Mont Ventoux Gran Fondo
Provence: picturesque lavender fields, good wine and a relaxed atmosphere. Mont Ventoux towers above it all. Once a year, the Mont Ventoux Gran Fondo by Lapierre takes place right at the foot of this mountain.
What exactly is a Gran Fondo?
It is a so-called Everyman's race. You don't have to be a licensed rider or any other professional. All you need is a doctor's clearance to take part. Since it was clear that it would be a torture either way, I decided to do the long distance (officially 122 km and 3400 metres of altitude difference to the top of the mountain). The starting point was in the small village of Vaison-La-Romain. In June 2023, about 4500 participants had gathered at the starting line. The fact that everyone had to wear the same jersey, which was part of the starter package, resulted in an impressive sea of turquoise.
MONT VENTOUX GRAN FONDO: 4500 PARTICIPANTS
After a somewhat chaotic start (as is almost always the case with so many participants), we got right into a good flow after the first few kilometres. From Grupetto to Grupetto we hopped over the first small mountains. After 40 km we had our first break, a perfectly organised refreshment station. Here all water supplies could be refilled and there was a selection of small snacks. I only looked in vain for the ladies' room. I don't want to know how it smelled in the forest next door in the evening. From there, there was the first big descent, perfect asphalt, I love straight bends (yes, they exist :P).
Then came the first highlight: the Gorges de la Nesque. A perfect little road winds along the gorge, which is up to 400 metres deep, with an impressive panorama. An absolute recommendation if you are ever in the area! Here we were able to gain speed uphill and it started to be a lot of fun.
THE FINAL CLIMB
After 80 km and another climb, there was another refreshment stop before things got serious and we headed towards Mont Ventoux. The Mont Ventoux from Bédoin is also a bit of a mean one. 1599 metres of altitude difference over a whole 21 km have to be overcome. The gradient is a constant 9 %, especially on the first half. Starting the whole thing with 100 km and almost 2000 metres of altitude in your legs was, let's say, interesting.
On the right and on the left, the first participants went limp. Some took off their shoes and gave the impression that they were convinced that they would now have to push the remaining 15 km uphill. For others, their stomachs couldn't take it anymore.
I noticed that all the steep gravel mountain trails and the optimal catering school on bikepacking tours had paid off a bit. This 9 % didn't seem so impossible to me. I rather flew past the rest of the participants .
After a good ⅔ of the climb, there was even another refreshment station where you could refill your water. So I crossed the finish line relaxed at 1900 metres above sea level. With the finish arch and the spectators, the whole thing felt almost like the pros. With a finisher's medal. At the top, the view from this quite unique mountain was magnificent. Nothing to compare with what I have ridden so far, almost like a lunar landscape. Every racing cyclist must have seen it.
The Mont Ventoux Gran Fondo by Lapierre is the ultimate adventure for those who want to feel like a pro for once. An everyman race where you can test your limits and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Provence at the same time - provided you can still breathe :P. All in all, an unconditional recommendation!
P.S.: The organiser has made a very nice YouTube video.