Camille and Maxime know this climb well. Camille is an author and naturopath practitioner who loves to ride the famous cols of the French Alps and the hills of the Basque Country. She is a strong advocate for women's cycling. Camille's Mont Ventoux riding partner, Maxime, is a manager of a motorcycle and bike shop in France who commutes to work daily and loves training and riding mountains on his road bike.
There are three ways to climb Mont Ventoux, also known as “The Giant of Provence.” The most famous is the southern approach from Bédoin, the renowned climb used in the Tour de France. This 21.5km ascent is relentless, climbing 1610 meters with an average grade of 7.4 percent. It goes from a tame start through the rolling hills to steep ramps through pine forests. With few switchbacks to ease the grade, you’re up against about 10km at around 9-10 percent before a bit of relief around Chalet Reynard.
Just past the 16km mark, the terrain changes drastically, transforming into the lunar landscape this climb is most known for. This is also where it gets windy, with the final kilometers being the most challenging. “You’re landing on the moon,” says Camille. “[There are] just, like, white rocks everywhere.”
Eventually, you reach the top. “Once you’ve done it, I feel like you’re a bit of a different cyclist,” Camille says. “Like every big challenge you do, it will give you this confidence in yourself. I feel like Ventoux does that for me.”
And then there’s the payoff, the long descent back to Bédoin for a well-earned café stop.