Mont Ventoux – All Three Sides

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Above: Approaching the summit from Malaucène side.


Bike route 1873516 – powered by Bikemap 

Woooohoooo. I’d had been feeling relatively fit, so I decided to try something a little crazy as the season winds down. I am a little surprised but really pleased that I managed this.

Details of all three sides of Mont Ventoux, Le Géant de Provence:

Side #1: Start Bédoin – The Famous Side

Length: 21.5 kms Ascent: 1610 metres


I decided to start with the most famous side, to see how the legs felt. This side can be divided into three parts:

  1. Easy: The first 6 kms are open, and not steep. A perfect warm-up.
  2. Very Hard: At Les Bruns, the road turn sharply left and heads up and into the forest. the next ten kilometres are consistently brutal. Few hairpins, but a continually wiggly road through the Réserve de Biosphère du Mont –Ventoux – a rare ecological environment.
  3. Hard: At Chalet Reynard, the route exits the woods for a final 6 glorious (and usually windy) kilometres through a unique lunar environment.
  4. I felt better than hoped heading through the woods, gradually passing several riders. At this point, I started thinking a triple ascent was at least a possibility.

    At Reynard the wind was howling from the north-east. This led to a bizarre experience where occasionally i had an angled wind push, and occasionally the wind in my face.

    Despite it being a sunny clear day in the region, I couldn’t see the summit due to fog, and the top was freezing and viewless. Not to worry, I was confident the fog would melt as the day progressed.

    The last half kilometre was steep, and foggy:

    Foggy
    Ventoux Summit

    I proceeded to descend down the back side to Malaucène.

    My main strategy was to eat and drink to excess all day to avoid the bonk. I probably gained weight during the ride, consuming 5 water bottles, 3 cokes, 4 gel power shots, 2 chocolate bars, one apple juice, and a huge baguette fromage.

    Side #2: Start Malaucène – Equally Tough

    Length: 21 kms Ascent: 1570 metres

    Less famous than the Bédoin side, the climb from Malaucène shares almost the exact same statistics. This is a big climb.

    The toughest part of this climb is a four kilometre stretch in the middle , below the little ski station at Mont Serein (see 3rd small borne photo above). Plenty of stretches well above 10%. Hard work.

    But by far the funnest part is the last 2 kilometres as the summit comes into view. Beautiful hairpins stretched across the moonscape, and the unforgettable “lighthouse:”

    Ventoux Summit

    I snacked at the start of this side, and stopped for a coke at Mont Serein, and generally felt pretty good as I kept my effort slightly lower than my first ascent. The arrival of sun at the top didn’t hurt my spirits either.

    Ventoux

    It was decision time. It was mid-afternoon, and I had to get a move on, but I decided to descend the 26 kms to Sault, and attempt the third side.

    Side #3: Start Sault – The “Easy” side

    Length: 26 kms Ascent: 1220 metres

    This side is longer and starts several hundred metres higher than the other two side — thus it is FAR less steep.

    Most people call the start at the village of Sault, but the low point is a kilometre before Sault – shortening the climb – and is where I started.

    While the two tough sides of Ventoux feature impeccably surfaced, wide roads, with bike lanes – the Sault side is narrower, far bumpier, and far quieter. I saw few cars and no cyclists.

    Immediately, I realized I had a problem — a strong head wind much of the way. But after battling so many steep kilometres, this side was a pleasure, and the distances flew by.

    This side is perfect for someone that would like to cycle a “full Ventoux” but is slightly intimidated. Long, but rarely steep, and still the same famous finish.

    With 6 kilometres to go, at Chalet Reynard, the route joins the classic Bédoin route, and becomes the toughest part of this 3rd ascent. But I was vaguely euphoric at this point as I realized I would succeed. The views passing the Tom Simpson memorial:

    Tom Simpson Memorial

    Less than a kilometre from the summit is the Col des Tempêtes (storm pass!) and the wind almost always seems scarily strong here. As I approached, I was only 400 metres away, but for the first time felt truly exhausted as I tried to stay upright and push up:

    Mont Ventoux

    But at as I turned pass the col, I had a helping tail-wind as I survived the final steep half kilometre.

    Wooohooo, I was spent. In the wind, I struggled to hold up my bike and get warm clothes on. A kind man in full eskimo gear, hood and all, kindly helped after taking a photo of me, where I was too exhausted to smile properly:

    Ventoux

    Ventoux was the last big climb I did before my year long struggle with injury that ended this May. During the lay-off In frustration, to avoid complete depression I worked-out at the gym and focused on losing some weight. Glad I did.

    Since getting back in the saddle, I have probably over-compensated by cycling “up” stuff more than I ever have. But this mediocre cyclist is feeling stronger than ever – and today seemed a fitting finale to the happiest few months I’ve ever had on the bike. :)

    Looking for another Ventoux cycling idea? Try cycling up to see the sunrise:

    Details here.

    9.9 Awesome

    A dream. I never thought I'd be able to do this. Late autumn is the perfect time for this challenge. Ensuring quiet roads and cool temperatures.

    • Views 10
    • Difficulty 10
    • Quiet / No Traffic 9.5
    • Fun Factor 10
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About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

15 Comments

  1. You are SUPERMAN! Well done, Will! When did you start and what time did you finish? Bet you had a few isotonic high carbohydrate, malt based recovery drinks.

  2. Magnifique journée comme on peut en trouver à l’automne, le Ventoux pour toi ! Et bravo pour avoir fait 3 versants, une belle continuité à ces derniers mois… J’aurais bien aimé avoir une telle journée également.

  3. Hi Ralph,

    I started a little late – 10: am.
    Including eating, descending, and photos — a little over 8 hours. If it wasn’t so cold at the top I would have hung around for the sunset :)

    Groover,

    No, I didn’t do the card stamps. Maybe next time, including the Mountain Bike route? (joking)

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  7. Hello Will, thanks for your report and your very useful and inspiring web site.
    I am planning the Ventoux triple in a few weeks time and I wonder what the best sequence is.
    Bédoin – Malaucène – Sault seems to be the standard way to do it, but I wonder whether physically and psychologically it wouldn’t be better to put Sault in the middle. Going for the least difficult climb after a first hard climb will allow the body and mind to recuperate somewhat and to replenish reserves. Also, I’d have a slightly longer break and a decent lunch before tackling the third climb. Finally, knowing that this is the final leg would give me a psychological boost … Your reflections are very welcome. Warm regards,

    – Philipp

  8. Hi Philip,

    It’s a long day, and I wanted to get the hard stuff done as soon as possible to avoid dehydration, or bonk on the super steep slopes of the first two sides.

    I suppose it also depends on one’s psychology. :)

    For me, I wasn’t sure I could do all three sides. The Sault side is much, MUCH easier than the other two sides, And leaving it last ensured I could enjoy it thoroughly in full knowledge that I was going to succeed.

    (but your way could make sense too)

    Good luck !

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