This year the ASO saved the best for the end, or the day before the end, as riders will tackle the stage to the top of Mont Ventoux. The climb has many names like the Giant of Provence, or the Bald Giant, but I like to call it brutal.
In 2000 the famous Armstrong-Pantani duel the swirling winds were cold and relentless, a common occurrence on Ventoux. In fact, the word Ventoux is made of two words Vent, which means wind, and tout, which is any or all, literally Ventoux itself is named for the swirling winds. A group of friends and I huddled away from the wind on the moonscape white rocks awaiting the racers that day.
In 2002 the riders returned only to deal with heat, I recall standing on the blacktop and it was sticking to my shoes. With no shade for the last 6k it was a severe test for the riders.
For fans this stage could serve as one of the most epic in tour history because cracking on the Ventoux is something no rider wants to imagine. ANY G.C. contender in the 2009 Tour won’t feel safe with a lead until they complete this stage.
If you plan on seeing the stage there are several ways to get here. Avignon is close by and has both TGV and airport. It would be possible to see the stage here and catch a TGV Train Sunday morning arriving in Paris in plenty of time to see the riders on the Champs-Elysees.
Provence is such a beautiful region that there are a number of places to stay that within riding distance of the Ventoux. Places like Carpentras and Vaison-la-Romine as well as Sault, Bedoin, or Malaucene
There are 3 ways UP the Ventoux and it is important to know on race day that riders will climb from Bedoin on the D974. The good news is for that those with no bike and only a car you can at least drive partially up and walk the rest. In 2000 I drove up the back way from Malaucene, arriving at 8-9 ish up the D974 I was able to park about 6k from the summit and walk up near a bar/restaurant named Chalet Liotard (link below) . The D164 from Sault will also offer you the chance to park close to the famous Chalet Reynard (link below).
It is where the tree’s end and the moonscape white rocks begin, or about 6k from the summit. Chalet Reynard has a bar/restaurant and a rock formation on the hillside forms a natural amphitheatre of sorts.
If you wanted to get an unforgettable ride before, after, OR on the way to the stage I’d suggest parking a car in Villes-sur-Auzon (link below) and riding through the Gorges De la Nesque on the D942 towards Sault. The route is as beautiful as rides get in the Provence.
Once in Sault you can fuel up for the day and the climb to Ventoux. The ride through the Gorge is about 22k but uphill. I’d start early to get a chance to enjoy and not rush to get to the stage. In case your wondering the route UP Ventoux from Sault on the D164 is the easiest as it gains 1220 meteres over 26k. Riding the D974 is more challenging.