One of the great one day rides in Europe is to tackle all three sides of Mont Ventoux and become a member of the Club Les Singles du Mont Ventoux. Phil Crow and his friends took on this challenge in 2017, this is how he got on...
I managed to persuade my mates it would be a great idea to have a go at the Cinglés especially this year (2017) with it being the 50th anniversary of the death of Tom Simpson on Ventoux. We’d booked 4 nights away to give us a couple of days options on when to do the asscents: Ventoux is unpredictable as I’m sure you have all read, so give yourselves a few days options. Our flights were with British Airways. The reason for this was because we knew the bike bags would be included in the luggage- as long as they did not exceed 23kg- not a problem. Tip: do not book your car rental through the BA website. We did, and we thought we’d paid completely for our mini bus- turned out we got stung again at Marseille Airport, so do this separately and I’m sure you will get a way better deal….oh and double check the paperwork!
The drive is a couple of hours and excitement will build as soon as you spot the weather tower on top of Ventoux- you can see it from miles away! Very exciting.
Warm Up Rides
The following day, with bikes now assembled, we checked weather apps and also, checked the ultimate weather report- looking out of the window at Ventoux- we could see it was blowing an absolute gale at the top. Lucky for us the forecast for the next day was light winds. Decision made- Cinglés tomorrow… ride around Bedoin today. And a lovely place it is. We did not explore as much as we wanted as the call of food and beer was way too loud and so we succumbed to one of the many pizza restaurants (very French!) in the town- loads of eateries and all pretty good. There’s a real good vibe to this town- loads of tourists and the locals are pretty friendly too, so you will have a great trip that’s for sure!
Riding Les Cingles
And so we get to ride day. Setting off at first light, we made our way to the boulangerie. Not for a croissant, but to get our brevet cards stamped.
Before you set off, make sure you all apply for your application to Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux http://www.clubcinglesventoux.org/en/ And in return you’ll get your brevet card and a badge to add to your bike (if you are going with Sportive Breaks, you will get this on arrival). The card has to be stamped at the base of all three ascents – Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault. Also once at the top of Ventoux. This card then is sent back to Les Cinglés and you get a medal and added to the “graduates” role of honour on the website.
Once stamped we were off! From all the advice we got, we were told the best order to ride the ascents is Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault. Sault being the “easiest” and shortest. The first trip to the top is fun. It’s cold- because of the early start, but you’ll be that pumped with adrenaline, it’s got everyone in real high spirits. The lower part is a steady and shallow climb rising to 10-12% through the trees and a steady 6-10% on the way to the top passed the restaurant (which will be closed first pass, so no coffee til the top!) Le Chalet Reynard. Your next landmark is Tom Simpson’s memorial. Certainly THE place to stop for contemplation, paying your respects, a breather and photo opportunity, so once you’ve posted to facebook, it’s back on the bike for the final kilometres.
Around this point are photographers who will take your picture. They know the area well and pick their spots carefully, so stomachs in and best rae face for your moment- they’ll put a card in your back jersey pocket, so no need to stop and beat them up- they aren’t robbing you! The best picture is on the Malaucene side. Think we came back with 5 cards each, so plenty of pictures to look at once you’re home.
So by now, you’ve made it. You’re at the summit. Get your picture with the sign post, with your mates. Nip into the shop to get your card stamped, put your warm layers on and then you’re off again. This time the descent to Malaucene. This was quite hard going. Basically because it was so cold! (we did this trip first week of September) Literally, my teeth were chattering by the time I was half way down and my hands were frozen! Still a fun descent though!! (Top Tip - If you do the Cingles with Sportive Breaks, we have a van at the top. Use this to get some food and drink and another layer for the descent). Once in Malaucene we headed straight for a coffee (and to get the cards stamped) and comfort break then straight back on it and plod back up they way we’d zoomed down!
Now, as we remember it, this climb was the hardest. In the trees, I’m sure it was hitting 12% in places and it was quite a grind up to the top of the tree line. Now that’s not that bad I hear you say- but your legs will be beginning to feel it second climb up. Best thing to do is talk to anyone who is near you! There are plenty of riders (and strangely- runners!?!?!) from all over the world, so talk to them! I caught up a couple and chatted all the way to the summit- made the last 10km go really quickly and you’re not concentrating on your legs hurting.
As a group, we had decided that if we split up we’d all meet at Le Chalet Reynard and have some lunch: The split to Sault is just about here so it seemed the best place. And it was. Food was good, a few coffees, fill the bidons and then drop down to Sault. Now the temperature had risen somewhat the descent was way more pleasant. What you don’t get told is there is a nasty little rise into the town itself, so you do a fantastic downhill, followed by a flat section and just as you go into Sault a half kilometre rise, which takes you (certainly us!) by surprise!
Once in Sault, cards stamped at a local bar and we are off again- we can almost smell the beer back in Bedoin at this point but we’ve still the final climb t complete.
Personally, I was flagging half way into this section but soon got paced the rest of the way by a friendly German rider which was a massive help.
Going passed Tom Simpson’s memorial for the last time (upwards) the final kilometers were hard going and I could hear my fellow travellers heckling me from the top of The Giant of Prevance. It all helps and we were on top of the world. Quite literally! We’d done it. The three ascents on Ventoux.
So it was a fast descent back to Bedoin, get cleaned up and out on the town for a celebratory meal and beers.
An amazing weekend with a massive sense of achievement at the end. I’d certainly recommend this challenge to anyone. It’s not easy but that’s what makes it fun and makes the trip a real event.
If you’re doing the Cinglés, Second half of may/early June or first half of September are probably the best times to go. If you’re going up it just the once, any time of year is good (as long as you go early morning!) There are lots of other rides just as impressive as Ventoux in that region, so even if the mistral is blowing, there is always another ride to be had. You will not be disappointed.