The Ventoux is not a pass like the Tourmalet, the Izoard or the Galibier which, although they culminate at a much higher altitude, hide their summit until the last bend.
The ascent of the Ventoux by the Tour de France cyclists, from reality to myth...
The Ventoux is not a pass like the Tourmalet, the Izoard or the Galibier, which, although they culminate at a much higher altitude, hide their summit until the last bend. It has the sovereignty of the mountain, a mountain crowned with stones that reflect the sun. If crossing a pass is necessary to go from one valley to another, what is the point of this ascent that brings the cyclists back to the starting point? The Ventoux is a challenge. It serves no purpose other than to be climbed.
Victories, feats but also failures and dramas...
During the sixteen passes or arrivals on its summit: victories, exploits but also failures and dramas.
The list would be long to enumerate. It would surely remind us of the Swiss Ferdi Kubler, known as the "Eagle of Adliswil", who had to face the biggest rout of his career near the Chalet Reynard; the Breton Jean Malléjac, drunk with sunshine, falling on the side of the road, continuing to pedal in the void like an automaton; Louis Bergaud, known as "la puce du Cantal", walking beside his bike, short of breath, swearing that he had never suffered so much in his life; Bobet, harassed by an induration; Eddy Merckx and his teammate Van den Boosche, both victims of a malaise as soon as they reached the terrace of the Observatory; the Englishman Tom Simpson, who died of exhaustion in the middle of the rocky desert.
To add to the feeling of anxiety, the ascent of this mountain, unlike the great Alpine and Pyrenean passes which, climbed every year, end up becoming familiar, is more rarely imposed on the riders, as if the organisers feared its evil power.
The day Mont Ventoux became a legend
Lucien Lazaridès is the first rider of the Tour de France to have crossed the summit of Mont Ventoux.
It was in 1951, 17th stage from Montpellier to Avignon.
It was very hot. The organisers had chosen the route on the northern side of the mountain to allow the riders to separate themselves before crossing the finish line on the banks of the Rhône.
On the first slopes above Malaucène, the Spanish rider Manolo Rodriguez launched an attack and the peloton exploded. A dozen riders, among them Koblet, holder of the Yellow Jersey, broke away. Soon, only Bobet, Géminiani, Lazaridès and Bartali managed to stay in the wheel of the Swiss champion. Lazaridès then accelerated gradually, he felt good and tried his luck. 3rd behind Koblet and Géminiani, he pushed harder on the pedals without turning around, wildly encouraged by countless spectators and crossed the line marking the top of the summit. He was making Tour de France history! He rode downhill, even passing the cars and motorbikes that announced the race. The road was not in good condition. He took the Saint-Estève bend on the wrong side of the road.
Alone on the road until the entrance of the village of Bédoin. But he was caught after the exit of the village by Géminiani and Koblet, then towards Carpentras by Bobet and Barbotin. Bobet won that day. Lucien Lazaridès finished 6th of the stage and 3rd of the general classification of the Tour de France won by the untouchable Hugo Koblet in front of Géminiani.
text by Bernard Mondon, director of Carnets du Ventoux