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Monday, April 19, 2010

Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux is a mountain in the Provence region of southern France, located some 20 km north-east of Carpentras, Vaucluse. The details of Mont Ventoux are explained in world tour guides below. On the north-side the mountain borders the Drome department. It is the largest mountain in the region and has been nicknamed the Giant of Provence or The Bald Mountain. Mont Ventoux is one of the famous travel destination and tourist attraction site. It has gained notoriety through its use in the Tour de France cycling race.
The wind speeds as high as 320 km/h 200 mph have been recorded. The wind blows at more than 90 km/h or more than 56 mph 240 days a year. The road over the mountain is often closed due to high winds. Especially the col de tempetes just before the summit is known for its strong winds. The real origins of the name are thought to trace back to the 1st or 2nd century AD, when it was named Vintur after a Gaulish god of the summits, or Ven Top, meaning snowy peak in the ancient Gallic language. In the 10th century, the names Mons Ventosus and Mons Ventorius appear.

Mont Ventoux is geologically part of the Alps, is often considered to be separate from them, due to the lack of mountains of a similar height nearby. It stands alone to the north of the Luberon range, separated by the Monts de Vaucluse, and just to the east of the Dentelles de Montmirail, its foothills. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees which make the mountains barren peak appear from a distance to be snow-capped all year round. Its isolated position overlooking the valley of the Rhone 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.
Jean Buridan climbed the mountain early in the fourteenth century; Petrarch repeated the feat on April 26, 1336, and claimed to have been the first to climb the mountain since antiquity, which has been widely repeated since. The 15th century saw the construction of a chapel on the top, dedicated to the Holy Cross. In 1882, a meteorological station was constructed on the summit, though it is no longer in use. In the 1960s a 50m-high telecommunications mast was built.

Mont Ventoux was systematically stripped of trees from the 12th century onwards to serve the demands of the shipbuilders of the naval port of Toulon. Some areas have been reforested since 1860 with a variety of hardwood trees such as holm oaks and beeches. The mountain comprises the species boundary or ecotone between the flora and fauna of northern and southern France. Some species, including various types of spiders and butterflies, are unique to Mont Ventoux. It is a good place to spot the Short-toed Eagle. Its biological distinctiveness was recognised by UNESCO in 1990 when the Reserve de Biosphere du Mont Ventoux was created, protecting an area of 810 square kilometres or 200,150 acres on and around the mountain.

The mountain can be climbed by three routes by bicycle racing enthusiasts. South from Bedoin 1617 m over 21.8 km. This is the most famous and difficult ascent. North-west from Malaucene 1570 m over 21.5 km. About equal in difficulty as the Bedoin ascent, better sheltered against the wind. East from Sault 1210 m over 26 km. The easiest route. After Chalet Reynard the climb is the same as the Bedoin ascent. Every year there are amateur races to climb the mountain as quickly and often as possible in 24 hours, the Ventoux Masterseries and Les Cingles du Mont Ventoux. On May 16, 2006, Jean-Pascal Roux from Bedoin broke the record of climbs in 24 hours, with eleven climbs, all of them from Bedoin.

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. The followed trail mostly passes through Bedoin. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world. The mountain achieved worldwide notoriety when it claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson, who died here on July 13, 1967 from heat exhaustion caused by a combination of factors including dehydration, amphetamines, and alcohol, although there is still speculation as to the exact cause of his death.

Mont VentouxMont VentouxThe race has finished at the summit of Mont Ventoux eight times. The finish line is at 1909 m, although in 1965, 1967, 1972 and 1974 the finish was lower, at 1895 m. In September 2008, it was announced by Claude Haut, the president of the Vaucluse province, that in 2009 the Tour de France would visit Mont Ventoux after a seven-year absence. Unusually, the riders climbed the Giant of Provence on the second-to-last day of the race, on July 25, 2009, prior to transferring to Paris for the traditional parade on the Champs-Elysees.

The climb by bike from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux is one of the toughest in professional cycling. Every climb has its own unique particulars. To get a detailed impression of this climb, the route has been measured accurately. The figure for the average gradients per kilometre can be found in many books and websites on cycling. The average gradient of the total climb and also the average gradients per kilometre differ slightly, depending on the source of the information. Accurate measurements result in an average gradient for the total climb of 7.43%, based on a horizontal distance of 21765 metres and an ascent height of 1617 metres. The actual distance ridden is 21825 metres.

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