Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) etched his name into Tour de France history as the winner of the first stage in the race’s history to feature double ascents of the feared Mont Ventoux.
The Belgian champion rode away from his breakaway companions on the second ascent and soloed to the win on stage 11 ahead of Trek-Segafredo’s Kenny Elissonde and Bauke Mollema.
In the battle for the overall race lead, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) showed only the briefest glimpse of weakness on the second ascent of Ventoux with just over 22 kilometres to go when he let Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) open a gap, which Pogačar nevertheless closed on the descent along with Rigoberto Urán (EF-Nippo) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
The sheer brutality of the 198.9 kilometre stage from Sorgues to Maulacène further widened the gaps in the general classification. Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroën) dropped from second overall to fifth after struggling in the heat on the last climb.
It’s no surprise that the dominant young Slovenian heads away from the stage with 5:18 on his next rival, Urán, and it seems that the fight from here will be for the two remaining podium places if Pogačar continues as he has. Vingegaard, Carapaz, and O’Connor are all within 40 seconds of the Colombian.
Mont Ventoux has featured regularly in the Tour de France since its debut in 1951 and has had far more drama in past editions than what unfolded on Wednesday. The stage came off without a hitch with sparser crowds than the last time the race visited the Giant of Provence.
In 2016, high winds forced organisers to move the finish downhill to Chalet Reynaud, pushing the crowds to critical density. Then-race leader Chris Froome was caught up in a crash when a race motorbike was blocked by the crowd. His bike broken, Froome took off on foot until he could get a replacement. Officials would later nullify his time delay because of the drama.
This year, COVID-19 travel restrictions and a strong presence from the gendarmerie meant there were no such hassles.
For all the pictures from the stage click or swipe through the gallery above.
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