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Mont Ventoux

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Mont Ventoux
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Mont_ventoux_summit.jpg



South side of the summit of Mont Ventoux
Elevation:1,909 m (6,263 ft)
Coordinates: Template:Coor dm
Location:Vaucluse, France
First ascent:unknown
Easiest route:hike

Mont Ventoux is a mountain in the Provence region of southern France. It is by far the biggest mountain in the region and has been dubbed the "Giant of Provence".

As the name might suggest (vent means "wind" in French) it can get windy at the summit, especially with the mistral; windspeeds as high as 300 km/h (180 mph) have been recorded. The road over the mountain is often closed due to high winds. The 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.

The mountain is neither part of the Alps nor of the Pyrenees but stands alone to the west of the Luberon range, and just to the east of the Dentelles de Montmirail, its foothills. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees. The white limestone on the mountain's barren peak means it appears from a distance to be snow-capped all year round (its snow cover actually lasts from December to April). Its isolated position overlooking the valley of the Rhône 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.

Contents

History

The mountain first gained fame as the site of Petrarch's 1326 ascent, which he recorded in a letter to a friend. This letter is viewed as one of the earliest products of Renaissance and Humanism, as the ascent is inspired by a passage in Livy's History of Rome. Petrarch is considered the father of alpinism, as he expressed the desire to climb Mont Ventoux merely for the joy of seeing the view.

Flora and fauna

Originally forested, Mont Ventoux was denuded of trees several hundred years ago to serve the demands of shipbuilders. Some areas have been reforested since 1860 with a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees. The mountain comprises the species boundary or ecotone between the flora and fauna of northern and southern France. Some species, including the snake eagle and various types of spiders and butterflies, are unique to Mont Ventoux. Its biological distinctiveness was recognised by UNESCO in 1990 when the Réserve de Biosphère du Mont Ventoux was created, protecting an area of 810 square kilometres (200,150 acres) on and around the mountain.

Tour de France

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Memorial to Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux

The mountain has become legendary as the regular scene of one of the most gruelling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain twelve times since 1951. The road to the summit is around 20 km long, at an average gradient of 7.6 per cent. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world.

Mont Ventoux achieved worldwide notoriety when it claimed the life of the great English cyclist Tom Simpson, who died here on July 13, 1967 from a combination of amphetamines, alcohol and heat exhaustion. There is a memorial to Simpson near the summit which has become a shrine to fans of cycling, who often leave small tokens of remembrance there. In 1970, Eddy Merckx rode himself to the brink of collapse while winning the stage. He received oxygen, recovered, and won the Tour.

External link

de:Mont Ventoux es:Mont Ventoux fr:Mont Ventoux nl:Mont Ventoux

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