A steep challenge on Mont Ventoux

CARCASSONNE (FRANCE) • Giant of Provence or Bald Mountain? Named after a Gaulish god or due to the howling winds at its summit?

"Mont Ventoux is mythical in cycling. The greats have won there, and I dream of doing so too," said Colombian climber Nairo Quintana.

The Movistar leader has tackled the great climb at the Tour de France once before, in 2013 where he finished second.

He did not win the stage at the top of Ventoux, but his brave solo attack shook up the favourites and the Colombian debutant had proved that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Today, the Tour will again finish atop Ventoux, and someone will add his name to the list of stars to have won when the toughest climb in France was tackled.

While Alpe d'Huez has its own special place in Tour history, Ventoux is the toughest climb and most arduous challenge.

There are three routes up to the barren summit that looks like it would be more at place on the moon than in the lush green summer Alps.

The most common, and hardest, which will be tackled today, is from the south and the village of Bedoin.

From there, the climb is 21.8km long with an average gradient of 7.4 per cent - but that does not tell the full story.

The first 6km are relatively easy at less than 4 per cent but from there on, it is relentless with 15.7km at an average 8.8 per cent.

And it is not just the steep incline that makes this such an epic feat of human endurance - there is the weather.

It is clearly a dominant factor. And that is the case when emerging from the forest path and out into the barren landscape, over the "col des tempetes" - the storm path - and on to the summit where winds of up to 320kmh have been recorded.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'A steep challenge on Mont Ventoux'. Print Edition | Subscribe