It is a challenge each time you climb Mont-Ventoux by bike. Here are our essential tips on how to prepare yourself for the intense effort that is required.
These cycling partners are incredibly sporty and love Mont-Ventoux! Here is some useful advice on how to prepare for your ride. It is quite a lot of effort, but a huge sense of achievement awaits you at the summit! I met Damien on Sunday at 10:30am for the first climb of the year.
In order to properly prepare, it is necessary to keep an eye on the weather. But be careful as the weather can suddenly change. On this day, we were lucky. The weather was milder than had been forecast, but I still took warm clothes, a windbreak for the descent and a k-way coat in case it started to rain.
After filling our water bottles and packing food in case we got tired, I checked that we were not missing anything. I always take a pump and a small tool in order to do any small repairs that might be necessary.
In Bédoin, the atmosphere is always like a big meet-up: a small group of Dutch people were encouraging the cyclists, waving little club flags. They had come on a family holiday to Mont-Ventoux and were spending the day supporting their loved-ones and strangers who were taking part in the challenge.
The first few kilometres were intoxicating. We passed several other cyclists and the view of the summit showed us the immensity of the task ahead. But the start can also be a trap if you go too fast - it is better to save your energy because the turn of St Estève, where the Bédoin forest starts, is no laughing matter for adrenaline junkies. The slope there is very challenging and is almost ten kilometres long as far as Chalet Reynard. Once we had found our rhythm, the climb was very enjoyable and we had friendly chats with other cycling enthusiasts. ‘Bonjours’ were exchanged and we chatted fairly often with others on the road.
A cyclist from Belgium explained to us that he was climbing it for the first time. He let himself be photographed, despite the effort of the ride. Shortly afterwards, we were overtaken by a regular who cycles up the mountain several times each year, like many enthusiasts of the Giant of Provence.
To avoid making your legs go numb, do not hesitate to ride standing up on the peddles. I therefore took advantage of difficult sections like at the Virage de la Citerne, two kilometres from Chalet Reynard, to stand up in my seat and take it as easy as possible for the rest of the journey. You should also eat and drink regularly to keep your energy levels topped up (keep any packaging in your pockets so as to not harm the environment).
The distance markers are a precise indication of the increasing climb and once you cross the last distance marker before Chalet Reynard you already know that you have passed a sacred stage. The sight of Chalet Reynard is always a great relief during the climb from Bédoin. This place is the start of the famous hairpin bends that lead up to the weather station, which is the symbol of Ventoux.
The countryside and spectacular views over Provence are always breath-taking and provide a source of extra motivation to help you reach the summit. Also, we were able to recuperate in a pass before tackling the last few kilometres. After a bend, we saw panels explaining that you would be photographed. Several photographers are present on Ventoux everyday to capture the cyclists.
The road from Chalet Reynard is always very uncomfortable because climbs from Sault also end on this path. The last two kilometres are particularly difficult and when you get to the Col des Tempêtes you have to cling on tightly to your handlebars to resist the slope and strong winds.
The last bend is an obstacle that alone sums up the perilous challenge of this climb. Once you reach the other brave souls who are posing for a photograph or recovering from the effort, you are overwhelmed by emotion and feel as if you could burst with joy. The 360° view takes your breath away and the panel that says 1,909 metres is raised up for those who want to take their photo at the top.
At the summit congratulations and laughter can be heard, encouraging approaching cyclists. There is always a great atmosphere next to the final marker of the D974 road, as it is where the climbs from Sault, the south side of Bédoin and the north side of Malaucène all cross. We were able to buy what we needed at the souvenir shop and there is a high-altitude restaurant at the bottom of the last bend that leads to the Chapel.
It was time to go back down the mountain, and though the climb was difficult, the descent was undoubtedly dangerous because of the slope and the countless daily users on this road. You must be careful and always remember to wear a helmet.
As I arrived at Bédoin forest, it started to rain, so I sheltered under a tree for a few minutes and put on my K-Way coat to stay dry. I was also extra careful to not slip on the slope.
Once at the bottom, with the climb finished, I celebrated with Damien and thought only of one thing - our next trip to the top of this legendary summit.