Mont Ventoux has played a significant role in many Tours. The legendary Tom Simpson lost his life on the mountain after a heroic effort and a mixture of amphetamines and alcohol and in 1970, Eddy Merckx rode to the summit taking the win and eventually taking the overall win of the Tour. While the mountain has been the stage for sadness, it has also been one for glory and grand general classification battles.
The landscape of the climb is well suited for drama and the crowds often play a role in this part of the race. In 2013, Chris Froome of Team Sky won the mountain top finish after 242 kilometers in the saddle proving that he was worthy of the yellow jersey and was the strongest rider in that year’s tour. Last year, the tour returned to the infamous mountain for another summit finish to stage 12. The mountain played yet another huge role in the race.
The summit of Ventoux is void of trees and open to the elements which means that wind and even snow play a role in the race outcome. This is fitting as the French word Ventoux means “windy.” The wind was so high above the tree line in 2016 that the race director was forced to cut the stage short for the safety of the riders but also for the safety the spectators. The climb would end up finishing at the Chalet Reynard, six kilometers short of the summit. The stage was already set for drama but no one expected what would eventually happen when the riders hit the slopes of the climb.
Approximately 1.5 km’s from the finish at Chalet Reynard, the crowds pushed in to the point that a motor bike was not able to pass through and had to stop abruptly. Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema were all directly behind the motor bike with no time to react. Porte made initial contact with the motorcycle followed by Froome and Mollema.
Both Porte and Mollema were able to carry on while Froome was left with a broken bike and no other option but to take a run up the slope, hoping for a replacement bike from neutral support and eventually one from his team vehicle. While the race organizers decided to not penalize the GC contenders with the time lost due to the incident, the drama was nonetheless high and will forever be remembered in Tour history.
The crowd was stunned almost to the point of silence upon the view of Froome running up the mountain with no bike in hand. No one had ever seen something like this and it is fair to say that we may never see it repeated.
See the drama here:
We had Wahooligan Matt Porter on the mountain to capture the drama and this is what he had to say:
“When we realized that Froome was running and did not have a bike there was a moment of shock. The crowd did not know how to respond and most stood in place with a look of bewilderment as he ran by looking for a bike to ride.”
Chris Froome went on to win the 2016 Tour de France. While the climb does not show its windy face in the 2017 edition of the tour, it highlights the drama of the legendary race. The unexpected is always expected during the Tour which is one reason we love it so much.