I’m always up for an athletic challenge, as you may have noticed already. And if that challenge takes place abroad, you can definitely count me in. And that’s how I ended up on top of the Mont Ventoux, by bike.
To raise money for cancer research, a committee at work ‘Move4Cancer‘ challenges the employees each years to conquer a famous climb. You can either do it by foot, run or bike. Preferably as many times as possible. Since it was one of my closest colleagues his last year before retirement, I could no longer postpone joining him on this quest.
The trip with work was only going to be four days; one day driving south, two days around the Mont Ventoux – the climb that was chosen as 2022’s challenge – and then one day driving back home. I wasn’t a big fan of driving 1.000 kilometers for such a limited time. So my boyfriend and I decided to go south on our own and extend our trip to a week. Hello summer vacay in the Provence region.
We arrived on Saturday evening at our accommodation, chosen by the committee: Les Florans in Bédoin. A typical French holiday resort specializing in big groups. Not much to write home about, but it was great for our group of 70+ people and had the perfect location for our climb up the Mont Ventoux. The town of Bédoin is very charming and filled with cute shops and good restaurants. So definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not staying there overnight.
On Sunday we were free to spend our day as we pleased. Time to warm up the muscles a bit for the challenge the next day! Together with some of my colleagues, we decided to explore the nearby Gorges de la Nesque. A gorgeous canyon running from Villes-sur-Auzon to Monieux. From the road high up you get marvelous views into the canyon below. It’s about 22 kilometers long, so a perfect distance to cover by bike.
From our hotel in Bédoin, it was about ten kilometers to the start of the canyon, and from Monieux back it was another thirty kilometers. The total elevation on this ride is also about a 1.000 meters. So not something you can just attempt to do on a whim. But if you’re a bit sporty, you’ll manage just fine.
And the views are most definitely worth the sweat you’re working up! Both the canyon views as the view on the Mont Ventoux in the distance. Once you’re at the start of the canyon, there are no more steep climbs, but it’s more of a sloping road. My cup of tea! On the way back to Bédoin there was a bigger climb up and most definitely a longer descent. So I would definitely recommend going from Villes-sur-Auzon to Monieux instead of the other way around to avoid that steep, winding climb.
And then it was time for the real deal. D-Day. Cycling up to the top of the Mont Ventoux. An epic climb made famous by the many cycling races that are being held on its slopes. There are three starting places to get to the top; Bédoin, Malaucène and Sault. Being stationed in Bédoin, we of course went up from there. This is also the most difficult side. It covers the same, or even more, altimeters on a shorter distance. 21 kilometers of going up, up, up. Rip me.
I already knew that climbing by bike isn’t really something I enjoy very much, so I knew that this task wouldn’t be my favorite to complete. But boy how I suffered. Physically it wasn’t thát bad, but you just don’t get a rest. You just have to keep going and going in order not to topple over. It was 2 hours and 23 minutes of continuous pedaling, but I made it. And yes, the feeling you get when you reach the top is pretty nice.
And then the view you are rewarded with from the top is even better. We were very fortunate with the weather as it was very clear. In the morning it also wasn’t very warm yet, but the physical effort quickly warms up your body, so that’s no issue. By the time I made it too the top, the sun was already giving of a lovely warmth but not too much yet. It did get a lot hotter in the afternoon, which wasn’t ideal for my colleagues attempting to conquer the climb a second (and some even a third) time! (they’re c r a z y!).
And the notorious strong winds you get once you leave the safety of the forest and arrive in the open, moon landscape weren’t present. Lucky me!
I’m still tremendously happy that I signed up for this, despite my aversion to climbing. The views and the ambiance were simply amazing. The Mont Ventoux may not have been on my bucketlist, but now I’m putting it on there just so I can scratch it off.
And now that the physical part of our trip was over, it was time for the slightly more relaxing part; a roadtrip through other parts of the Provence. But more on that soon!
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