Mont Ventoux. The giant of Provence. The very name is said in reverent awe by Tour fans everywhere. When this bad boy is in town mothers gather their children and hurry them indoors. This is a 242km long stage and the struggle and effort required will make the riders feel like Le Tour is about to conquer the moon.
Indeed it is a desolate moonscape at the top. Erosion has exposed the 91 million year old rock which has Phil wondering what stories these ancient rocks could tell. If the rocks could speak they’d probably say things like “pleased to meet you and by the way I'm a very old rock”.
The summit of Mont Ventoux
Many spectators turned out to line the route to the top of Mont Ventoux. Phil estimated there would be hundreds of thousands of people on the slopes. It’s a miracle they were able to fit them all up there.
Being Bastille Day, the French national holiday, you’d expect at least one French rider to ‘do it for France’ and put on a heroic showing. Frenchman Sylvian Chavanel (Oooomega Farmer – Quick Stop) did just that going on the attack at 25km to go but it wasn’t going to be France's day.
As the climb progressed more riders up front were ‘asphyxiated’ according to Paul. The climb was high but not 747 cruising altitude high. The only asphyxiation that’s been going on in this Tour has been in a sealed commentary box after a big feed of cassoulet.
Ever the showman Cannonball Peter Sagan popped a wheelie and everyone went wild. Quite a difficult stunt to pull off on a road bike. He’ll be doing those H&R Block ads SBS has been running pretty soon.
Higher and higher the riders climbed with Froome Dog (Sky), The Mighty Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Taxo Sinkoff) left to battle it out.
The fans were out in force cheering them on. There were some obligatory mankinis and a surprising number of men in tutus. A case of watching too much of the NRL Footy Show? A blow up doll made an appearance and now the whole world knows now what that spectator had been doing in the camping car. Then again, there’s all that time to kill waiting for Le Tour to arrive. We’re thankful we didn’t have to witness moonscapes of a different kind from the roadside.
Contador was the first to crack. Quintana and Froome duked it out for the remainder of the race until Froome burst out of the blocks to win not only the stage but the King of the Mountains classification and keep a handy lead in yellow. With seven days of racing to go anything can happen. But with the way Froome's riding it would be difficult to imagine any other rider standing at the top of the podium in Paris on Sunday.
Today is a rest day in Vaucluse. It’s hot work climbing a mountain and what better way to cool down than with Glace à l'abricot auxAmandes Caramélisées or apricot ice-cream prepared by Gabs. No butter of course and here’s hoping we don’t see Beurremetric counter still reading 286g on Sunday.