Are you Cinglé? Find out on the slopes of Mont Ventoux!

I first came across the Club des Cinglés soon after I started cycling. The idea of climbing Mont Ventoux three times in one day seemed bonkers, impossible, indeed almost unimaginable.

Roughly translated, the French word “cinglé” means you are nuts, or crazy. The word seemed completely appropriate. Years later, as I cycled more and more and gained experience in the mountains, I realised that although climbing the famous Giant of Provence three times in one day is indeed a challenge, it is not superhuman. Any reasonably fit cyclist should be able to do it, so long as the weather allows and he or she rides at a sensible pace and refuels properly throughout the day.

I did my first Cinglé with a group of guests in June 2019. It took us a respectable 7h30 to complete the 139km and 4,300m of climbing. I never expected to do the next one for television…

Strange things happen in life, however, and the national broadcaster France Televisions contacted me in early May 2021. They were filming a series of short programmes to be aired during the daily 1 o’clock news in the week leading up to the Tour de France, and wanted me to do one of them. Each programme was to follow cyclists as they tackled a major endurance challenge.

And so it came about that at 06:15 on June 16th Jean-Michel and I set off to do a Cinglé together, accompanied by a journalist, a camera operator, a sound technician and a drone pilot…

Watch the video here

The Club des Cinglés

Where did this idea come from, and why climb Mont Ventoux three times? Why not twice, or four times? The answer is simple: there are three different routes. In a world where people are constantly looking for new endurance challenges, this one was in plain sight. The club itself was formed by Christian Pic as long ago as 1988. In the 33 years since then over 16,390 persons have officially made the triple ascension and joined the club, and 372 have even become Bicinglés, making a double Cinglé in the same day, i.e. 6 times up, twice by each route. (Data correct on Nov 30, 2021). If you too want to join the club, you will find the details here on their website.

The usual way to do a Cinglé is to start in Bédoin, then descend to Malaucène and climb back up, and finally to descend to Sault and return to the summit for the third time, finishing with the final descent back to Bédoin. A minority do Malaucène first, then Bédoin before finishing with Sault. Far fewer begin with Sault. The logic in finishing with Sault is that the climb from Sault is the easiest and therefore it is best to do it last. Cyclists often debate which of the two other climbs is the harder, from Bédoin or from Malaucène. The statistics are almost identical, with both cases around 21km and 1600m, but the route profile is very different. Bédoin is a more regular climb, rarely exceeding 9%, while Malaucène is much more irregular with long sections at over 11% interspersed by easier sections. In my view, this makes Malucène harder. In practice, however, the choice of whether to start in Bédoin or Malaucène often comes down to where you are staying.

Become Cinglé 

Our next trip to the Ventoux region is planned from 8 to 14 May 2022, including of course the possibility to join the Club des Cinglés. There are hundreds of kilometres of delightful roads to explore within a day’s ride, as well as the famous mountain itself. Join us for a great start to your summer cycling season!

Marvin Faure is a British-born cyclist who has lived in France for the past 30 years. He started the company Alpine Cols in 2013 with his wife Emmanuelle and four other cycling coaches to offer coaching and training camps in the mountains. Marvin is a British Cycling Level 3 Coach.

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