Tour de France organisers made the announcement last night due to the weather conditions forecasted by Météo France atop the Mont Ventoux. Gusts of wind are likely to exceed 100km/h. A decision was made to modify the finale of stage 12 in order to guarantee optimal safety conditions.
The Stage 12 finish will now be located at Chalet-Reynard, six kilometres before the initially planned finishing line at the lunar like summit. Bets are on as to whether or not the reduced ascent will dramatically affect the outcome of the race.
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“To be honest, I don't think the ascent to the Ventoux being shortened will change the race much,” said overall leader, Chris Froome (Sky).
“Climbing to the Chalet-Reynard is already very hard and there might be even more wind than today, with even more possibilities for the bunch to split before the climb. The change of finale will only make the racing more intense because it'll be shorter.” - Chris Froome
Froome heads into the stage with a 35 second advantage over main rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who is under pressure to pull back time on the general classification in this decisive stage.
“To win even at half-way to the Mont Ventoux remains something special but at the back of all our minds, there'll be the time trial of the day after. Anyone going too deep will pay for it later,” said Froome.
“From now on, every GC day will be raced in consideration with the day after. Maybe my rivals will try to take seconds on me on the Ventoux, everyone has a tactic, but I'll keep the time trial in mind.”
Get up to speed on Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux is one of the most famous landmarks in cycling. Tommy Simpson died there, Lance Armstrong never won there. Nicknamed the Giant Of Provence, it is at the heart of the Tour's 103rd edition.
Known for its leg-destroying 15.7km climb at an average gradient of 8.8 per cent, Stage 12’s reduced 10km climb will maintain an average gradient above nine per cent.
The mountain's place in Tour lore was cemented when Simpson, a famous British cyclist, collapsed and died not far from the summit during Stage 13 of the 1967 race.
In a portent of the doping scourge that has since plagued the sport, amphetamines were found in Simpson's jersey pocket. An autopsy also found alcohol and amphetamines in his system.
Six stages that have gone over Ventoux. Stage 12, tonight, will be the 10th time that Ventoux features as a summit finish.
The windswept Ventoux summit also ended stage 12 in 2000, when Armstrong famously appeared to let Italian rival Marco Pantani win. It was the closest Armstrong came to winning at Ventoux, in any bike race, and he later regretted what he said was a gesture to Pantani.
Apart from its sheer dimensions, Ventoux is also formidable because the top of the mountain is stripped of trees, a legacy of shipbuilding in nearby Toulon.
There is, literally, nowhere to hide on the Bald Mountain.
Porte and Yates with work to do
Adding to Ventoux's significance, the riders will face a 37.5km individual time trial stage the following day. This means a one-two combination punch that is guaranteed to open up decisive splits in the general classification.
Whoever has the overall lead after stage 13 will hold the whip hand.
Two-time Tour champion Froome, also the defending champion, goes into the stage wearing the famed yellow jersey as the race leader.
Froome has a 35-second lead in the general classification over fellow British rider Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange). One of the revelations so far in this Tour, Yates also wears the white jersey as the leader of the Tour's young rider category.
The other key Australian interest at Ventoux is Tasmanian Richie Porte, BMC's joint leader with American Tejay van Garderen.
Porte lost nearly two minutes with a disastrous puncture in stage two, but has since grown in stature and was placed 14th overall after stage 10. He sits two minutes and 22 seconds behind Froome.
"Physically I know where I am and that's in a good place," said Porte. He and his rivals will be exposed brutally if they show anything but their best on Ventoux.