Epic Tour Climbs: Mont Ventoux

When? Sunday July 14 (Bastille Day)


You may be surprised to know that for such an iconic climb of the Tour, the race has only ascended the Giant of Provence fourteen times since 1951, and on only eight of these occasions did it actually host the stage finish. 2013 will be the ninth.

The top of the mountain is bare limestone with no trees. From a distance this makes it appear to be snow-capped all year round. But it wasn’t always this way. Mont Ventoux was originally heavily forested. But it was systematically stripped bare from the 12th century to serve the demands of naval shipbuilders in Toulon. The result is one of world cycling’s most haunting – and daunting – silhouettes.

Of course as you probably already know Ventoux’s eternal notoriety was assured when it claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson mid-race on July 13, 1967. Reportedly the result of extreme heat, dehydration and amphetamines, he literally died on his bicycle not far from the summit.

According to Wikipedia, the fastest ever (professional) time recorded for the climb wasn’t actually in the Tour at all. Iban Mayo set the mark in the individual time trial of the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré.

Vital stats:
20.8km long
Average gradient 7.5%
Maximum gradient 11%
1550m vertical climb


Did you know?
Venteux means windy in French. Wind speeds as high as 320 km/h have been recorded at the summit and, on average, the wind blows at 90+ km/h 240 days a year.

Read the comments below to get a feel for what it’s like to climb Ventoux:

One thought on “Epic Tour Climbs: Mont Ventoux

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