Despite the final climb of Mont Ventoux being shortened by six kilometres due to gusts of wind exceeding 125 kilometres per hour, today’s stage of the Tour de France was still expected to be one of the most crucial day’s of the race with the road to Chalet-Reynard averaging 8.8% over 10 kilometres.
Mont Ventoux did prove to be difficult and a number of riders were in trouble including Dan Martin. The Irish rider who had been in third place overall lost some time to his main rivals, but still remained upbeat after the stage.
Thirteen riders went clear in the main break of the day and their lead at one point grew to 18 minutes. The huge gap began to drop only in the final 80 kilometres, when some of the GC teams came to the forefront and began to chew into the escape’s lead, which dropped to less than eight minutes with 40 kilometers to go.
Under the impetus of Etixx – Quick-Step, who drove the peloton hard thanks to the likes of Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin, the pack split in the crosswinds and the elite group was trimmed to just 30 riders.
Then, just as the gap was coming down even more, a crash occurred at the head of the bunch on a tricky corner, which slowed down the chasers, and in that moment it became obvious that the break would make it.
As expected, the group couldn’t stick together, only Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) and Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) staying together and fighting for the win at Chalet-Reynard, where De Gendt was the first to cross the line.
Behind, from the yellow jersey group, Chris Froome (Team Sky) made his move and was joined by Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Richie Porte (BMC).
Inside the last kilometre, the trio was 25 seconds up on a group which included Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), but all three lost time after Porte crashed into a motorbike which was halted because of the huge crowds on Mont Ventoux.
Soon, Porte and Froome were caught by the chasers and came to the finish line with a big deficit, but this was scratched off by the race jury, who decided to reverse the gaps and give the riders the time taken at the moment of the incident.
Dan Martin – Etixx – Quick-Step’s best placed rider in the Tour de France general classification – was returning to Mont Ventoux after three years, hoping to continue his series of impressive results at this year’s edition.
Unfortunately, the hot temperatures and the huge tempo pushed at the head of the bunch once the race tackled the tough slopes of this iconic ascent took their toll on Martin, who lost contact midway through the climb and moved down in the overall standings.
Even though he is 9th overall now, his spirit is high with several mountain stages and two individual time trials still to come, the first of which will take place on Friday: “I felt good all day and the guys did a great job. Everybody was fully committed. I was good, but not good enough, and I must say I am gutted for losing some time.”
“I lost a wheel when Sky decided to up the tempo, but I continued to ride hard, even if this meant going into the red. The Tour de France is not over, I’m not too far behind and I vow to fight. I’m the kind of rider who likes more a mountainous day than a big explosion effort, and fortunately such stages are yet to come.”