On Monday 25th September a group of 7 cyclists undertook this challenge in aid of the Steve Prescott Foundation and supported by nutrition products from Xendurance EU. Raising over £10k for their efforts, which ranged from 6.5 hrs to almost 12.
The Cingles du Mont Ventoux is a cycling challenge based in the beautiful Provence region of southern France. Mont Ventoux is known as the “Geant de Provence” and stands tall above the surrounding landscape, affording the most spectacular views. The radio station at its summit and the barren lunar landscape of the last 6kms are iconic and synonymous with Le Tour de France *. TDF cyclists typically only ascend this mountain on one occasion, however Cingles riders tackle it three times from the towns of Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault. The challenge must be completed in a single day; amounting to about 135kms and 4400m of vertical gain. Each ascent provides its own unique challenge but all are steep and winding roads that range from 21-26km in length.
Here’s my breakdown of the ride:
7am – roll out from accommodation down to Malaucene for photos and stamping of Brevet cards.
7:15am – begin the climb. The first couple of kilometres rise at around 5%; some of the shallowest we will see all day. Even so, my breathing is a little erratic despite power and HR being well controlled. Could it be the lack of a warm-up, the altitude (only around 400m at this point) or the cold air (approx. 10 degrees)? In any case I hold steady as the road tips upwards. The group has quickly split up and I ride this first ascent with Steve, chatting in short sentences, climbing mostly seated and standing on any steeper sections of 12% plus. Fingers and toes remain quite cold but the engine is well and truly revving by the time we get to half way. At about 2/3 of thew way up, we get our first glimpse of Mont Ventoux itself and the tower at the top. A fantastic sight but it looks like its sitting almost vertically above us! We summit for rep 1 after about 1h45 and meet our support crew.
9:15am – shoe covers, full finger gloves and a jacket in situ we descend down to Bedoin. This is exhilarating; the roads are of good quality and never too technical which allows us to make quick progress to begin rep 2.
9:45am – Steve and I begin the Bedoin climb. This time we can see our summit destination from the very start. This is the route that the TDF typically chooses for its race finishes. The first few kms are quite ‘easy’ at just 4-5% but then as we turn sharp left into the pine forests we meet an unrelenting 10kms at 9-10%. We settle into a rhythm, passing many riders on what is the busiest of the routes to the top. By the time we reach Chalet Reynard with 6kms to go Steve is beginning to struggle a little and I press on to the top alone. Its beginning to warm up now and a gilet is sufficient for the descent. Our support is now at Chalet Reynard and I stop to refill bottles and take on some more food.
11:45am – Steve catches me up at the rest stop and we descend together down to Sault. Part way down Steve hits a small rock in the road and does very well to avoid a collision with the rock wall.
12:15 pm – we begin the final, longest ascent at our own effort levels this time. I am passed by two fresh looking riders which gives me a carrot to chase for the first half of the climb. Legs are now beginning to get quite heavy and I’m mentally investing a lot more effort to keep the pedals moving. Nutrition and hydration have been great and so there’s no signs of the dreaded ‘bonk’ or of cramp. That final section of moonscape feels much harder this second time (mostly due to quite severe pain in the balls of both feet – hotspots) but with the combination of photographers and support crew en-route plus the knowledge that the challenge is almost complete, I dig in, ramp up the effort and leave nothing in the tank.
2pm – I reach the summit for the final time, buy some merch, wait for Steve.
3pm – with confidence building we reach our fastest speeds on this final descent to arrive at the café in Malaucene where our journey began. I hand my Brevet card over to be stamped one final time. Steve and I down a pint or two and demolish a Croque Monsieur avec frites while we await the arrival of our team mates. Talk moves on to ‘Everesting’ next year; will we ever learn?!
Malaucene – Ventoux: 21kms 1570m vertical gain. 1h45 approx at 255w (3.5 w/kg)
1.5 bottles of Fuel 5 (3 scoops) and 2 XE gels plus a caffeine gel, water and flapjack at the van.
Bedoin – Ventoux: 22kms 1620m vertical gain. 1h40 approx at 265w (3.6 wkg)
2 bottles of Fuel 5 and 2 XE gels, plus some flapjack, fig rolls at the van. Possibly other food too?!
Sault – Ventoux: 26kms 1210m vertical gain. 1h20 approx at 265w (3.6 wkg).
2 bottles of Fuel 5 and 1 XE gel and a banana.
Total moving time 6:19hrs. 137kms. Average speed 21.6kmh.
Calories burned: 5240
Bike: Canyon Aeroad with Zipp 302 wheels.
Gearing 52/36 – 12-33 (average climbing cadence mid-high 70s with the aid of the ‘granny’ ring fitted for this ride)
Money raised for charity £1500. https://www.steveprescottfoundation.co.uk
*British professional cyclist Tom Simpson tragically passed away just 1km from the summit in 1967, famously ordering those near him to “put me back on my bike”.
Phil Ellison is based in the North West and is a full-time triathlon coach working with a variety of age group athletes. If you’d like to work with Phil he can be contacted via Instagram phil.ellison or email firstname.lastname@example.org.