Photo Credit: Überraschungsbilder / Wikipedia
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The mountain is notorious for being battered by strong winds, especially at the summit with no trees for protection. Winds can regularly reach gusts of 56+mph (90+ km/h) for most of the year. The highest recorded wind speed was 200 mph (320 km/h). The road is closed if the winds are too strong.
Mont Ventoux is one of the most mythical mountains in the lore of the Tour de France, due to the harsh conditions, its infrequent inclusion in the race, and for being the scene of a number of dramatic events. Most notably, it claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson in the 1967 contest. Suffering a variety of maladies, he also had amphetamines in his system. After falling over once, he urged spectators to assist him to get back on his bike. Not far from the summit, he collapsed again and died on the spot. A monument to Tom Simpson can be found near the summit.
The climb can be undertaken by one of three possible routes.
The typical Tour de France route begins in Bédoin from the south. This route climbs 1,617 m over 21.8 km, at an average gradient of 7.43%. The first 5.8 km between Bédoin and Saint-Estève, is a relative warm-up at 3.9% average gradient. From there, the real climbing begins. The remaining 16 km averages 8.9%.
The second route begins to the west in Malaucène and approaches the climb from the northwest. The route gains 1,570 m of elevation in 21.5 km. This route is comparable in difficulty as the first route, but less exposure to wind.
The third route begins in Sault to the southeast. Gaining 1,210 m over 26 km, it has an average gradient of 4.4% until Chalet Reynard, where the route merges with the latter part of route #1.
An amateur race called the Ventoux Masterseries is held annually to see who can climb the mountain repeatedly the most times within 24 hours. The record is 11 times, set in 2006.
There is also a challenge, Les Cinglés du Mont Ventoux, to climb all 3 routes up Mont Ventoux within a single day. Candidates should register ahead of time at www.clubcinglesventoux.org
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