It's one of the great challenges in cycling: riding all three sides of Mont Ventoux in a day. Your prize: treasured membership of one an elite club - the Cingles du Mont Ventoux. We sent Tim, one of our test team riders, and friends to take on this formidable challenge. This is how he got on:
So after doing the Marmotte in 2017, and spending 4 days away with only 1 real day of riding, we were looking to do something different for 2018. While there are lots of options for climbs, there are a few iconic ones which were always on our bucket list, so the thought of Ventoux was interesting which then became challenging when we found Les Cingles.
9 guys signed up for a weekend in June, with everyone preparing differently for the event. 3 of us did The Struggle in Yorkshire (a brilliant day) and London Revolution (note to self, any event which goes through the centre of London during the middle of the day should be avoided at all costs!). It is interesting how training evolves and injuries and accidents cause challenges. I went over my handlebars after hitting a pothole and 2 of the group struggled with old injuries which flared up in the 4 weeks leading up to the weekend. But after 12 months of prep, all off were (almost) ready to go!
A couple of mechanicals on the first morning were sorted by brilliant mechanics in Bedoin and massive recommendations for either of them to be used by anyone staying. First day ride was an easy group ride up towards Sault with a return descent through Gorge Des Nesque. More on that later as a stunning ride which comes highly recommended.
Flights into Marseille were simple to organise and 2 transit vans were collected for the transfers (5 riders plus bikes and boxes is a good one to remember for next time). Accommodation can always be a little subjective, so to get a Gite with a pool and views of the mountain there AirBnB was fantastic.
While there was enthusiasm to do Les Cingles on the first day (Friday), arriving at midnight and the reality of putting bikes together to leave early the next morning quickly stopped that one! The final (and very lengthy) discussion before we left the UK was when to start and which day to start. One half of the group were up for a 5am start (start early and cool), with others favouring a 7am start to sleep, but it gets warm mid-afternoon. Eventually, the prospect of the final climb in +35 degrees of heat won out, and a 5am start was agreed.
So to the main event…4.15am alarm and pitch black outside, with the group eating in almost complete silence as each of us pondered the day ahead and by 5am, all 9 of us were on the road
It is strange climbing out of Bedoin…everyone says this is the hardest ascent but the first few kilometers are gentle. You then swing abruptly left and OMG…it’s a brute! The early morning climb in the shade was wonderful and those who had done the climb on a simulator could pick out some of the milestones (view of the top from the bottom of the left hand turn, large garages on the left, and the easy section after Chalet Reynard before the final flurry).
Although the lunar landscape is hard to ride through, the views across the whole of the last 5 kms certainly made is feel a little easier.
We summitted at 7am, with everyone up within 20 minutes of each other before the first long fast decent to Maucelene. Great coffee and pain au chocolat before a literal U Turn and straight back up! Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking this second ascent is easier…its not and so after a little under 2 hours you pop out of the forest with a couple of kilometers to the top and suddenly you have done 2 summits.
The group were all getting hungry by now so we stopped at Chalet Reynard on the descent to keep out of the heat of the valley floor. A bit too early for proper food so 2 rounds of pancakes each had to do!
The descent to Sault was smooth, wide, fast and fun only to be tempered by a final unexpected hill into the town. By now temperatures were over 30 degrees so a quick stop to refill water bottles and stamp the Cingles card before heading one final time back up the hill. For the final ascent, we stuck together as a group to Chalet Renard so ensure we all got up the third time, before the mountain goats disappeared up the hill and within 30 minutes we had all 9 of us stood at the top of the mountain for the final long fast descent to the bar!
The view of the profile is testament to the amount of climbing, but misses all the context of the views, the experience, the amazing descents and the sense of achievement we all felt by the end of the day.
The final ride day saw a few stiff legs which were largely ignored as we rode up the Gorge Des Nesques (possibly more stunning on the ascent than descent) and then on round the back of Ventoux to complete the tour of the base of the mountain. The views of the backside are if anything more stunning than the front of the mountain as it is far more sheer and you can see it is a real volcanic plug. Personally, this was the most enjoyable ride of the weekend (maybe because we had already done the really hard one!)
Last night prep done with bike boxes packed and headed back to Marseille the next morning. Leave yourself 3 hours from dropping the vans off to getting to the gate…it took us a full 2 hours to get there!
And what next? Stelvio of course!
Congrats to all 9 of you for completing this challenge. Join us in 2019 - every weekend in May, June, September & October from £429: www.sportivebreaks.com/ventoux