Winning the Ventoux signifier astatine cycling's biggest contention is simply a uncommon and celebrated feat.
No wonderment a champion similar Wout Van Aert, with aggregate titles crossed the sport's astir prestigious events, felt similar helium posted his champion triumph ever aft mastering the daunting and grueling upland doubly successful the aforesaid time astatine the Tour de France connected Wednesday.
Near the tract wherever his chap Belgian Eddy Merckx — a cycling fable with 5 Tour wins — had to beryllium fixed oxygen soon aft winning the signifier to Ventoux backmost successful 1970, Van Aert triumphed pursuing an unprecedented treble ascent of the iconic mountain.
The lively signifier besides gave a glimmer of anticipation to the rivals of contention person Tadej Pogacar that helium tin beryllium taken disconnected his perch, aft the defending champion concisely got dropped connected the 2nd ascent but erased the shortage connected the downhill to support his yellowish jersey.
Unfortunately for Aussie AG2R Citroën person Ben O'Connor, the gruelling signifier saw him driblet from 2nd spot wide to fifth. On Mont Ventoux, O'Connor wobbled his mode to the summit, calling it the hardest signifier he's ever raced.
"Probably the lone clip erstwhile I went truthful heavy successful a Grand Tour was erstwhile I was sick successful past year's Giro," O'Connor said afterwards. "But contiguous was the hardest in-race infinitesimal I've had."
"I was evidently suffering. I deliberation everyone could spot that. But I tried to bash what I could to enactment wrong the time. So here's to amended days."
Van Aert was portion of a breakaway that formed successful the aboriginal stages of the astir 200-kilometres Stage 11 successful confederate France. The one-day classical specializer and aggregate cyclo-cross satellite champion made his decisive determination connected the last ascent to driblet his breakaway companions, past kept his vantage connected the descent starring to the municipality of Malaucene.
"I cognize I'm not the champion climber, but erstwhile I prime my time I cognize I person my chances," said van Aert. "The archetypal clip I climbed the Ventoux I was 10. It was my archetypal large one. I was precise motivated to effort thing today, this portion is truly celebrated successful Belgium, and it's a mythical Tour climb."
Pogacar was fourth, 1 infinitesimal and 38 seconds behind. He did not suffer crushed connected his main rivals, adjacent expanding his wide pb aft his closest hostile astatine the commencement of the stage, Ben O'Connor, suffered a hard time and dropped to 5th overall.
But for the archetypal clip since the commencement of the race, Pogacar showed weaknesses erstwhile helium mislaid crushed to Jonas Vingegaard adjacent the summit.
"I could not travel each the mode up, it was conscionable a small spot excessively much," helium said. "It was a super-hard, blistery day."
In the extremity it was conscionable a scare and Pogacar holds a comfy wide pb of 5 minutes and 18 seconds implicit Rigoberto Uran, with Vingegaard successful 3rd place, 5:32 disconnected the pace.
"I had to enactment calm and find a caller rhythm," Pogacar added. "I did not panic and that was a bully thing."
At 26, van Aert is simply a jack of each trades. He tin sprint, ascent and clip trial, but did not combat for the wide classification, moving successful enactment of Jumbo-Visma person Primoz Roglic. He was fixed much leeway by his squad aft Roglic retired from the Tour past week, mounting his sights connected a signifier win.
Van Aert went solo during the 2nd ascent of the Ventoux, astir 11 kilometers from the summit. As helium approached the decorativeness line, helium smiled to TV cameras and clenched his fist, past raised connected his pedals and yelled successful triumph with his arms outstretched.
It was van Aert's 4th vocation signifier triumph astatine the Tour.
The Ventoux is portion of the Tour's lore. It was the tract of an unthinkable country backmost successful 2016 erstwhile four-time champion Chris Froome had to concisely tally toward the acme aft helium damaged his motorcycle successful a crash.
An epic contention betwixt Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani successful 2000 besides took spot connected the slopes of the "Bald Giant," wherever British rider Tom Simpson died successful 1967 from a operation of amphetamines and alcohol.
The signifier got disconnected to a lively commencement arsenic satellite champion Julian Alaphilippe broke distant with Nairo Quintana, but the Colombian climber could not travel his gait and got dropped.
Alaphilippe was joined by a radical of 3 riders and created a three-minute pb implicit the main battalion crossed the vineyards and rolling scenery of the Luberon region. Behind the quartet, a radical of counter-attackers chased hard successful the archetypal large ascent of the day, the Col de la Liguière, but could not capable the gap.
In sizzling blistery weather, Pogacar rode successful the main battalion with his yellowish jersey wide open. Others tried to chill down with tiny bags of crystal cubes applied to their necks.
The downhill from La Liguière led the breakaway to the municipality of Sault and the commencement of the archetypal ascent of the Ventoux via a 22-kilometer climb. They were joined astatine the beforehand by the chasing radical arsenic the existent suffering began.
The starring battalion divided with Alaphilippe and six others, including Van Aert, moving distant 12 kilometers from the acme surrounded by hordes of excited fans. Riding successful rarefied air, Alaphilippe was archetypal to scope the barren summit, wherever swirling unreality added to the ominous lunar-looking landscape.
Paced by 2018 champion Geraint Thomas and his Ineos Grenadiers teammates, the peloton struggled to chopped the gap. Alaphilippe was clocked astatine a apical velocity of 99 km/h (61.5 mph) connected the descent.
Julian Bernard took implicit the pb arsenic the radical went backmost for its 2nd ascent of Mont Ventoux, a shorter but steeper ascent compared to the first. Kenny Elissonde attacked unsocial but his determination was countered by Van Aert.