Stage 11 of the Tour de France will see the mountain masters return to the fore. The Tour visits the historic Mont Ventoux, where Tour de France legends are often created.
Previous winners here include Marco Pantani and Chris Froome, who beat Nairo Quintana to the summit in 2013.
In French, ‘venteux’ means ‘windy’. The summit of the climb is susceptible to exceptionally strong winds which can have a significant impact on the race. This year, for the first time in Tour de France history, Mont Ventoux will be ascended twice within a single stage.
Stage 10 was won by Mark Cavendish and Deceuninck-Quick Step. That takes Cavendish's Tour total to three stages this year and 33 across his career. He is now just one victory behind Eddy Merckx, who holds the record for most Tour de France stage victories in history. Wout Van Aert was second and Jasper Philipsen was third.
Stage 11 profile
Leaving Sorgues, the early phase of the race will be dominated by the formation of the breakaway and an early intermediate sprint. There are also two fourth category climbs at kilometres 32 and 43. Some of the sprinter’s teams may look to control proceedings early with 20 green jersey points up for grabs in Les Imberts, 40km in. The final breakaway may not form until after this section is complete due to the various riders interested in the points classification, namely Mark Cavendish, Sonny Colbrelli, Jasper Philipsen and Michael Matthews.
The first major climb begins at kilometre 74 with the Col de la Liguière. The first category ascent is 9.3km in length and 6.7% on average. With ten polka-dot jersey points up for grabs, those interested in taking the jersey to Paris will have this climb earmarked.
After a short descent, the riders will begin the first ascent of Mont Ventoux. The riders will climb Ventoux from Sault, which means they’ll climb from the east side of the mountain. The climb is 22km in length, but the gradients aren't particularly steep until the road reaches Chalet Reynard which is 16km in. From this moment, the road punches uphill to average over 8%.
Mont Ventoux profile, first passage
The riders will then descend to Malaucène where the stage will later finish. However, this time across the line, the riders have another ascent of Mont Ventoux and 56km to look forward to. A short valley section will send the riders to the foot of Ventoux. This time, they’ll ascend the mountain from the west. Although this route up is considerably shorter, it is much more arduous than the first ascent. The climb averages a leg-sapping 8.8% over 15.7km with no moment to rest. This is where the race will be blown wide open if it hasn’t already.
Mont Ventoux profile, second passage
The stage doesn’t finish atop Mont Ventoux, though. A 22km descent to Malaucène will conclude the stage. Any riders that aren’t comfortable descending must gain an advantage over the top otherwise they’ll be distanced by their rivals.
Image credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images
Tadej Pogačar is in consummate control of the 2021 Tour de France. The Slovenian has demonstrated his strength to such a degree that some of his rivals have already questioned whether he is beatable. He doesn’t need to ride for stage victory, but if he does put his UAE team to the front of the race to control, he’ll be almost impossible to stop. Will Pog be able to resist chasing stage victory on one of the Tour de France’s most famous mountains?
Ben O’Connor had yellow jersey dreams on his way to Tignes, and although Pogačar was able to retain the jersey, O’Connor was elated to win the first Tour de France stage of his career. Now second overall, the Aussie must be considered as a genuine contender to finish on the podium. He has demonstrated sublime climbing ability throughout the 2021 season when he finished in the top ten at both the Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné. He has over three minutes to Rigoberto Urán who is currently third in the general classification.
The Ineos Grenadiers entered the Tour with a range of GC options, but must now focus on Richard Carapaz. The Ecuadorian tried a couple of long-range attacks prior to the first rest day but was caught on both occasions. Carapaz is fifth in the GC and Ineos must be inventive to move him up the standings. Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte are all still present and as they are out of GC contention, they can join the breakaway and drop back as satellite riders to help Carapaz late in the stage.
Jonas Vingegaard, Rigoberto Urán and Enric Mas are the other general classification riders to keep an eye on.
Both mountain stages have been won by the breakaway at the 2021 Tour de France. Given Pogačar’s supreme position in the GC, UAE will be relied upon to control the tempo in the peloton which will make the breakaway more challenging to control. This makes the breakaway an enticing prospect.
Movistar have had a substandard Tour de France so far. Although Enric Mas is still in the top ten, Miguel Ángel López and Alejandro Valverde are out of GC contention and haven’t challenged for a stage yet. Movistar must be aggressive in sending riders into the breakaway, where if they can’t win the stage, they can drop back to support Mas.
Simon Yates entered the Tour de France aiming for stage victories to prepare him for the Tokyo Olympics. The Brit joined the stage 7 breakaway, but has largely kept his powder dry to this point. Lucas Hamilton has also dropped out of GC contention, so BikeExchange have two strong breakaway candidates.
From the breakaway, Sepp Kuss, Jakob Fuglsang, Nairo Quintana, Mike Woods, Omar Fraile and Esteban Chaves could all challenge for stage victory in Malaucène.
Although the GC battle could be explosive, we think the winner in Malaucène will come from the breakaway. After a quiet first week, Simon Yates will be as loud as ever on Mont Ventoux. His competition in the breakaway will be fierce, but Yates is one of the best pure climbers in the world. Simon Yates is our pick to win stage 11 of the Tour de France.
Cover image: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images