“The Ventoux is a god of Evil, to which sacrifices must be made. It never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering.” – Roland Barthes
Mont Ventoux had a supposed 5/5 rating impact on the Maillot Jaune. It was ideally the stage that Chris Froome could attack with either Quintana following and Valverde on his wheel, or be left to go the climb alone.
Chris Froome doesn’t fear Mont Ventoux, in fact he has history with it. On stage 15 of the 2013 Tour he became the first Briton to win there, yet leaving his rivals behind came with a price. He pushed himself to and beyond his limit, needing oxygen after the stage in order to recover. He made up the time previously lost to Contador with a brutal acceleration and gained a historic stage win in the process.
Today’s stage was flat from the start, from KM 0 to just past the intermediate sprint finish for the only Green Jersey points available today. Greipel took second for the intermediate sprint behind Keisse as he later turned from sprinter to breakaway climber with 4KM to go, defying his own odds and showing the world that like Froome, who had turned sprinter yesterday, he could also change his role.
The last kilometres of today’s climb somewhat echoed the final kilometres in the previous stage. Froome had left Quintana behind yet again and like yesterday, which saw Froome improvise and latch onto the wheel of Sagan, with a determined Geraint Thomas close behind, Ventoux threw Sky into a sudden need for quick thinking and improvisation. A stopped motorbike in the final stretch of the climb saw Porte, Mollema and Froome hit the ground, with Chris then detaching himself from the tangled mess and running alongside past a cycling Porte who was now upright. But run he did. Kittel had tweeted post-stage that Froome’s ‘Kenyan genes’ must have helped him, this was proved by the sheer determination of Chris running up an unclassified mountain climb in cycling cleats while desperately looking behind for the Mavic service car, stuck behind the unacceptably large mass of uncontrolled fans and 5 motorbikes. When he had finally got his hands on another bike he had been passed by numerous GC contenders, Quintana included who had held onto the back of a motorbike when passing Froome.
The last minute panic had seen a shake of the head and he crossed the line, yet he was ultimately not the biggest loser on the day. Astana hadn’t had the greatest stage, with Aru (1m54 down) needing countless bike changes throughout coinciding with the numerous sticky bottles he had also taken and Nibali (irrelevant in GC now, really) getting a flat tyre earlier in the stage. Simon Gerrans was also forced to retire from the Tour after a gust of wind on a corner had forced him down and broken his collarbone – yet again – and bringing down Ian Stannard and Wouter Poels heavily with him.
The biggest winner was indeed Thomas De Gendt, who saw off a suddenly present Navarro and fellow Belgian Pauwels to take the dreaded Ventoux stage win.
Mont Ventoux had extracted an unfair amount of suffering from those who needed it the least. However after a tense wait after crossing the line, Froome heard he retained the Yellow Jersey, with a lead of 47 seconds over closest competitor and fellow Brit Adam Yates.
This was only stage 12.
Expect big things still from Froome tomorrow and also keep an eye out for Tom Dumoulin who’s aiming for his second win at the Tour this year, as well as Rohan Dennis.