The Mont Ventoux may be one of cycling’s most iconic climbs, but it was only in 2019 that this legendary climb became home to the CIC Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge. The one-day race quickly found its place on the pro calendar, offering riders a day of climbing with not one but two ascents up the climb known as The Giant of Provence.
This year, however, the biggest challenge came not from the unrelenting pitches but from the menacing spring storms that hit this corner of France just hours before. As a result, the race organisers cut the race short to 98.3 kilometres, finishing at the top of the first climb.
“I would rather be criticised for cutting the race short and finally having decent weather than for insisting we ride the entire distance and put the riders at risk,” race organiser Nicolas Garcera said as he reflected on the decision to modify the route.
But while the race may have lost its thrilling finale, there were plenty of fireworks when the pack hit the climb’s barren slopes and raced towards the iconic tower that crowns the summit.
For much of the climb, Canadian Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) drove the pace, but never leaving his wheel was French hopeful Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ).
Martinez comes from a pure cycling pedigree as his father Miguel won an Olympic gold medal in mountain biking, and his grandfather Mariano Martinez was the best climber in the 1978 Tour de France. Only 19 years old, Martinez confirmed the promise he showcased at the Critérium du Dauphiné by powering away on the final pitch of the Mont Ventoux to the finish line at the summit. “I couldn’t believe it to be honest. I just thought there had to be someone in front of us,” Martinez said on the summit. “What a place to win my first race.”
Rouleur photojournalist James Startt was at this year's race, capturing the day spent on the Giant of Provence.
The peloton lines up at the start in the heart of the ancient Roman Theatre in Vaison-la-Romaine.
Grape vines and low-lying clouds greeted the riders in the opening kilometres.
The peloton makes its way around the back of the Ventoux.
The break rides through the striking rock formations in Les Gorges de Nesque.
The sun did manage to break through as the peloton made its way through the eye-catching landscape of French Provence.
Simon Carr of EF Education-EasyPost (L), Lenny Martinez (C) and Michael Woods (R) looked worn by the effort up the barren slopes of the Ventoux.
Fog covered the iconic weather tower as the riders approached the summit.
Working his way back to the front of the peloton, veteran Italian climber Dominico Pozzovivo (R) drove the pace into the final kilometre for his Israel-Premier Tech teammate Michael Woods.
Martinez was the first to crest the final slope and eye the finish line.
Martinez may have been exhausted, but he couldn’t hide his emotion from scoring his first professional victory.
Veteran Spaniard Daniel Navarro (Burgos-BH) was just one of many riders marked by exhaustion at the finish.
No, it is not the cobblestone awarded to the winner of Paris-Roubaix, but the Ventoux road marker.
Michael Woods (L) and Simon Carr (R) filled out the podium behind Martinez.