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Will Froome master Ventoux or will the mountain have its say?

July 13, 2013

Mont Ventoux seen from Carpentras (photo by Véronique Pagnier (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

A cyclist can easily lose his mind here.

He leaves the familiar green and brown landscape as he rises above Mont Ventoux’s lower slopes. Now lifeless rock surrounds him, reflecting and intensifying the sun’s heat. Already breathless and depleted from the physical effort of climbing for miles, exposure to wide-open sky magnifies human frailty.

There’s nowhere to hide. Fears leak out, feed on themselves, and spiral out of control. After all, others have lost lives here.

And so the mind questions if breath will cease which makes it come too fast. Progress seems to slow every second until it seems he’s going backwards. Maybe the heart will explode, splattering red on baked white limestone.

These are the thoughts that can occupy a man’s mind on Mont Ventoux when the 2013 Tour de France scales its slopes tomorrow. That’s why Ian Chadband rightly questions the seemingly unstoppable Chris Froome’s domination of that mountain in a U.K. Telegraph story written yesterday.

A Washington Times piece quoted the Team Sky rider as saying, in response to the minute he lost on Friday’s windy stage, “I think there will be more time won and lost on a stage like Ventoux.”

Is Froome right?

Prior to this year’s 100th edition, the race has ended only eight times on the Giant of Provence. Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Richard Virenque (Domo-Farm Frites), and Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno-Albacom) won here in 2009, 2002, and 2000. The 2009 and 2002 winners came victorious from break-aways. Pantani attacked the lead group multiple times starting at 6.5 kilometers from the finish line. The fifth placed rider finished 48 seconds behind the Italian; the top ten on GC changed slightly with three men dropping below tenth and three moving up into their spots.

In 2009 the top GC contenders finished within about 30 seconds of each other. But in 2002 Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal) finished about two minutes ahead of Joseba Beloki (ONCE) who was second on GC going into the stage.

So Froome could widen his lead tomorrow significantly or only slightly. But one thing’s for sure. Ventoux will have a say in the matter.

From → Road Racing

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