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July 19, 2011
Today myself and hundreds of other cyclists made the pilgrimage up Mont Ventoux. Since the teams and many race followers are staying very close to Ventoux, it was a convenient day out. A rest day for the pros meant that us fans could spend the whole day riding without rushing back to follow the race and the see finish. I can’t decide which is more tiring.
The first time I ever climbed Mount Ventoux was on February 14, 2004 – the day Marco Pantani died. I was shocked by the news and could still see faint markings on the road from Stage 12 in 2000 when he beat Armstrong up to the finish. Watching that stage was the first time I was introduced to Ventoux and have been enchanted with it ever since.
There are three ways up to the summit of Mont Ventoux. I’d done it twice from Sault, but never Bedouin. The Tour de France usually summits the mountain from Bedouin which is the most difficult way. The Tour has featured Ventoux 14 times and finished there on 8 occasions. The last time the Tour went up Mt Ventoux in 2009 and it’s estimated that more than half a million people were on the mountain that day.
You can make Mont Ventoux as hard or as easy as you want. Anyone can get to the top (which was quite evident by the hordes people out there today). It doesn’t get overly steep, but it is long. The lower treed section is the most difficult part in my opinion. It’s easy to go too hard to soon and not save enough for the final 4km.
After we climbed Ventoux my mate Trevor and I decided to go on a little adventure. A Garmin 800 adventure to be exact. I’ve been using the Garmin 800 for this entire trip and absolutely love it. However, the GPS route feature can sometimes lead you astray. As with any tool, it’s only as good as it’s operator. It’ll always get you to where you need to go, but as we found out there are sometimes many detours it takes you on just to have fun with you. I bet the Garmin engineers are having a good chuckle at that bug (or “feature” as we used to call it when I was a s/w designer).
In any case, Trevor and I had a magnificent ride through the Provence region of southern France. Mont Ventoux is nice and has lots of history, but the rest of the riding through the area is absolutely spectacular. Lavendar fields, hilltop villages, deep gorges with roads and tunnels chiseled out of the side. It was one of the most memorable days on a bike I’ve ever had. Gotta love the rest days…
Tomorrow we get to the pointy end of the Tour de France when it reaches the Alps. Can Voeckler hold on up Alpe d’huez? Will Cadel throw caution into the wind and attack?
Judging by what we’ve seen so far, my guess is that we’ll see the winner in Paris emerge as the rider who doesn’t crack and has a good TT in Grenoble, versus the rider who decimates the field with a single blow. It’s going to be an exciting week ahead!
Mont Ventoux Quick Facts
Distance : 21 km
Summitt : 1912 m
Start Altitude (Bedoin) : 290m
Vertical Ascent : 1610 m
Average gradient : 7.5 %
Maximum gradient : 12.0 %
– The fastest time recorded up Mt Ventoux from the Bedouin side was Iban Mayo in the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré. He did it in 55′ 51″. Trained amateurs will climb to the summit in 1’30”.
– Mont Ventoux was systematically deforested from the 12th century onwards for the shipbuilders of the naval port of Toulon.
– Ventoux is French for or ‘wind’. It can certainly get windy at the summit. Wind speeds as high as 320 km/h have been recorded and the wind blows at 90+ km/h 240 days a year. The three times I’ve climbed Mont Ventoux, there’s hardly been a breath of wind.
Mont Ventoux Strava Leaderboard
See Strava Mont Ventoux Leaderboard