Mont Ventoux

Solitary Sentinel of the Windswept Lands


This is a climb that every lover of the Grand Boucle and French roads must have in their portfolio, while the unique, windswept lunar landscape is one of the most rewarding sights a cycling ascent can offer. And there is plenty to be rewarded for, as almost every single one of the 21 kilometres of the route to the summit of Mont Ventoux challenges potential conquerors, reminding them that it deserves to be called the K2 of road cycling – a mountain that defends itself against intruders by any means necessary. And sometimes wins…


The Mountain of the Winds, as Mont Ventoux (1,909 metres above sea level) has become known, is an inaccurate translation of its name, but it is an apt description of the landscape in which this, one of the three most iconic climbs of the Tour de France, rises. Situated in the northern part of Provence, between the Rhône valley and the foothills of the Alps (geologically it is part of the Alps, but usually considered separately because of its location), it is exposed to the Mistral wind that regularly blows through the area. In addition, the fact that the mountain is isolated, solitarily overlooking fields of sunflowers and vineyards, increases its exposure to the adverse weather conditions that, over time, have shaped the lunar landscape of its summit. The more difficult second half of the climb will leave any amateur cyclist equally exposed, as once past the famous Chalet Reynard there is no shelter from the rain, wind or scorching sun.

The nearest town is Carpentras, in the Vaucluse, but the final stop for riders heading up Mont Ventoux is the small village of Bedoin, which has seen its economy flourish over the last two decades thanks to the iconic status of the climb and its popularity with amateur cyclists. But fame has its downside, and in the case of this town, it has meant a significant increase in crime – mainly the theft of cycling equipment.

The Climb

There are three ways to reach the summit of Mont Ventoux on the bike, but this is one of those climbs that is not worth compromising on – the 21.8-kilometre route from the aforementioned Bedoin is the one that matters.

The Giant of Provence doesn’t roll out all his guns on a good day, and as you make your way up the first 5 kilometres of the climb, which takes you through the vineyards and cherry orchards of the foothills, you might even think that everything is going to be fine. The most famous point on this part of the ascent is Sainte-Colombe, where you can find very pleasant accommodation with great views. Once you enter the luminous oak forest, not only does the landscape change, but so does the gradient of the narrow road, which only drops below 9% twice over the next 8 kilometres. And only very slightly. The route flattens out a little before Chalet Reynard, one of the three most recognisable points of the route, and a good time to catch your breath as the last
6 kilometres represent a world where mercy is not particularly valued.

The last part of the climb, through a lunar landscape, guarantees a unique experience and a setting that can only be rivalled by the Col d’Izoard, a scenery from yet another planet. This is the place where Mont Ventoux defeated Tom Simpson and pushed Eddy Merckx to the brink of exhaustion. It is also the place where the wind blows at over 90 km/h on an average of 240 days a year and where the sun is unbearably hot and blinding in summer, reflecting off the bright rocks. However, the view from the summit is well worth it – on a clear day you can see the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean all at the same time.


Petrarch (1304-1374) was said to have praised the almost limitless panorama from the summit of Mont Ventoux, but the Giant of Provence had to wait a long time to make its debut on the Grand Boucle route – until 1951. In the decades that followed, it was used rather infrequently, but this did not prevent it from earning its legend and becoming one of the greatest symbols of the Tour de France. This had as much to do with the victories of the most famous figures on its summit as it did with tragic events, the darkest of which was the death of Tom Simpson in 1967. Beaten by the mountain and his addictions, the Englishman is commemorated by a monument alongside the route, but the victories of Eddy Merckx, Marco Pantani or Richard Virenque also serve as reminders that the battle against Mont Ventoux often required superhuman strength.

Interesting Facts

  • Mont Ventoux made its debut on the Tour de France route in 1951, appearing in the race sixteen times until 2024.
  • The name Mont Ventoux is most likely derived from the Gaelic word Vintur and refers to the god of the mountains who was worshipped by these tribes.
  • Mont Ventoux has many nicknames, the most popular being the Mountain of the Winds, the Giant of Provence and the Bald Mountain.
  • On a clear day it is possible to see the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean all at the same time from the summit.
  • Climbing Mont Ventoux all three ways in one day (from the Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault sides) allows the rider to join the elite Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux.


Location: France, Alps
Beginning of the climb: Bedoin
Length: 21,4 km
Average gradient: 7,5%
Max gradient: 12,9%
Elevation: 1603 m
Height: 1909 m a.s.l.


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