My mission on this trip to Provence was to determine if the area around Mont Ventoux was just for serious cyclists, or if there were itineraries for normal cyclists like me. There are plenty of recreational cyclists who would love to explore the beauty and mystique of this famous region, but are not interested in making the grueling ride to the top. I started this trip wondering if we should cross this region off our bucket list, leaving it to the spandex crowd on $1500+ racing bikes? After a few days cycling the itineraries around Ventoux, I’m happy to report that there are cycling itineraries around Mont Ventoux for everyone, from recreational cyclists to those interested in climbing the Giant of Provence.
While the entire upper Vaucluse is sprinkled with miles of signposted cycling itineraries, there are three specific itineraries near the base of Mont Ventoux that are rated easy, suitable even for families. There are another 7 that are rated average level, with a few more hills and ascents. For the experienced crowd, there are another 4 itineraries to challenge the strength and stamina. The easy and average level itineraries range in length from 10.5 km to 35 km. Several of the experienced itineraries are 50+ km. All itineraries are round trip.
These cycling itineraries provide a perfect opportunity to slowly explore the small towns and villages of this special part of Provence, and to marvel at the majesty of the famous Ventoux, towering 1912 meters above the Rhone Valley.
The great part about this network of cycling itineraries is that great care has been taken by the local tourism organizations to develop support services for visiting cyclists. Over 100 tourism professionals, accommodations, guides, bike rental services and taxis to name a few have signed the Welcome Cyclists pledge to help insure a great stay in the region. More information on all of these partners can be found at www.destination-Ventoux.com or at www.provence-cycling.co.uk.
Now, a bit more about the easy itineraries. While they are easy, they’re not totally flat. There are some rolling hills and an occasional hill into a village, but there are also plenty of long downhills to help you catch your breath. One of the best of these routes is “Aux portes du Ventoux” or At the foot of Mont Ventoux. This is a 22.4 km itinerary leaving from the parking lot in Bedoin behind the Office of Tourism. This itinerary offers a sampling of the best of Provence: miles of vineyards, orchards, ochre cliffs, and traditional Provençal farms. Don’t forget to stop and pick up supplies in Bedoin for a picnic lunch at Mormoiron Lake along the way. And definitely plan on stopping to do some tasting in the wine cellars along the way!
Another great circuit is “Les Terrasses du Ventoux”, the Terraces of Ventoux. This itinerary goes through the Muscat du Ventoux region, and is also is where the black figs of Caromb are grown. The departure point for this itinerary is the village of Methamis, but the itinerary can also easily be accessed in Mormoiron from the above itinerary. We actually cycled part of this itinerary, from Mormoiron to Villes-sur-Auzon, then taking the cutoff to Malemort-du-Comtat, to Mazan and then back to Mormoiron. If you are lucky enough to be there on Monday, don’t miss the Provençal market in Mazan, or in Mormoiron on Tuesday. There is plenty of wine tasting along this route also, especially near Villes-sur-Auzon. Mazan is a charming small town and is definitely a place that I want to return to. Just like Modene or Bedoin are perfect for exploring some of the itineraries in the area, Mazan is perfect for exploring others. It too is oozing with history, and has a famous castle, now a luxury hotel favored by many cyclists.
My last favorite itinerary is actually rated average level, but this is primarily due to the climb to the village of Crillon-le-Brave. Other than this short but steep climb, the itinerary is mostly downhill. This itinerary goes through some of my favorite towns in the area: Caromb, Crillon-le-Brave, Bedoin, St-Pierre-de-Vassols and Mazan. At a distance of 35 km, you can take your time and enjoy an espresso and pastry at the top of the world in Crillon-le-Brave.
This itinerary begins and ends in Caromb, so don’t forget to stop at the charcuterie I. Town to pick up some cheese and foix gras for a picnic lunch along the way. The tourism office in Caromb is terrific, stocked with plenty of information on bicycling in the region, so be sure to stop in and pick up all of the maps for the great La Provence a Velo itineraries!