Mont Ventoux - Malaucène Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling






Mont Ventoux - Malaucène

France

Back side of the traditional route up Ventoux.

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Climb Summary


Cycling Mont Ventoux - photo of radio tower and the Bald Mountain

Mont Ventoux

One of the “Big Four,” in our estimation, Mont Ventoux is on the same world renowned footing as Alpe d’Huez (although no climbs can match the fame of Alpe d’Huez), Tourmalet and Stelvio.  The traditional route up Mont Ventoux from Bédoin is extremely challenging (a Top 100 World Climb), scenic, and quite unique in the upper third of the climb with its barren limestone mountains looking more like desert than alps.

Climbing Mont Ventoux by bike - photo of route from Bedoin

Well, they don’t call it the Bald Mountain for nothing . . .

There are three paved routes (a 4th by mountainbike) to the top of this mighty mountain (Map), although the route from Bédoin is by far the most popular and well known.  The cycling climb of Mont Ventoux from Bédoin is also the most challenging of the climbs at 12.6 miles, 5,335 feet, and 7.75% average grade.  Malaucene is not far behind in difficulty at 13 miles/5,230 feet/7.2%, while Sault is the “easiest” at 15 miles/4,779 feet/4.9%.

File:F5 tornado Elie Manitoba 2007.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

It can be a bit breezy at the top.

“Venteux” means windy in French, and this mountain climb certainly lives up to its moniker.  Particularly at the summit, wind speeds as high as 200 mph (320 km/h) have been noted, and “the wind blows at 90+ km/h (56+ mph) 240 days a year” (Mont Ventoux - Wikipedia).  Because of high winds, the road over the mountain is often closed, especially the "col des tempêtes" ("storm pass") just before the summit.  The true origins of this mountain’s name “are thought to trace back to the 1st or 2nd century AD, when it was named 'Vintur' after a Gaulish god of the summits, or 'Ven-Top', meaning "snowy peak" in the ancient Gallic language. In the 10th century, the names Mons Ventosus and Mons Ventorius appear” Mont Ventoux - Wikipedia.

Mont Ventoux is in the Savoy Alps region of the French Alps and is variously referred to as “The Bald Mountain” or “Giant of Provence” (as Ventoux is in the Provence-Alpes-Cóte d’Azur Region of France).

DO ALL 3 IN A DAY AND GET YOUR BADGE 👍👍👍

Club Des Cinglés Du Mont-ventoux offers a very cool badge and certificate for climbing the 3 paved ascents of Mont Ventoux (137 kilometers, 4,440 meters), or 3 paved + 1 mountain bike (183 kilometers at 6,020 meters climbed), or, well hell, Everest the damn thing . . . (3 paved ascents twice = 274 kilometers at 8,800 meters).

Photo courtesy of blissmoments Reddit.

ICONIC RADIO TOWER ATOP MONT VENTOUX

One of the features of cycling Mont Ventoux that separates it from many of the other exceptional climbs of Europe is that its unique radio tower at the top is visible throughout the climb.  At times it seems this tower just refuses to grow any bigger no matter how fast we pedal!  SportActive.net explains that this distinctive red and white building, resembling a lighthouse, was built in 1968 and is used as a meteorological station as well as to broadcast television signals.  

Bicycling up Mont Ventoux - radio tower across vineyards

  Mont Ventoux radio tower through trees

Mont Ventoux radio tower - roadway and Tour de France writing on pavement

 Bike climb of Mont Ventoux - bike sign with radio tower behind it

Of the bike climb Mont Ventoux, SportActive.net also has an article called 7 Facts About Ventoux You May Not Know.  We recommend giving this informative article a read.

Le Chalet Reynard is a cottage and restaurant at the junction of the Bédoin (9.3 miles) and Sault (11.3 miles) approaches of climbing Mont Ventoux.  From this landmark, it’s 3.8 miles, 1,560 feet at 7.8% to the top.

Cycling Mount Ventoux - Le Chalet Reynard

  Bike climb of Mount Ventoux - Le Chalet Reynard

There is a memorial honoring the great British rider, Tom Simpson 0.7 miles from the summit of Mont Ventoux -- this is the location where he perished at age 29 during the the thirteenth state of the 1967 Tour de France.

MONT VENTOUX HAS TAKEN ITS TOLL ON TdF RIDERS LIKE NO OTHER

This climb first appeared in the Tour de France in 1951 when the race crossed, but did not finish, on its summit.  The first serious blow the mountain inflicted on riders was in 1955 when Swiss rider Ferdi Küble  (winner 1950 TdF) attacked 10 km from the summit and paid for it dearly. Ignoring the searing heat and steep grade, Kübler raced up the mountain only to seize up and have to dismount his bike well before the summit.  He eventually made it over the top, but had lost his lead and was a demoralizing 20 minutes behind the leaders. On the descent, Kübler crashed 3 times but ultimately made it to Avignon where he was observed entering a bar close to the stage finish and pounding down beer after beer.  After replenishing in the bar, Kübler mounted his bike and headed out in the opposite direction from the finish. That evening, Kübler called a press conference and retired on the spot - Ventoux had vanquished him.  Fotheringham, William, put me back on my Bike, in Search of Tom Simpson , Yellow Jersey Press, 2007, p. 199.

Ferdi Kübler on Mont Ventoux 1955

Photo:  Cycling Passion, Ferdi Kübler climbing Mont Ventoux, Tour de France 1955

Another great rider had been crushed by Venoux on on the ‘55 stage - Frenchman Jean Malléjac (2nd in 1953 and 9th overall on this day) keeled over on Ventoux, semi comatose and turning one pedal as he lay on the ground - he was never to race again.  Half a dozen other riders collapsed in the Ventoux furnace that day.  (Fotheringham, p. 199-200).

Jean Malléjac on Ventoux 1955;

Photo Rouleur, Tour de France 21 Stories: Vicious Venoux

And then . . . there was 1967 and one of the greatest tragedies to occur during the Grand Tour. On July 13, 1967, during the 10th stage of the Tour de France, Tom Simpson (the charming Mister Tom and leader of the British team) had become ill (later his illness was traced to the substances of the day) but he pressed on, ultimately weaving desperately and collapsing on Ventoux.  The team mechanic, Harry Hall, pressed Simpson to stop, but he insisted on continuing, famously stating “Me straps, Harry, me straps!" (Fotheringham, 2007, pp. 34-35; he did not utter the more famous phrase “put me back on my bike” - those were invented by an overzealous journalist) and his manager Alec Taylor acquiesced.  Sadly, Mister Tom’s final turns of the pedal were over the next 500 meters and he soon collapsed and could not be resuscitated by,Tour doctor Pierre Dumas, the same physician who had tended to Jean Malléjac on Mont Ventoux 12 years earlier.

Tom Simpson, Mont Ventoux, July 13, 1967

Photo:  Sport Vintage

Climb Mont Ventoux by bicycle - Tom Simpson Memorial - water bottles and flowers 

Tom Simpson Memorial

First erected 1969 and re-erected 2014

 Cycling Mont Ventoux - Tom Simpson Memorial - radio tower in background

Memorial for cyclist Tom Simpson.- radio tower in background.

THE SUMMIT

Bike Climb Mont Ventoux - John Johnson PJAMM Cycling with bike at summit sign

  Climbing Mont Ventoux with bicycle - food cart at summit

Many cyclists congregate at the top of the climb where there is plenty of great food to choose from.

TOUR DE FRANCE

The Tour de France included Mont Ventoux in 17 stages between 1951 and 2016, and it has been the finish on 11 of those, most recently in 2016 (as the writing of this page in 2017).[1]  “Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most grueling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain fifteen times since 1951. The followed trail mostly passes through Bédoin. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world”  (Wikipedia).

Climbing Mont Ventoux with bicycle - food cart at summit 

Charly Gaul Stage 18 1958

Photo:  Cycling Passion - Charly Gaul on Mont Ventoux Tour de France 1958 

The “Angel of the Mountains”, diminutive Charly Gaul raced up crushed the Stage 18 Mont Ventoux time trial in 1958, sealing his only Tour de France victory.  His record time of 1:02:09 over poor roads and in the hot sun stood for 31 years until taken by American Jonathan Vaughters of the US Postal team.  The current record is 55:51 set in 2004 by Spain's Iban Mayo

Tour de France stages with summit finishes on Mont Ventoux -  Wikipedia - Mont Ventoux

Year

Stage

Start of stage

Distance (km)

Category

Stage winner

General classification leader

Tour de France winner

1958

18

Bédoin

21.5 (ITT)

1

 Charly Gaul (LUX)

 Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)

 Charly Gaul (LUX)

1965

14

Montpellier

173

1

 Raymond Poulidor (FRA)

 Felice Gimondi (ITA)

 Felice Gimondi (ITA)

1970

14

Gap

170

1

 Eddy Merckx (BEL)

 Eddy Merckx (BEL)

 Eddy Merckx (BEL)

1972

11

Carnon-Plage

207

1

 Bernard Thévenet (FRA)

 Eddy Merckx (BEL)

 Eddy Merckx (BEL)

1987

18

Carpentras

36.5 (ITT)

HC

 Jean-François Bernard (FRA)

 Jean-François Bernard (FRA)

 Stephen Roche (IRL)

2000

12

Carpentras

149

HC

 Marco Pantani (ITA)

-

-

2002

14

Lodève

221

HC

 Richard Virenque (FRA)

-

-

2009

20

Montélimar

167

HC

 Juan Manuel Gárate (ESP)

 Alberto Contador (ESP)

 Alberto Contador (ESP)

2013

15

Givors

242.5

HC

 Chris Froome (GBR)

 Chris Froome (GBR)

 Chris Froome (GBR)

2016

12

Montpellier

178

HC

 Thomas De Gendt (BEL)

 Chris Froome (GBR)

 Chris Froome (GBR)

Dates when the tour crossed Mont Ventoux’s summit - Wikipedia - Mont Ventoux

Year

Stage

Category

Start

Finish

Leader at the summit

1951

18

1

Montpellier

Avignon

 Lucien Lazarides (FRA)

1952

14

1

Aix-en-Provence

Avignon

 Jean Robic (FRA)

1955

11

1

Marseille

Avignon

 Louison Bobet (FRA)

1967

13

1

Marseille

Carpentras

 Julio Jiménez (ESP)

1974

12

1

Savines-le-Lac

Orange

 Gonzalo Aja (ESP)

1994

15

HC

Montpellier

Carpentras

 Eros Poli (ITA)

Wikipedia - Mont Ventoux

Gradients from Bédoin

Steepest kilometer starts at 7.8 (11.1%)

Cycling Mont Ventoux from Bedoin - road and km marker

From Bédoin.

Gradients from Malaucene

 

Steepest kilometer starts at km 11.9 (10.6%)

Cycling Mont Ventoux from Malaucene - road and km marker 

From Malaucene.

Gradients from Sault

Steepest kilometer is km 22.8 (11.1%)

Cycling Mont Ventoux from Sault - road and roadway marker

Roadway markers coming from Sault.


[1] Note that officially the TdF has featured Ventoux 16, not 17 times.  This discrepancy is the result of Lance Armstrong being stripped of all TdF conquests,  the 2012 TdF is removed from the books, including Mont Ventoux’s Stage 13 which was won by David Millar of Great Britain.