At an elevation of 1.912m (6,273ft) above the sea level, Mont Ventoux is located in the Provence region of southern France. The pass is traversed by the D974 road. It’s considered the most fearsome of France's climbs, with the asphalt rising consistently at around 10 percent most of the way, and exposed to often very strong winds.
This infamous mountain has been nicknamed the "Giant of Provence", or "The Bald Mountain". It has gained fame through its use in the Tour de France cycling race. The road is often closed due to high winds, especially the Col de Tempêtes ("storm pass") just before the summit is known for its strong winds. It can be extremely windy at the summit, especially with the mistral; wind speeds as high as 320 km/h (200 mph) have been recorded. The wind blows at 90+ km/h (56+ mph) 240 days a year.
The surface of the road is asphalt. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees, which makes the mountain's barren peak appear from a distance to be snow-capped all year round (its snow cover actually lasts from December to April). Don’t forget your camera! Its isolated position overlooking the valley of the Rhône ensures that it dominates the entire region and can be seen from many miles away on a clear day. The view from the top is correspondingly superb. The road leading to the peak of Mt. Ventoux was opened in 1900. The climb can often be hard due to windy conditions and/or heat. One is very exposed to the elements at higher altitude on this mountain! It’s one of the hardest and most epic climbs you can ride on two wheels.
The wind is usually quite strong at mountain areas. High winds blow here all year long. Even in summer you can confront with snowy days. Temperatures here in the winter are brutally cold. The D974 road from Sault to the top of Mont Ventoux is 26 km: 20 km to the Chalet Reynard ski station and the 6 km to the peak. The first few km are across rolling fields of lavender, although tall yellow-black poles mark the road for winter snows. After the lavender fields, the road winds through forests of pine, oak, larch and beech, with picnic tables sitting amongst the trees here and there off the side of the road.
The experience of using this road is very impressive. After the Chalet Reynard ski station, the road is a bit steeper, winding up the open, treeless slopes; the more sensitive parts of this last 6 km are protected with guardrails. The entire road is 2-cars wide and well paved. Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most gruelling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain fourteen times since 1951. It’s notorious for claiming the life of English cyclist Tom Simpson who collapsed of exhuastion and died during the 1967 Tour, aged 29. Official cause of death was heat exhaustion.
There are 4 routes to climb the summit. Starting from Bédoin, the ascent is 21.4 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.639 meters. The average percentage is 7.6 %. Starting from Malaucene, the ascent is 21.2 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.535 meters. The average percentage is 7.2 %. Starting from Sault, the ascent is 25.7 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.152 meters. The average percentage is 4.5 %. And starting from Bédoin, the ascent is 19.83 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.559 meters. The average percentage is 7.8 %.
This is an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities. Don’t forget your camera! The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades.