#TeamRutland: Les Cingl�s du Ventoux - Conquering Mont Ventoux

Words by Harry Archer

on 09/07/2018 12:35:04

ventoux 1

Last year I managed to tick off a couple of boxes on my to-do list by riding La Marmotte which includes Alp D-Huez and the Galibier, so this year, along with a trip to Belgium I wanted to do something similar. Id looked at the Maratona de -Dolomites but the biggest box to tick off for me was Mont Ventoux. Id read somewhere before that some people think it's a good idea to ride up all 3 sides in a single day, so inspired by this that's what I set about doing. This would be a holiday for me, or at least a 'touring' trip so there was no desire to do it in a fast time, just get the box ticked, and the Brevet card stamped!

The Club des Cingl�s du Mont-Ventoux  is where you can make your ride official. Strava doesn't count for this kind of ride - You need a card that you have to get stamped at the bottom of each climb and the top. OK, it clearly possible to cheat the system here, so it wouldn't stand up in court if I had to prove it, but it's a bit of fun and you get a special 'Cingl�' medal once you send off your completed card to a man in France. Apparently there are some that think it's a good idea to do it 6 times (�Bicinglette�) or even 4 times using the off-road climb! Each to their own,  137km and 4400m climbing is enough of a challenge - without getting to the point where you might never want to ride a bike again after what could easily be a 12 hour + day.

ventoux 5

As with some of my previous adventures, Alex, our Senior Category Manager came along for the ride - Again, without really spending more than a minute having a look at what he was undertaking. I admire his spirit, especially given 8 weeks ago he was in Lincoln Hospital having just broken his collarbone into 3 bits on our way to the coast! He was forced to spend some time on a turbo trainer and managed to complete 1 test ride before the event - Basically confirming he still knew how to balance. Id done a bit of riding, doing the Fred Whitton Challenge again and various longer rides so I was certainly in a better position than him. Undeterred though, we flew to Nimes with our Thule Roundtrip Transition bike boxes and then it was just a 1 hour drive to �B�doin Velo Lodge� where we would base ourselves for a few days. It's a self-catering accommodation ran by a keen cyclist Ian and his wife. It's worth noting before I go any further, whilst there is loads of riding around Mont Ventoux, its not the only place to ride a bike in the region. The Gorges de la Nesque is popular and we did a nice ride from Malaucène over the Suzette in the afternoon when we got there. Fantastic warm ups, but now it was time for the main event....


Thule RoundTrip Traveller Bike Bag

The Thule RoundTrip Traveller bike case is designed to be tough, lightweight and easy to use. A fantastic mix of protection, convenience and value.

  • Padded exterior with a foldable side panels and a collapsible sub frame provides robust protection but can be quickly folded down for storage
  • Rigid internal fork mounting point accepts Q/R, 15 mm and 20 mm thru axle front wheels and keeps the bike anchored inside the case
  • Weight: 7.7 kg
  • Materials and workmanship warranted for 5 years

The route

The most famous climb is the side from B�doin. It's the one you will have seen Armstrong and Pantani battling up during the rocket-fuelled 2000 Tour De France. Its also where Chris Froome went for a run in 2016 following a crash with a media motorbike. This would be our first climb. Just 1k from the top is the Tom Simpson Memorial - Simpson died riding up the Ventoux during the 1967 Tour De France and was a cycling superstar long before the boom of British Cycling stars we have in the today. He even won Sports Personality of the Year in 1965.

ventoux 2

From the summit, we would head down to Malaucène, back up, down to Sault, back up and finally back down to B�doin. Malaucène is slightly easier, and Sault the easiest. There are plenty of places to stop in each town, a caf� at Chalet Reynard, which is 6k from the top where the routes from B�doin and Sault meet, and then there is a shop at the top of the mountain. On some days there is a market stall selling food, just not on the day we did the ride...

1. B�doin - 21.5km long with 1610m in elevation gain

The headlines of this ascent were the gradients of 9-10%, but the reality is that apart from the first few kilometres, it's not easy anywhere. The bottom is tree lined and very pretty, but as soon as you hit Chalet Reynard with 6k left it gets harder. You are likely to have either a strong wind to contend with, or blazing sun, or both. This would be our first taste of the lunar landscape associated with the �Giant of Provence�.

2. Malaucène - 21km long with 1570m in elevation gain

I think this side is easier than the B�doin side due to the fact that the bottom half is a nicer gradient. Its really pretty too, but it does have a sting in the tail as it gets harder (and more exposed) the closer you get to the top.

3. Sault - 26km long with 1220m elevation gain

It's the longest climb, but by far the easiest. Its gentle from Sault to Chalet Reynard, but does get harder from there where is shares the last 6k with the B�doin route. I would 100% do this 3rd whichever way you tackle the challenge.

The ride

�Ahh god, it's raining! All day!�

�Check a different weather app....�

�We can check all the apps we want, but it's actually raining right now�

�Nahh, it will be fine...�

For fear of getting burnt to a crisp Id planned the trip for June, not mid-summer, but ironically on the day we were there, ready for the big event it was properly raining. Every weather app also little yellow lightning bolts - one for every hour of the day. It wasn't looking good and doubt was setting in.

�ahh, we'll just have to see how we get on...�

�yer, lets see what happens. We can always just do one climb.�

We ate our baguette (worth noting this was courtesy our accommodation. France closes on a Sunday, so we didn't have chance to get to a shop when we arrived the previous afternoon) and then geared up ready to set off. We only broke the silence of our thoughts of what lie ahead to compare our equipment for the day. Alex was now fully up to speed with the ride, having read about it in a magazine at the accommodation and was keen to get it done.


At one point, when the rain was hitting the decking outside I even put Velotoze overshoes on. Then it slowed down, so I took them off (if you have ever put them on, you'll know they are good, but only after you've wrestled them into place!). Alex was going for a minimalist approach with just a jersey, shorts and windshell, and I was going with everything I own. We met in the middle, in a way that you'll only ever do with cycling - Its not normal for 2 men in their 30's to spend so long getting ready and comparing notes on what you are wearing for the day. Jersey, shorts, arm warmers, gilet and emergency shell it was. Suitably dressed the same, it was bound to be right, or equally wrong. Phone, food and Brevet card were placed excitedly in our jersey pockets and we were off!

Summer Cycling Clothing Guide >> Road Bike Accessories Guide >> Guide To Wet Weather Cycling >>



As we rode down into B�doin, the cycling gods must have been looking out for us as, although still wet, it stopped raining and stayed dry all the way up the first climb! We set off really steady but I wasn't prepared for quite how brutal the weather was once we got to the top. You couldn't see a thing, and it took us a while to even find the road down to Malaucène. It was initially disappointing not to get any kind of view as reward - Just fog, but logically because it was still early, by the next time we got up there the weather would have cleared.

The top half of the descent wasn't much fun to Malaucène. It was really windy and wet so we had to be cautious, especially given Alex's new metal which was holding his collarbone in place. In Malaucène we found the only Caf� in France, no, Europe which didn't sell any food. Having already ordered 2 coffee's the waiter could see our disappointment (no translation needed) so he went and found us 2 croissants:

 �Have you got a couple more� 

Again, he ran out the back and came back with a couple more. Inspired, probably by his own creativity, he said with great joy he had �found some apple tarts�!

Before Id managed to say anything Alex, obviously ravenous, accepted his offer. So a quick pit stop turned into 2 cokes, 2 coffees, 4 croissants found down the back of a sofa and 2 apple tarts, probably with a Best Before date Sept 2009. I'm not a nutritionist, but I knew it would fill a gap - it wasn't quite what you want for another 2 hours up hill though! The town in Malaucène is really pleasant and caters brilliantly for cyclists, so it's well worth stopping by.

Cycling Nutrition Guide >>

Malaucène & Sault

The second climb started well because of the gradient and beautiful scenery and was probably a highlight for me - The views were fantastic given the weather at this point, but you do have to prepare yourself for the climb getting harder as it goes - Certainly the last handful of kilometres are a challenge. By this point Alex's 2 months off the bike were starting to tell and, whilst I was comfortable, I could tell his pace was slowing by the minute. Our spirits were lifted with a present left to us by 2 of Rutland Cycling's directors: Under a rock, with 3k to go, Paul and Karen had send me a detailed picture of where to look - 6 Euros for a couple of coffees with a note wishing us luck! Winner!

Armed with this, we rode up to the summit, but again the weather was closing in quickly. The little shop at the top was half open and I hid in there with 6-8 other sorry looking cyclists whilst waiting for Alex. A couple of us were getting our cards stamped at the same time. Alex arrived broken from the last few of kilometres, so once fed and watered again (this time a Mars Bar and a can of Coke) we rode straight off the top and down 6k to Chalet Reynard where the weather was bearable. It wasn't sensible staying up at the summit, and the view i had hoped for still wasn't there, it was just fog and wind. At this point we decided I would crack on alone and do the last climb, and Alex would ride back down having completed 2 climbs with 8 weeks off the bike. If cyclo-touring had a man of the match award it would be his. Its normally a 'Combativity' award in cycling, but you get the point and either way it was a sensible decision. I also think he was keen to get in the hot tub back at our accommodation.


The descent on down the Sault was the most pleasant - It was drier once out of the fog and mist and the gradient a little more forgiving, with flowing corners so you could still pedal and push on a bit. At the bottom I got my stamp from the Tourist Information centre, 2 Bounty bars, a coffee and another can of coke before I set back off uphill. I honestly thought for the first part I was Alberto Contador - Out of the saddle and riding in the middle of the cassette rather than in my easiest cog. It's an easy gradient for anyone to ride up and you can go faster if you are stronger. Then, after about 20k I got back to Chalet Reynard for the second time and by this time the weather really was getting worse the further you went up. Not a good place to be on a bike and I had to put on my rain jacket for the climb as the heavens opened. Up to now, I'd only had the jacket on for the descents. On every big ride I have the �Why am I doing this� moment and this lasted for about half an hour all the way to the top.

When I finally got to the summit there was one Belgian cyclist who appeared from the fog in front of me. �Which is the fastest way down� he asked! He obviously hadn't put the level of planning in needed so I pointed him in the right direction and gave him half of my remaining Bounty twin pack. I don't think I've ever made anyone happier. Anglo-European relations were now at an all-time high (despite the apple tart affair earlier in the day.)

By this time I just wanted to finish, but the weather meant the 21k descent back to B�doin was tough going. I got blown about a bit on the upper sections and had to scrub speed where I could because of the visibility. 10 or 15 meters is as far as I could see. Again, once past Chalet Reynard the weather started to get better, but it was another few kilometres before I could relax a bit. It's amazing how the weather can change from one side to another and a hundred meters or so down a mountain. I got my last stamp of the day at a bike shop in B�doin and rolled back to our accommodation to be greeted by Alex. I think he had had a power-nap, but didn't want to admit that looking at the state I was in. It took me just over 8 hours, not rushing or pushing too hard so I think its within reach of most active cyclists with some training or regular riding.

ventoux 4

Day two

The next morning, we had some time so we went back up to Chalet Reynard so Alex, now fully recovered after the 400g of pasta we cooked the night before, could do the last climb. I rode the last part with him and we finished at the top in glorious sunshine. Technically the challenge is �in 24 hours� so Alex completed it, and I got to see the views I'd so long waited for! To give you an idea on the weather, the previous day there were no photographers on the mountain, but the day after there were 8! all of them snapping photos of tourists and handing them cards as they pedalled past. It was packed at the top, and there was a street party of some kind. What a difference a day makes - It was very pleasant just stood up the top in jersey and shorts. We treated ourselves to a well-deserved pizza Malaucène. Mission complete for both of us.


The Bikes

It would be wrong to celebrate this achievement without a quick shout out to the 2 wheeled comrades that helped us conquer the elements and altitude. Both my Tarmac Pro and Alex's Genesis Datum worked brilliantly, allowing us to focus on taking in the scenery and completing the ride!


Specialized Tarmac Pro 2018

  • Frame - FACT 10r Carbon SL6 Frame
  • Fork - S-Works FACT Carbon
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Ultegra Di2 2x11 Speed
  • Brakes - Shimano Ultegra 8010 Calliper
datum30 2018 rutland cycling

Genesis 2018 Datum 30

  • Frame - 24/30T Modulus Carbon Road Disc w/ Tapered Headtube & Fully Internal Cable Routing
  • Fork - Full Carbon Fork w/ 1-1/2" - 1-1/8" Tapered Steerer w/ 15mm TA
  • Drivetrain - Shimano Ultegra 22-speed
  • Brakes - Shimano Ultegra BR-R8070 hydraulic brakes


Top tips for riding Mont Ventoux

First things first, Set off early - the potential for it being crazy hot in the afternoon is worth avoiding, so getting 1 climb out of the way before most have breakfast is a good idea. We didn't really have this issue given the changeable weather, but it certainly would have been harder if it was hot. Its generally recommended to ride Ventoux between June-September, but with an advisory that July/August can be hot.

  • Ride the climb from Sault 3rd - Its by far the easiest and makes sense logistically for most people if staying in Malaucène or B�doin. Unless you are over keen, switch your head to touring mode. It's a challenge, but not impossible so stopping twice for 2 lunches makes it more enjoyable. Its not a race!
  • Eat proper food and top up with energy products on the bike. Because of the worst choice of caf� in history we ended up surviving basically on sugar. There are tons of places to eat in each town and if I did it again I would stop properly twice.
  • If you are going for a few days, pick the best day weather wise but know IT WILL CHANGE! As with my previous experience it changes fast at altitude, so pack for what might happen. I wouldn't set off without a rain jacket.
  • Riding together can be difficult if you differ in fitness. Alex and I are very evenly matched, but his unplanned spell off the bike meant we split 2/3rd of the way through the ride. No one needs to be a hero and we were sensible but make sure you are each self-sufficient. We set off with just 1 pump in Alex's back pocket (each had a saddle bag though) but when we parted company we didn't think and I did 2.5 hours out there in the rain without one. Not clever, but it wasn't an issue.
  • You can do it on any bike! Compact gears (34t at the front) and a 28T or 30T cog on the back is a good idea. It really depends how strong you are but having an extra tooth as a safety net is sensible.
  • If you don't fancy the Cingl�s 3 ways challenge, doing 1 of the climbs a day along with some surrounding roads would make a great 3 days riding.

More #TeamRutland Adventures

#TeamRutland: Tackling the Fred Whitton >> #TeamRutland: La Marmotte >> #TeamRutland: Riding the V�tternrundan >> #TeamRutland: A Pennine Adventure >>

ventoux 3

Useful Links

All Guides & Advice >> Road Bike Guide >> Road Bike Size Guide >>

Looking to get into Road biking? Ready to go in search of adventure? Our extensive stock of Road and Touring bikes/accessories is available in store 7 days a week or online at any time. You can view current 2018 Road bikes by clicking here or our rides & events page by clicking here. You can find your closest Rutland Cycling Store by using the map below!