Mont Ventoux: A Fourth Way Up (By Mountain Bike)

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Many cyclists have heard of the Club des Cinglés (Crackpots) du Ventoux. The basic idea is to cycle all three sides in a single day. Difficult! Recently, the idea has been extended to include a fourth “forest” route.

I did once somehow manage to climb all three sides in a day – details here. But my favourite Ventoux adventure: seeing the sunrise at the summit – details here.

However, this 4th Forest route suggested by the Club shares 13 kilometres of the paved road – wimps! I had a similar but more remote option in mind that wouldn’t join the paved road until the final 4 kms. Both options are marked and explained on the map at bottom. I started just below Bédoin, the start of the most famous paved option. There is probably a better way to find the start of the gravel road, but it is just a little above town. I marked on the map where I joined it.

Much of the first few kilometres are exactly like the top photo. It’s a wide, deserted road – I saw no-one. It had been freshly “re-graveled” and was thus at times quite difficult: slippery, bumpy. Harder than a typical old mountain gravel road.

"secret" unpaved way up

“secret” unpaved way up

Officially, I was riding the Piste des Graviers Blancs (Track of the White Gravel):

Piste des Graviers Blancs

Piste des Graviers Blancs

It’s never ridiculously steep or technically crazy – it’s longer than the paved way. Happily, after a few kilometres the surface became easier: less new gravel. After Sixteen kilometres, I arrived at a four way intersection.

I am quite certain that the Club des Cinglés suggests their forest road as it is just about do-able on a road bike – if you are not too fussy. Whereas the Piste des Graviers Blancs that I rode is certainly a bad idea on a road bike. FWIW, I was using 700-35c tires.

At this intersection, my route joins up with the Club’s route. Again, marked on the map below. There is also a way to get to Chalet Reynard from here.

At the intersection follow the sign for “rte 110 Piste de la Tête du Chauva” – Track of the Bald Head. Nice! The surface is basically the remnants of a paved road, relatively flat, easy riding, curving around towards Mont Serein.

approaching Mont Serein

approaching Mont Serein

Next, the mountain-bike adventure ends, and I re-joined the paved road – but on the back Maulacène side, four kilometres from the summit. But these are fun kilometres, especially the last two. Great, great views:

Nice Views

Nice Views

Maulacène side - near summit

Maulacène side – near summit

As often is the case, it was very, very windy and cold at the summit.

Freezing at the summit

Freezing at the summit

I descended the paved classic route back to Bédoin. The wind was so strong at Col des Tempêtes that I walked for a few hundred metres. As usual, a steady stream of cyclists were climbing here: all sizes, sexes, speeds, bikes. :)

Overall, this was a fun adventure. I loved the deserted nature of the climb and the improving views as I got higher. In the busy month of August there is something special about having Mont Ventoux all to one’s self.

Route 2,760,421 – powered by www.bikemap.net

9.1 Awesome

A fun, deserted, unpaved option up the legendary Géant du Provence.

  • Difficulty 9
  • Quiet / No Traffic 10
  • Views 8.5
  • Fun Factor 9
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Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

4 Comments

  1. Going to drive down to Spain next week and I’m thinking of doing the three climbs of Ventoux, I have completed the classic single climb twice before how long did you allow for the climbs and how long did it actually take.

    Steve

  2. Well done and thanks for the photos Will, they give us some idea as to what the surface is like. I did the Cingles in June of this year and apart from not being able to clip in from Bedoin to Maulecene everything else went well for me. I’m looking at doing the Galerien next year though, as you may well know climbing up Ventoux via its 4 routes, which includes the forest. My question is, is it possible to do it with a road bike but with thicker tyres say 28mm’s instead of the 22 I did the Cingle with?

  3. Manuel,

    Yes, I think 28mm would be more than fine on the forest route suggested for the Galerien. I think it’s likely that they suggest a different, easier forest route than the one I did is precisely so people can do all four sides with the same bike.

    Best of luck,

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