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Le Mont Ventoux-le Tour de France

Today we embark on a journey to the top of Mont Ventoux. Mt. Ventoux is a landmark in the Vaucluse region of Provence. You will see it from most of our destinations as it rises to 6,273 ft. Luckily we will ascend in a car, not by cycle. It is associated with very strong winds, ( “venteux, means windy) in French. At the summit, wind speeds of more than 200 mph have been recorded. The roads high up on the slopes are often closed as a result of the strong gusts.

You will notice that the top looks snow-capped. It was actually deforested starting in the 12th

century by shipbuilders of the naval port of Toulon. and the vegetation just never recovered. Its biological distinctiveness was recognized by UNESCO in 1990 when the Réserve de Biosphère du Mont Ventoux was created, protecting an area of (200,150 acres) on and around the mountain.. There is a remarkable amount of biodiversity and some species of spiders and butterflies are unique to Mt. Ventoux.

We will see cyclists both ascending and descending as we climb up the north side and descend on the south face (where the Tour de France stage takes place).

So how long does it take to cycle up to Mt. Ventoux? I have asked a few people at the top (who did not appear to be professional athletes….who said 3 ½ hours). I have a cyclist friend who can do it in an hour and a half, but the current record for ascending Mont Ventoux is held by Spanish cyclist Iban Mayo. In the 2004 edition of the Dauphineé Libéré race a mountain time trial was held from Bedoin to the summit and Mayo climbed the mountain in an unbelievable 55 minutes 51 seconds. Unfortunately due to recent developments, almost all of the top 10 fastest times up the Ventoux posted during that time trial are tainted with doping allegations.

Tom Simpson, a British cyclist competing in the Tour de France, died ascending Mont Ventoux. He was suffering from a combination of heat exhaustion, alcohol and amphetamines. He was weaving wildly on the bike before he fell down asking spectators to “put me back on the bike!” He then rode to within 1.5km of the summit before collapsing, still clipped to his pedals. A memorial to him has been erected on the mountain close to the spot where he collapsed.

The cycle ride from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux is thought to be one of the most physically challenging climbs in the world. This is often a "stage" of the Tour de France, but not every year. You can experience this stage and we roll down the mountain. We will arrive in a little Hamlet called the Baux de Bédoin on the South face of the mountain.

Having worked up a considerable appetite, we will happily accept an invitation to lunch at our french friends, Josianne and Alain's home. Enjoy a fresh French lunch out on the patio. Discover the leisurely pace of sharing a meal together with friends in Provence.

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