Clearly, this year, all the elements are against the Tour de France peloton: after the rain, then the wind, it was necessary, Wednesday July 7, to deal with a stifling heat. Just enough to spice up this eleventh stage a little more, between Sorgues and Malaucène (Vaucluse), which was already promising to be salty: 198.9 kilometers with five listed difficulties, including a double ascent of Mont Ventoux.
How not to have in mind the images of the last passage of the Grande Boucle, in 2016, when the Briton Chris Froome, then yellow jersey, had broken his bike by hitting a motorcycle blocked by the crowd and improvised a running race over a few meters ?
Five years later, it is the burst of pride of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) which engraves the spirits. The Belgian champion crosses the line, standing on his bike, alone, in a stage which, on paper, was however far from intended for him. We know this since the last edition, when he finished third in the 18the stage between Méribel (Savoie) and La Roche-sur-Foron (Haute-Savoie), the puncheur is also a good climber. And he was chomping at the bit since the big departure from Brest on June 26. He who had seen his dreams of a yellow jersey showered by his “best enemy”, the Dutchman Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix) – who abandoned the Tour on Sunday before the start from Cluses.
Could Wout van Aert be eyeing the general? The Belgian, second in Tirreno-Adriatico this year, again postponed this possibility on Wednesday. At the beginning of June, he told us: “With my size, it will be difficult to claim the general one day: I’m too heavy for that. If I change, I would no longer have the profile to win classics and time trials. First, I want to win Paris-Roubaix, the Tour de Flandres, the world championship. And maybe, afterwards, yes, I will put this new challenge. “
Pogacar wobbles for the first time
“I know that Mont Ventoux is too hard for me”, declared Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) on Tuesday in Valence. The world champion took the lead all Wednesday, first in a breakaway of four; then in a group of a dozen runners; finally in a group of three pursuers after an attack by Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), in which Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) slipped…
For his part, at a press conference in Valence (Drôme) on Tuesday, the leader of the general classification, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates), predicted that the day would be ” very difficult “. ” The main goal is to defend the yellow jersey. We will stay focused and try to avoid dangers or bad luck ”, explained the young Slovenian.
Failing to have had a difficult stage, he suffered in the final: the yellow jersey wavered for the first time since the start of this Tour, left behind in the final kilometers of the second ascent of Mont Ventoux by the Dane Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) – wearing the best young rider’s white jersey, Tadej Pogacar cannot wear both tunics. The insolent youngster will be picked up a little later by the Pogacar trio, Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers) and the Colombian Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo). If he was caught failing, the young Slovenian nevertheless consolidated his leadership on the accounting plan thanks to the failure of the Australian Ben O’Connor, second overall this morning, who conceded him nearly four minutes in this step.
This Wednesday was indeed very difficult for many runners. Starting with the young Groupama-FDJ climber David Gaudu, struggling. This eleventh stage also reduced a little more fat to a peloton already well affected by the first week of the race: seven riders threw in the towel on Wednesday. They are the French Clément Russo (Arkéa-Samsic), his British teammate Daniel McLay, the Belgians Tiesj Benoot (DSM), Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Nexthash) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), the Australian Miles Scotson (Groupama FDJ), as well as the German Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma), victim of a fall before the 30e kilometer. Welshman Luke Rowe (Ineos-Grenadiers) ended up late.
The former world time trial champion had already found himself on the ground during the inaugural stage between Brest and Landerneau (Finistère), on June 26, when he struck a panel held by a spectator. He is the third rider of his team to leave the Grande Boucle, after the Dutchman Robert Gesink and the Slovenian Primoz Roglic.
Tomorrow, return to the flat and the sprinters with 160 kilometers between Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux (Drôme) and Nîmes (Gard). However, be careful with the elements, this Tour has already proven it to us: the wind could be there and, with it, curbs and breaks.
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