a bit, you’re surprise yourself with how wrong all the hype really is.

at the summit of mt ventoux

… and suddenly you’re at the summit
and it all seems like fun