Stage 15: Givors to Mont Ventoux, 242.5km, high mountain
Bastille Day, the stage before the rest day, Mont Ventoux, the longest climb, the longest stage of the Tour – this will be an epic day. Miss it at your peril!
For 220km, the stage is fairly innocuous – three cat 4s in the first 45km leave the road clear for tempo riding until a cat 3 blip at 143km. A little rockin’ and rollin’ until [cue theme from Jaws] they come to the bottom of Ventoux – 20.8km of uphill at an average of 7.5% gradient. The weather has played an unpredictable part all season in the outcome of races – it always plays a part on Ventoux. The first part of the climb is sheltered by thick forests and it is here that the steepest ramps occur – 11km of nothing less than 9%. There are no hairpins, no respite.
Once they get through the forest, it’s a barren, lunar landscape. If the sun is shining, it will be gruesome. If the wind is blowing hard from the front, it will be gruesome. If a GC contender cracks here, he might be forced to leave his podium dreams in the white dust on the side of the road. As it’s Bastille Day, a French rider will be desperate to win – not least because the ‘home’ nation have won zero stages so far in this 100th Tour – watch out for someone like current polka dot jersey Pierre Rolland to perhaps slip away in the breakaway in the hope that the GC riders will be too absorbed in their own private battle. No matter what the nationality of the winner of this stage, they deserve free drinks in France for the rest of their lives. I for one will have the champagne on ice, ready to toast all the boys who get through this stage!
Bit of trivia: Not only is this the longest stage in this year’s Tour, it’s the longest since 2000. Bet the guys are thrilled to learn that!
Link: Official website
Header image: The lunar landscape of Mont Ventoux