Mont Ventoux is a legendary climb, but did you know you can join the Club des Cingles Ventoux, or in English, the Ventoux Crazies Club? Anyone who follows the competitive cycling world will know about the Giant of Provence. The climb is visited by thousands of professional and amateur cyclists every year and is on the top of many people's bucket lists. Only a very select few have joined the Club des Cingles Ventoux however, an epic challenge to ride all 3 sides of Mont Ventoux in a day. As of today, of the hundreds of thousands of cyclists that have ascended Mont Ventoux in the last 30 years, only 16,000 have ever completed this challenge.
The Cycling History of Ventoux
Mont Ventoux is located in the Provence region of Southern France and is considered part of the French Alps. It is known as the Giant of Provence because it towers over everything in the area. It is 1910m high and has a weather station situated directly on the top.
The legendary Mont Ventoux mountain is full of rich cycling history. It is commonly featured in the Tour de France. Ten of the stages have finished at the summit and it's been the showpiece climb of many Tour de Frances. Lots of epic battles have been fought on this mountain, and lots of legendary moments in cycling history have happened here, such as Eddy Merckx giving so much that he required oxygen at the top and the tragic loss of Tom Simpson who died on the climb during a stage in 1967 following a deadly mix of narcotics, alcohol and exhaustion. More recently the mountain was further immortalised when Chris Froome rode into the back of a motorbike, broke his bike, and started running up the mountain in his bike shoes and cleats!
What is Le Cinglés du Mont Ventoux?
Climbing Mont Ventoux is a tough challenge but climbing it from the three different ascents times from different directions in 24 hours is a feat of epic proportions.
In 1988 Christian Pic saw so many people coming to Ventoux to climb the mountain that he came up with the idea of trying to do all the climbs in one single day. After doing it himself, he knew it was a challenge that other cyclists would be capable of, and he wanted to share the achievement with others, so the challenge was born. He said anyone that could complete the feat would be able to be a certified member of the Le Cinglé du Mont Ventoux club. Complete the ascent of Ventoux from Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault in under 24 hours and you're in the club.
Since the original days of the challenge, it has grown to offer some extra challenges where you can climb it three times with an added forest road. Or you have the option of six times on the three main tarmac roads, which ends up being a full climb of the legendary height of Everest. Only 370 people have ever completed that insane challenge.
The Three Climbs
As mentioned earlier, you have three different ways of climbing Ventoux, and to join the club, you will need to complete them all in a single day. You can save yourself a lot of time by doing them in the correct order and knowing which way to go. Here are the climbs;
The Bedoin Climb
The most popular climb up Mont Ventoux is the climb from Bedoin. It 21.5km long and is an incredible route up the valley to the top of the climb. On this first climb, you have to ascent 1290m, and you are going to be going from 290m to 1910m. The average gradient is 7.5%, with a maximum gradient of 12.5%. This route features the legendary Chalet Reynard, which is an extremely popular cafe stop on Mt Ventoux.
The Malaucène Climb
The second climb on the list is the Malaucène side, and this climb is on a much quieter narrower road. The route is 21.2km along this road, and it is a very beautiful route. You will be climbing 1570m on this route and going from 340m to 1910m with an average gradient of 7.5% and a maximum of 14%.
The Sault Climb
The final climb on this list, and it's the easier of the 3. This is the longest climb at 25.8km, and the route is typically nice and quiet compared to the Bedoin climb. You will be climbing 1210m, starting at 760m and finishing at 1910m. The average gradient is 4.7%, and the maximum gradient is 12.5%. This is a challenging climb and joins the Bedoin climb later in the ride. Both this and the Bedoin climb both pass the Tom Simpson Memorial.
Like with many events and challenges, there are some rules you have to abide by to complete the challenge officially. Here's everything you need to know to join the ranks of the Club des Cingles.
You must stick to the roads they advise and not take any shortcuts along the way. Most people use their Garmin or navigation device to ensure they stay on the correct route. This also provides the evidence to say you have completed the challenge.
You get a 24-hour period to complete the challenge, but it must start from 12am on the day you attempt the challenge and finish by 23.59pm that same day. Starting the evening before and finishing before the same time the next day is not allowed.
You have to sign up to say you are doing it and also when attempting to be in a good physical condition to attempt the challenge.
You will be issued a card which you must have stamped at the top of the climb each time, at the Vendran restaurant or at the souvenir shop, and in town when you have descended each route.
You must respect the fact you are riding in a regional park. If animals need to cross or are in your way, you should let them go. If you are instructed not to go certain ways, this must be completely respected.
Le Cinglé du Mont Ventoux as a cycling holiday?
Cycling holidays don't always have to be eating and drinking too much and oversleeping each day. Taking on a challenge like the Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux is an amazing idea where you get to build up your training before, and after you finish the challenge, relax in an incredible region where's there are lots of other activities to do, amazing food to eat, and incredible views.