Stage 11 Preview: Two (!) Ascents of Mont Ventoux

THE GRUELLING STAGE 11 WILL REWARD THE RIDERS WITH CLIMBING STRENGTH, DESCENDING CHOPS, AND TACTICAL SAVVY.


Michael Finch |

cycling fra tdf2021 stage10
THOMAS SAMSON Getty Images

Stage 11 – Sorgues to Malaucène – 198.9km – Wednesday, July 7

The fabled and feared Mont Ventoux makes not one but two appearances in this grueling stage. After 100km of warmup, including three other categorized climbs, the pack will ascend to Ventoux’s windswept, treeless summit first via the more “gentle” side from the town of Sault (22km at 5.1 percent), then descend to the bottom in Malaucene and tackle the shorter but steeper climb from Bedoin (15.7km at 8.8 percent).

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They’re STILL not done, though, as the race drops a second time down the descent to the finish in Malaucene. That devilish little twist turns what is normally a straightforward—if arduous—climbing stage into a tricky affair that’s loaded with opportunities for things to go wrong.

The double ascent, with the steeper one coming second (the ascents join at Chalet Reynard for the final 6km of each), will absolutely explode the pack on the second go-round. And the 21km descent to Malaucene is no joke, with tricky hairpin turns and long stretches of 10 percent drops. There’s almost no flat terrain at the bottom for a dropped rider to re-catch the leaders before the finish, so gaps that form on the descent will stick—especially if thunderstorms (there’s a 50% chance) make the roads slick with rain.

The stage will reward a complete winner, with the climbing strength, descending chops, and tactical savvy to follow the wheels until it’s time for that one devastating attack. Whether it’s on the climb or descent, no one can say, but it’ll happen.

Stage 11 – Riders to Watch

We’ve got our eyes on three teams for tomorrow’s stage: Bahrain-Victorious, Arkea-Samsic, and Israel Start-Up Nation. Bahrain’s Wout Poels has shown great climbing form so far—he wore the polka dot jersey for a day in the Alps. Arkea’s Nairo Quintana, who took the jersey from Poels, and Warren Barguil, who won the polka dot jersey in 2017, are both far enough down the General Classification that they won’t be chased should they go on the attack. And Israel’s Mike Woods and Dan Martin, both two of the best pure climbers in the sport, are likely targeting this stage as well. Woods was particularly active in the Alps, and doesn’t want to leave this year’s Tour empty-handed.

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Another rider to watch is Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar), who won a key tune-up race on a highly similar course in early June. Lopez had a miserable start to the Tour, with crashes ruining his chances of a high GC finish. If he’s not asked to stay alongside his team’s captain, Enric Mas, Lopez could be given the freedom to try and win the stage for himself. His compatriot, Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo) could go for it as well—if he’s not tasked with pacing Rigoberto Uran up Ventoux.

And if the breakaway doesn’t make it, don’t be surprised to see Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who’s in the yellow jersey right now, go for the win. The Slovenian has shown a willingness to add more time to his already substantial advantage when he senses his rivals are struggling. This is one of the most prestigious stages in this year’s Tour, and winning it while wearing the yellow jersey would be quite an achievement.

When to Watch

The riders should begin their first trip up Mont Ventoux around 2:30 pm. If you’re available, this might be one of the only times that you’ll see groups of riders cresting the barren summit together. But the action will really go down on the second ascent—and the hair-raising descent to the finish line in Malaucene. Tune in around four o’clock to watch it live.

READ MORE ON: mont ventoux pogacar tour de france 2021 ventoux yellow jersey

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