top of page

Aigoual Ventoux Challenge 2022

Who doesn't like the south of France? For cyclists, of course, France has a major appeal, but aside from any connections your route may have with Le Tour there is just such a variety of beautiful and uncrowded landscapes to explore. Plus, the roads are generally in fantastic condition - a real treat if you are more used to the potholes and poorly placed drain covers in the UK.


In June 2022 I planned a three-day cycling route that included an ascent of two significant mountains in the region - Mt Ventoux (affectionately known as 'the Beast of Provence') and Mt Aigoual (the highest mountain in the Gard region), with a day riding across the Rhone Valley between the two mountains. Approximately 225 miles in total.


As well as wanting to return to a favourite holiday destination of my childhood I was raising money for a local charity in Reading, England, with a strong family connection - the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre.


Staying in Malaucene at the foot of Mt Ventoux for the first section of the ride, my trip began with a well-earned day off. Having endured the long drive down from Calais in one day (setting off at 2am from home) it seemed the best approach, and luckily coincided with the local market where I could stock up on superb local cheeses, garlic and oil. The following day I pointed my trusty old Trek uphill and made steady progress up the 20km to the summit. Last time I was up there there were far fewer cyclists - people everywhere seem to want to conquer this particular mountain now! The descent into Sault for lunch was fast and uncrowded and I returned to Malaucene via Flassan and Bedouin, narrowly avoiding the rather long snake making its way across the warm tarmac.



The terrain changed as I dropped off the slopes down to the Rhone Valley for my second ride. Reed beds, ponds and waterways featured, but were soon replaced with vineyards and lavender fields. The temperature climbed to 35C in the mid-afternoon and the open country provided little shade; village bars were a reliable place to fill up the water bottles. 


As the day wore on the view rose higher as the Cevennes got closer. These hills are lush with chestnut and beech forest, and on the eastern edge was my destination for the day, the town of Anduze, sitting under high cliffs above the temptingly cool waters of the Gardon river.  

The forecast for my day up to Mt Aigoual was 'thundery showers' although given the topography it would be impossible to predict where these might occur in the area, so I just packed an extra layer and headed off at 7am for the long circuit. 40 miles of uphill took me above the treeline and into the strong winds near the summit. The clouds were ragged and dark, and scudded past the crenellated weather station while brave sightseers braced against the gusts. On the way down I passed a large flock of sheep grazing on the verge and producing a mesmerising clamour with their bells. Many were decorated with pompoms; transhumance is still practiced here, and the move up to summer pastures is a significant annual event. 


I was clearly riding down the way the sheep had come up, given the additional organic debris on the road. Recent rock falls added to the need to keep concentrating and not look at the view too much. A final climb over the Col du Pas - again, saved for the mid-afternoon heat - before descending to Les Plantiers and back to the main route along the Gardon and a well-earned pression  in the cafe back in Anduze.


 Plenty of boulangeries with a fine selection of crusty baguettes and tartes kept me fuelled along the way.

The purpose of the ride was to raise money for the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre - please visit my JustGiving page if you'd like to donate. Thank you. Over £2000 raised so far!

bottom of page