Today is Bastille Day today and so the French will be hoping that one of their own will ride to glory up Mont Ventoux on the longest stage of this year’s tour.
Mont Ventoux is 1,912 meters high and extends 25 kms from West to East. The lower slopes are forested and provide a home for deer, chamois and wild boar. The upper slopes are well above the tree line and are populated by rare plants like the hairy Greenland poppy and the Spitzberg saxifrage.
From a cyclists point of view, it is a real challenge. Although the average gradient is 7.5%, it is the black sections where it ramps up to 11 or even 12% that test the best of legs. If any of the pretenders to the overall classification decides to have a go here, we can expect a strong reaction from the others. I would not expect the current race leader, Chris Froome to win on Ventoux but he will be watching the likes of Mollema, Contador and Kreuziger like a hawk.
Right at the top is a metrological station that now serves as a telecommunications base. It will be a welcome sight for all the competitors, especially the sprinters who suffer on the high mountains.
The survivors of today’s climb will have Stage 18 to look forward to and a double ascent of Alpe d’Huez.