Mt Ventoux, 84390 Brantes, France
Photo by Alain Hocquel/Vaucluse Tourisme
Mont VentouxAt 6,200 feet, Mont Ventoux—also known as the “Beast of Provence”—is the highest mountain in the Vaucluse region, and a popular part of the Tour de France cycling race. About half a mile from the summit stands a memorial to British cyclist Tom Simpson, who died during the 1967 Tour de France at just 29 years old. It serves as a sort of reminder to those tackling the grueling, 15.5-mile ascent, which, at some points, features a 10 percent gradient. At the top, winds can howl at up to 150 miles an hour, but the panoramic view stretches all the way from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. Despite being nicknamed the Bald Eagle, Mont Ventoux is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with more than 1,000 species of flora and fauna. Take a drive to the top, then reward yourself with a visit to the Boyer nougat factory in nearby Sault, or a stop at the Vallon des Lavandes distillery on the Lavender Route.
AFAR Local Expert
almost 8 years ago
Mighty Mont Ventoux
It's the grand daddy of all famed Tour de France rides and always at the very top of every cyclist's dream, to-do list. There are three different ways to start the ascent, but the most storied (and most challenging approach) begins in Bedoin. Mont Ventoux, stands alone to the north of the Luberon mountain range. The higher you climb, the more the vegetation disappears, until due to high winds at altitude, only limestone rocks are able to survive. That fact, paired with the meteorological tower at the top, create a lunar landscape for those brave enough to tackle the 23 kilometer, uphill challenge. The Bédoin side starts easy among the vines and for few seconds, you're entertaining thoughts that it'll be easier than you think. Then you hit the forest at the famous St. Esteve turn and start to realize what you're in for. From the end of the forest point on, the climb hardly ever goes below 9% and gives you no time or place to recover. Once, you reach the Chalet Renard, you're almost there and you'll have glimpses of recovery grades before the final thwack. Those final kilometers are at 10% and will have you out of your saddle to reach the yellow 1912 M sign at the very top. Be sure to pay your respects to Tom Simpson (British rider killed in the 1967 climb of Ventoux) on your way up or down. Make sure you layer up for your return descent the way you came, or head down the Malaucene route to change things up. Either way, a celebration in Bedoin is in order!