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July 13, 2016 – This is the 10th time that a Tour stage has finished on Mont Ventoux. Even though the forecast high winds have caused the stage 12 finish to be moved 6 kilometers down the mountain to the relative shelter of pine trees below Chalet Reynard, Ventoux remains one of the toughest climbs in France.
#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada
That’s because the elevation difference from the plains to the new finish is still a daunting 1,145 meters (3,756 feet); the grade averages 9 percent for the last 10 kilometers; and the Mistral winds—forecast to gust as high as 75 kilometers per hour—are not untypical.
It’s mistakenly said that Ventoux takes its name from the French word venteux, meaning windy, but French scholars say it comes from the region’s pre-Latin language, translating as “the mountain you can see from faraway.” Indeed, on this stage of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016), the riders will get distant glimpses of the Giant of Provence as they cross the Rhône River 75 kilometers into the 178-kilometer stage, and then a daunting close-up on crossing the Cat. 3 Col des Trois Termes 25 kilometers from the base of Mont Ventoux. The narrow descent from this climb, followed by sinuous back roads via the Venasque gorge, could catch out teams racing hard to place their GC leaders at the front before the final climb.
Three years ago, when the Tour last had a stage finish here, race leader Chris Froome (seen here about a kilometer from the summit) battled crosswinds and 85-degree temperatures after famously zooming away from Alberto Contador just before Chalet Reynard (where the new finish is placed), then catching and dropping Nairo Quintana to win the stage by 29 seconds. This Thursday, cooler temperatures (forecast to be in the upper-50s), along with cross- and headwinds on the climb, should make for a closer outcome, especially as Froome has more challengers this year, led by Adam Yates, Dan Martin and Quintana, who are all within 35 seconds on GC, followed by Bauke Mollema, Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte. It’s also Bastille Day, which might inspire French climbers Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot and Warren Barguil to seek glory. [WORDS: JOHN WILCOCKSON; IMAGE: YUZURU SUNADA]