106.1KM | 2,900M+ · Friday 6th October
The first stage of the Haute Route Ventoux will start fast, very fast. Not only is the stage relatively short, at just 105km, but the first 60km are almost flat and the route to the summit is via Sault, the easiest of the three alternatives.
The first 17km are mostly a gentle false-flat descent. If you don’t want to be dropped immediately by other riders at your level, you’ll have to ride this hard, at an average intensity close to your threshold, and be ready to burn a few matches to stay with the peloton.
The road is mostly straight, narrow and in open countryside and vineyards. There are a couple of villages to pass in zig-zags, and the usual roundabouts and other street furniture to negotiate.
At km 17 the first hill appears. The road rises gently for 10km to the ol des Trois Termes (574m, km27), at an average gradient of 4%. After 6km of climbing there’s a steeper section for 1km, at an average of 8%, but with a couple of short ramps at 12-13%. The final 3km are at 3.3%. This hill, easy as it is, could very well create definitive splits in the peloton.
Make a final effort over the summit and slot in behind a good descender for the next 10km descent. The priority now is to recover while making a fast, smooth descent. Keep spinning your legs and drink whenever safe. Look far ahead and anticipate the bends.
Once off the descent, you can look forward to another 17km of fast riding, mostly flat with a few short rises, before the first serious climb of the day, to the col de la Liguière (985m, km67). The peloton will be well split into multiple groups by now, and your focus should be on staying with your group while expending the least energy possible.
The climb to the col de la Liguière starts at a sharp right turn after the village of Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt. The first 7.5km are very regular, winding up through a series of hairpins at around 7.1%, before the climb levels off to 3% or so for the final 3 km. The scenery is typical for the area, with dry, stony ground dotted with small trees and scrub. Just looking at it will make you thirsty: keep drinking regularly.
Over the top, the descent is almost straight and very fast all the way to Sault. From here you have 25.7km to climb the 1152m to the finish on the summit of Mont Ventoux.
First, the statistics. The climb can be divided into three roughly equal parts. The first part begins with a short descent and then settles into a fairly steady rhythm at a gradient varying from 4% to 6%. The mid-section (finishing at Chalet Reynard) is substantially easier, averaging 2.6% for 7km and never exceeding 3.5%, with the last part before Chalet Reynard almost flat. The final third is easily the toughest part of the climb, from Chalet Reynard to the summit. This is the famous, iconic part of the climb, with its lunar landscape and the remote weather station always in sight, mocking you from a distance. It was on this section that Tom Simpson died.
You will climb this part of the route again on Stage 3, the time-trial direct from Bédoin. From Chalet Reynard there are almost 500m to climb in 6.1km, at an average gradient of 8%. The final 1.5km are the hardest, at 10-10.5%.
Be ready for the suddenly increased gradient after Chalet Reynard. It does ease off a bit after the bend, but don’t hesitate to stand up and use a low gear. There may be a strong headwind. If so, take as much shelter as you can but be prepared to grind it out.
The weather on the summit could be anything. Whatever it is, don’t hang about. Put on a jacket and descend as quickly as you can to Bédoin to begin the recovery process. Tomorrow will be a long day in the saddle.
Stage description by Alpine Cols
The stage cols will be available soon
Bédoin Mont-Ventoux – On Top
The town of Bédoin is located in the French department of Provence; built around the Colline Saint-Antonin it is constituted of a number of quaint hamlets surrounding a rustic town centre.
The town’s DNA is inextricably linked to the land upon which it is built, and to the Mont Ventoux itself. The 9103 hectares of communal land stretch from the southern side of the town to the summit of the famous col at 1910m above sea level. Bédoin is also home to the biggest communal forest in France (6300 hectares).
The Ventoux itself is home to a diverse (and protected) selection of wild flora and fauna living in one of the most unique ecosystems in the world.
Bédoin is renowned for its AOP Ventoux vineyard, its quality of life and its dynamic and welcoming population. People come from the world over to visit the tourist-friendly town. On top of the incomparable cycling, visitors can enjoy local restaurants, shops, vineyards and tourist attractions. The Monday morning and Saturday evening markets are firm favourites, both known for being one of the best in the department of Provence.