Avignon, a historic city located in the Provence region of France, is a popular starting point for cyclists looking to conquer Mont Ventoux, one of the most famous and challenging climbs in the world. While there are several routes to the summit, the best cycling route from Avignon to Ventoux depends on your fitness level, experience, and personal preferences. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the top cycling routes from Avignon to Ventoux and what makes them unique.
Cycling via Carpentras
The most direct route to Ventoux from Avignon is via the town of Carpentras. However, the D942 is the direct carriageway which you must not take, as it’s not for cyclists. Instead follow the direction of Carpentras but spend some time riding through the vineyards and villages of the Vaucluse region.
Isle sur la Sorgue
We recommend heading slightly north (by only a few kilometres to visit Isle sur la Sorgue. the town is known for its beautiful waterways. It is built around a series of canals and waterways that run through the town, giving it a unique and picturesque character. The town is often called the “Venice of Provence” due to its beautiful water features, and visitors can enjoy boat tours and walks along the canals.
It also has a thriving arts scene, with numerous art galleries and studios showcasing the work of local and international artists. The town hosts several art festivals throughout the year, including the “Art and Antiques Weekend” and the “International Art Fair.” Make sure to visit the galleries as well as the antique markets, which attract visitors from all over the world.
From Isle sur la Sorgues, ride towards Monteux, a typically Provencal town known for its traditional weekly market, which takes place every Sunday morning in the town centre. The market is a bustling affair, with stalls selling everything from fresh produce and local cheeses to handmade crafts and clothing. From here, you will have a short ride to Carpentras and it’s about here where you will need to make your decision as to which of the 3 ascents of Ventoux you want to take.
From there, you’ll start the climb up Mont Ventoux via the classic route, which is approximately 22 km long and has an average gradient of 7.4%. This route is the most challenging of the three routes up Ventoux, with several steep sections that can test even the most experienced cyclists.
What makes this route unique is the scenery along the way. You’ll pass through picturesque villages such as Saint-Didier and Venasque, and you’ll see stunning views of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range. Additionally, the town of Carpentras is a great place to stop for a coffee or a bite to eat before starting the climb up Ventoux.
Option 1: Climbing Mont Ventoux Via Bedoin
Length: 21.5 kilometres.
Average Gradient: 7.5 %.
Toughest Gradient: 15 %.
Ah, Mont Ventoux. The climb that separates the real cyclists from the weekend warriors. It’s not just about the height or length of the climb, it’s something much deeper than that. This mountain is the stuff of legends. It’s the place where Tom Simpson took his last breath before famously asking to be put back on his bike. It’s where Chris Froome collided with a motorbike in 2016 before attempting to run up the mountain. It’s a place where cyclists are pushed to their limits, both mentally and physically.
Now, there are three ways up Ventoux, but let’s be real, for the purists, there’s only one way – the ascent from Bedoin. This route is steeped in history and will test even the most seasoned of cyclists. With a distance of 21.5km and an average gradient of 7.5%, it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ll be climbing close to 1,600m, so make sure you bring your climbing legs and your sense of humor.
The climb up Mont Ventoux begins with an easy warm-up for approximately 3.5km through Sainte Colombe before reaching the St Estève bend. The tough climbing then begins through the forest, where the enclosed environment can be mentally challenging. The road meanders through the forest with gradients below 10% but with occasional switchbacks with steeper gradients. The climb continues for approximately 10km, taking around 45 minutes at a speed of 15kph.
After the forest, you reach Chalet Reynard, where you can grab food and water before facing the toughest part of the climb. The road becomes exposed to the elements, with the famous yellow and black poles marking the way. Ventoux has no surrounding peaks, making it vulnerable to strong winds, with the strongest recorded at 320kph. The climb becomes steep and challenging, but the views over the moonrock landscape and Provence are sensational.
A kilometer before the summit, you reach the Tom Simpson memorial, where cyclists often leave small tributes. The summit is beneath the famous weather station and this is where you will have conquered one of the mythical climbs of cycling.
Option 2: Climbing Mont Ventoux Via Malaucene
Length: 21 kilometres.
Average Gradient: 7.2 %.
Toughest Gradient: 12 %.
Cycling Mont Ventoux from Malaucene might not be as popular as the Bedoin route, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s still a Herculean feat. Known as the Giant of Provence, it stands tall at 1909m and is one of the most challenging climbs in the Tour de France.
But let’s get down to business. The route from Malaucene might not be the most popular, but it’s arguably the most beautiful. As you make your way up the mountain, the views of the cycling roads of Provence are breathtaking. The lush and green region leaves a fresh aroma in the air that will invigorate your senses.
Starting from Malaucene, a village that takes shape around an old fort, you’ll need to warm up fast. Right from the start, you’ll be faced with a 7-9% incline. It’s a tough section, but the reward is worth it. As you keep pushing yourself, the views improve, and the climbing tapers back slightly to a more manageable 6.5% gradient.
The best part about taking the less popular route is the lack of traffic. You’ll have more space to enjoy the climb, which can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s peaceful, but on the other hand, you’ll have more time to think about the suffering you’re enduring.
But let’s be honest, the suffering is part of the fun. It’s a challenge that will push you to your limits, but the satisfaction of reaching the top will be worth it. Plus, if you make it to the summit, you can brag to your friends about how you conquered the Giant of Provence from the less popular but more beautiful route. So grab your bike, pack some snacks, and get ready for an adventure.
Option 3: Climbing Mont Ventoux Via Sault
Length: 24 kilometres.
Average Gradient: 4.5 %.
Toughest Gradient: 13 %.
The ascent via Sault is approximately 25 km long and has an average gradient of 4.5%. While this route is not as challenging as the other routes, it is still an incredibly rewarding and tough ascent.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. “But wait, isn’t the Bedoin route the most famous?” Yes, it is, but hear us out. The Sault route may not have the same level of fame, but it’s arguably the easier and most beautiful route up Mont Ventoux. Plus, it’s further away from the main towns of Carpentras and Bedoin, so it tends to be quieter. Trust us, you’ll thank us later.
Let’s talk numbers. The Sault Mont Ventoux route is 24.4km long, with a climb of 1205m and an average gradient of 4.5%. Yes, it’s the longest ascent of the three routes, but the gradient is diluted by the fact that it’s a few kilometers longer. And let’s be clear, we said easiest, not easy! You’ll still need to put in some work, but the views will make it all worth it.
Speaking of views, the Sault route offers some of the most stunning scenery in the area. As you start your climb, you’ll be surrounded by fields of lavender and sunflowers – a true feast for the eyes. And the town of Sault itself is a sight to behold, with its charming architecture and laid-back village life. If you happen to be there on August 15th, be sure to check out the lavender festival – it’s a local favourite.
Now, a word of caution. There aren’t many places for resupply along the way, so make sure you’re stocked up on food and water before you start your ascent. Trust us, you don’t want to be caught without fuel halfway up the mountain.
So there you have it, folks. The easiest and most beautiful route up Mont Ventoux – cycling from Sault. Are you ready to take on the challenge? We believe in you.