If we’re totally honest, the idea of climbing Mont Ventoux three times was a bit of an afterthought. We were approached by Matt from Ventoux CC, asking whether we’d like to stay in his gite near Bedoin, a village at the base of Ventoux – we could take our bikes, a few Jam Cycling products and get some content whilst checking out his accommodation.
Matt used to live and cycle in London, and decided to move to France with his family, where he’s created the perfect space for cycling groups to stay. His wife is an interior designer and you can tell; the gite is beautifully decorated and has everything you’d need pre- and post-ride. Comfortable beds, hot showers, a small but very well stocked kitchen, a relaxing terrace with a fire pit AND, if you’re into swimming, a pool. In addition to the accommodation, Matt offers himself as a support vehicle to groups if need be. He can drive around with spares, layers, snacks…whatever you might need for a long day in the saddle. (Click here for more info. and to book. We loved it!)
“You could do the Club des Cinglés challenge!” suggested Matt in an email to us. If you’ve not heard of it, the idea is you ascend Mont Ventoux three times in one day, via routes that start from Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault. You can apply for a brevet card at any time of year, which costs €20 (click here to order), and collect 3 stamps from cafes and souvenir shops in the villages and one stamp at the summit. The entire route is 137km with 4,400m of ascent. George, Chris, Francis and I decided that if we were going to make the long journey, we might as well make the most of it by doing the Club des Cinglés challenge (it translates to ‘Crazy Club’ if you were wondering).
Another important part of the trip was grabbing content for the coming year, and putting the new Métier outerwear garments and baselayer through their paces. Not wanting to take too much time out of our working week, we decided to leave early Monday morning, travel all day (and we mean ALL day – it’s a 10-hour drive from Calais to Bedoin), spin the legs out on Tuesday whilst shooting some content, and do the actual challenge on Wednesday, then drive home on Thursday (after a sunrise photo shoot to top things off). Pretty Jam-packed (pun entirely intended. Not at all sorry).
Francis suggested an awesome climb for the Tuesday: Gorges de la Nesque. With an average gradient of just 2.3%, it’s a gradual 19.7km climb and puts 444m of climb into the legs. We ended up cycling only parts of it to get some photos, but I’d highly recommend putting that on your to-do list if you’re in the area (about 10km from Bedoin).
We then decided to drive to the summit of Ventoux to get some sunset shots. As we made our way up the climb, the temperature was dropping and the wind was picking up. Really picking up. We parked the van at the top and could hear the swirling, mistral winds; feel them nudging our 1.8 tonne truck. We braved the weather and darted outside, quickly building up bikes and ducking behind the truck to protect ourselves from the bone-shakingly cold gusts. Chris’s deep-section wheels made his bike into a kite and it floated on the wind; great for pictures, bad for cycling. We hoped the weather would change for the next day.
To our extreme relief, the weather was pretty much perfect, although a bit cold to start with. It was around 8˚C when we set off at around 7.30am the next morning and the temperature steadily rose to around 22˚C by the hottest part of the day. The first descent was cold and quite gusty, but nothing on the day before and the second and third descents were still and warm. We were lucky.
Our Ride in Pictures
A few tips from Jess
· I rode 50/34T and 11-28t and that's fine. I ran out of gears pretty quickly, but wasn't grinding.
· Be prepared to be too hot and too cold. Have layers you can easily put on and take off.
· GLOVES. The summit is ~10˚ colder than the temperature at the base.
· May and early June or late August to October offer the best times to do the challenge. Otherwise it’s too hot/too cold.
· Eat and drink a lot. That’s the best way to get through this.
· There aren’t many rides in England that can simulate this one. However, if you can complete a fairly hilly 100-miler in the Peak District or Wales for example, that’s a good indication of whether you’d successfully do the Club des Cinglés challenge!
Any questions? Let us know!