Mont Ventoux for those who are not fans of the Tour de France or have not ventured inland past Avignon, is a mighty mountain which dominates the relatively flat surroundings north of the Luberon. With it's peak at 1912 metres, it is a mecca for cyclists (although it also appeals to hikers, mountain-bikers and skiers). Seen as I was passing by with my fold up bike in the boot I decided to find out what the fuss was about...
Fortunately I had done my research before setting off (asking a friendly waitress in a cafe that morning), and settled with the "easy" route up from a pretty village called Sault.
Cycling up the Mont Ventoux can be done via Bedoin (the famous route), Malaucène (not so famous, just as tough) or from Sault (the easy approach).
With added fortune the weather conditions were perfect; clear skies, a cool temperature and no wind - the Ventoux takes it's name from the French word for windy (venteux), it is said to blow at 90+ km/h 240 days a year.
Pleased with my fortune I unfold my bike, plug my walkman in and start pedalling...downhill. Yes the Sault route starts with a downhill descent, which immediately raised alarm bells as I knew I'd have to make one final climb to get back to my car.
Ploughing on I pedal through a scenic 20kms of lavender fields, forested roads and views over Provence. Despite being a bank holiday weekend this approach is void of motor traffic and with a newly tarmacked road, it's a peaceful enjoyable climb.
Things change at Chalet Reynard, 6km's before the summit where you meet the road from Bédoin. The views change, now above the trees and into a lofty moonscape of the summit.
Mont Ventoux, however, saves the best for last with the summit in view and an inevitable gusty breeze, the final 2km's are at a 10% gradient.
After a long slog, I made it to the top. Proud of my efforts amongst a medley of slick spandex, lightweight carbon frames and the tapping of toe clips, I parked my foldie in front of the spectacular view only to be approached by a man pointing proudly to his fold up bike "Hey, I came up from Bedoin - how about you?".
After admitting I took the easy route and discussing folding mechanisms with my fellow folder, we shook hands and congratulated each other on our efforts.
In search of refueling on something other than sugar I stopped at the summit cafe where prices are as steep as the ascension, I sat with a sandwich and a beer to admire the views.
"Hey look it's one of those electric bikes" someone said as they walked by...
If you are tempted to cycle the Mont Ventoux, you can always hire a bike right at the bottom of the mountain.