MONTPELLIER, France (VN) — Howling winds have shortened the decisive climbing stage up the exposed flanks of Mont Ventoux on Thursday at the Tour de France.
Organizers determined that the gale-force winds would be too dangerous for racing, so the finish has been moved from the summit at 1,912 meters to the Chalet Reynard, located about 6.5km lower on the mountain at 1,417 meters, shortening the 21.8km climb by one-third.
“Given the weather conditions predicted by Meteo France at the Mont Ventoux summit, and the fact winds topping 100kph have been recorded there, Tour organizers have decided to change the finish to the 12th stage in order to guarantee safety,” read a statement from Tour organizers.
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“I was also looking forward to racing up Ventoux, it’s the most legendary climb,” said defending champion Chris Froome (Sky). “There were gale-force winds at the top, but it wouldn’t be safe for riders, and thank you to the organization for making this decision. It was the right thing to do.”
The decision to lower the finish line could have a major impact on the outcome of the stage, viewed by many as a key moment in the fight for the yellow jersey.
The stage loses some of its steepest, most decisive sectors on the upper flanks exposed to the sun and wind. The Chalet Reynard is located near the top of the opening steep sections through heavy pine trees, thus it is more protected from the wind.
On Wednesday, strong winds buffeted the transition stage from Carcassonne to Montpellier, where Froome took advantage of the crosswinds in the final 10km and broke away with Tinkoff’s Peter Sagan to finish second and earn more time in the overall.
“To be honest I don’t think it really changes too much,” Froome added. “The climb until Chalet Reynard is extremely hard. Already another it’s another 200km+ stage, a lot of wind is predicted. There could be a split even before the climb. I don’t know what to expect, if anything it’s going to mean an even more intense race before we hit the climb because it’s going to be shorter.”
Not everyone is disappointed, though. Wednesday’s stage 11 winner Peter Sagan said, “It’s going to be 6km
shorter? Wow, nice!”
The stage is scheduled to coincide with France’s Bastille Day, and there are already thousands of fans lining the road to secure the best viewing spots on the road.