“I want to succeed in Ventoux, but I’m not particularly trying to mark it with my mark. “ He would play it almost modest, the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar, before attacking the mythical Mont Chauve which awaits the riders this Wednesday, July 7 between Sorgues and Malaucène. The Slovenian seems to be well above the rest this year, but he is careful not to boast. Humiliating your opponents is never a good idea, especially in a peloton only halfway through an already quite confusing Tour.
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The Ventoux, this year, offers itself to all desires. Its winner will automatically become a legend of the race because it is not once, but twice, that it will be necessary to climb its slopes. The organizers of the Grande Boucle are now delighted to offer double ration to the ogres of the road. There had been the repeated ascent of Alpe-d’Huez in 2013 for the centenary of the Tour, the Mur de Bretagne climbed twice this year, and here we have to screw the Giant of Provence. Crazy challenge?
The quest for historic success
Nicolas Garcera knows him well, who has been organizing the Mont-Ventoux-Dénivelé Challenges for three years, a one-day race which, last June, modeled his last 100 kilometers on this eleventh stage of the Tour. “The interest of the sequence is perhaps more media than sports, with very beautiful images and undoubtedly good audiences, he comments. The first access to the mount by Sault is a fairly easy climb. If no breakaway is ahead, the leaders will wait for the second, more traditional, by the Bédoin slope, to explain. “
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The opinion is shared by Cédric Vasseur, the manager of the Cofidis team in which the French climber Guillaume Martin is still chasing a stage victory: “The first climb can be an observation climb between the leaders, and therefore be useless for the top twenty in the standings. “ The risk is therefore that of a locked waiting race, not really fashionable this year.
“This double climb may also encourage some to unleash the case to go for a great victory, necessarily historic, analysis Jean-René Bernaudeau, manager of the TotalÉnergies team. The downside, however, is that the runners are still very tired by the alpine episode, and that it will be very hot, more than 30 ° normally at the foot of the Ventoux. “
Another parameter can also be taken into account. “This Ventoux scares everyone. There are the two climbs, but also the descent, really very fast with peaks at 100 km / h: you will have to control your emotions ”, warns Julien Jurdie, the sporting director of AG2R-Citroën. A specificity that Patrick Lefevere, the boss of the Deceuninck team, also amused himself to underline casually by evoking last week the stages which could suit his leader, Julian Alaphilippe. “We know that he is doing very well on the descents: twice that of Ventoux is not bad”, he smiled.
Double ascent but also double descent
The Alaphilippe hypothesis, Cédric Vasseur also validates it if no runner makes a big difference on the last pass at the top. Because there is then this second dive of about twenty kilometers towards the finish in Malaucène. “We saw a lot of runners this weekend who weren’t very comfortable going downhill. They were certainly washed out by the rain, but on the Ventoux, speed is difficult to control. When I was running, I messed up myself in this exercise. So be careful ”, warns the manager of the Cofidis team.
One thing is certain: runners will benefit twice from a packed arena. Florence Girard, one of the leaders of the Les Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux association, a club created in 1988 for amateurs who climb the Ventoux by its three access roads in the same day (there are nearly 16,000 of 70 nationalities ), notes it once again: “Le Ventoux always attracts a crazy crowd. In 2009, before the last tour of the Tour, I had climbed three days early and perched up there. It was delusional. This year, the organizers are betting on a crowd spread over the two climbs, but the last three kilometers and their lunar landscape, even with the ban on vehicles, promise a great madness. “
Up to the hoped-for feat? For runners, at least it’s the assurance of uppercase memories. As Richard Virenque, the last French winner of the Ventoux, recounted alone in 2002: “When you go up there, whether you win or not, you have the feeling that you have accomplished something. “
The three faces of the monster
The runners will approach the Ventoux for their first passage by the eastern slope, from the village of Sault, one of the three possible climbs but taken only once (in 1974) out of the 16 visits made by the Tour au Géant de Provence until this Wednesday. The most classic climb, and the most difficult, is the second that awaits the runners, the southern slope via Bédoin, 16 km which falls at more than 9%, suffocating in particular in the passage of the forest. The third possibility is the northern slope via Malaucène, which the riders will descend this time, and which was the first path taken by the peloton when it discovered Ventoux in 1951.