Wout van Aert banged bars with sprinter Mark Cavendish on Tuesday’s finish of stage 10. On stage 11, van Aert also proved he can climb as well as sprint.
The stage took two trips over Mont Ventoux, one of the most iconic, feared, and revered climbs in all of pro cycling. And van Aert, the three-time world cyclocross champion and current Belgian road champion, put the hammer down on the second trip of the climb.
Behind him, Jonas Vingegaard, Richard Carapaz, Rigoberto Urán pressured Tadej Pogacar to the point where the yellow jersey sprinted for a minor placing with no time bonus available.
Here’s what the stars said after a stage that featured two different ascents of Mont Ventoux.
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe): 9th, at 1:56
Wilco Kelderman was looking to improve his overall standing of sixth on the GC before the start of the stage. With a cat 1 climb 100km before the finish, and just prior to the two laps over Ventoux, the Dutch rider saw the potential for improving his standing.
Key on the day was staying off the ground, well-fed, and well-hydrated. He did all three.
“Unlike the previous wet and cold stages, we had a hot day but we already knew it so I took a lot of drinks, kept hydrated, and felt good throughout the day. It was very tough to climb Mont Ventoux twice but I was well in the finale,” said Kelderman. “When Vingegaard attacked I was on my limit and couldn’t react, I just had to ride at my own pace. I’m happy with my performance, I could say it was a good day, although not extraordinary. The podium isn’t far, we could possibly be in contention but we’ll have to see on the next stages how everything goes.”
With the Tour just through the halfway mark, Kelderman is very optimistic about his chances for a podium in Paris.
“I’m focused on doing my job and riding well. If I finish fifth overall, I would still be satisfied. I’m happy with how I performed today and even if I might have the podium in my sights, if I don’t achieve it because the rest are stronger, that’s the way it is,” said Kelderman.
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 147th, at 40:40
Mark Cavendish’s biggest adversary on stage 11 was not rival sprinters, but the clock. While he finished nearly seven minutes better than the time cut, he also had to consider saving his legs for stage 12, if he is to tie Eddy Merckx’s career Tour stage victory record.
At points throughout the stage, Cav had only eight other riders in the groupetto with him for company. Of those eight, four were his teammates — Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, and Michael Mørkøv, so he was in good hands.
“We knew it was never going to be as close [to the time cut] as Sunday, but we still had to be focused the entire day as it was really hard out there,” Cavendish said. “I had my teammates with me, helping me up and down the mountains. It wasn’t easy, but I was incredibly motivated to make it and not quit. I’ll keep going for as long as I can.”
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 23rd, at 12:18
Julian Alaphillpe lead a group of seven over the first summit of Mont Ventoux. To do so, the world champion had to go all-in, and as a result, he faded on the second lap, finishing some 12 minutes behind the stage winner.
“I was keen on going to the attack, so I showed my intentions from the very beginning. I enjoyed it today and I gave my best, but the stage was a lap too long for me. On the other hand, I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have been first at the summit of Mont Ventoux with the rainbow jersey on my shoulders,” Alaphilippe said. “It’s a special ascent, a mythical one which everybody knows, and to crest it first it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates): 4th at 1:38
Pogačar looked to be under some pressure from Ineos Grenadiers throughout the stage, as well as being distanced on the second time up Mont Ventoux.
The defending Tour de France champion, in yellow, even sprinted for fourth place on the stage, while his closest competition on the GC came across the line in his draft.
“I couldn’t follow him, the heat, Ineos, there was a lot going on,” said Pogacar, who tracked down Wout van Aert after the stage to congratulate him on the stage win. “We had some nice words for each other, I just wanted to say ‘great ride mate.’”
Chasing after Jonas Vingegaard, Pogacar had help from Richard Carapaz and Rigoberto Urán looking to protect their GC standings.
“I’m lucky to have had Richard Carapaz and Rigoberto Urán in the descent. We had very well collaborated. In the end, it was a good day. I’m doing well. I look forward to the arrival in the Pyrenees!”
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis): 12th, at 4:05
Martin struggled on the slopes of Mont Ventoux but held onto his ninth-place in the general classification.
On a stage that saw Ben O’Connor drop from 2nd to fifth on the GC, this should be considered a win for Martin.
“I count on my consistency to make a good [placing] overall, but I don’t forget the goal of stage victory,” Martin said. “I aimed to hang on to Chalet Reynard telling myself that there would be a headwind, then. But Kwiatkowski accelerated and it was going too fast for me. I remain satisfied with my finish.”