Tomorrow had been set to see one of the most eagerly anticipated stages of this year’s Tour de France, with a summit finish on Mont Ventoux – on Bastille Day, too. This evening, however, organisers have confirmed that with gusts of up to 100 km an hour forecast on the barren upper slopes, the stage will finish lower down the mountain, most likely at Chalet Reynard some 5.7km from the finish.
That still leaves around 10km of climbing, meaning we could still see the same kind of battle between the overall contenders as happened on the race’s last visit in 2013, when Chris Froome responded to an attack from Nairo Qintana and later rode away from the Colombian to move more than 4 minutes clear on his way to winning the 100th edition.
After finishing second to Peter Sagan on Wednesday's Stage 11, race leader Froome said: "To be honest, I don't think the ascent to the Ventoux being shortened will change the race much.
"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.
"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.
"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.”
Here's a video showing riders struggling in the high winds from which Ventoux takes its name, a taste of what the riders could have expected tomorrow on the exposed upper slopes had the stage gone ahead as planned.
And here's another one.
The mountain, of course, has a special resonance for British fans – it was there, 49 years ago today, that Tom Simpson, the first Briton to wear the yellow jersey of Tour de France leader, collapsed and died during the 1967 edition, the location now marked by a memorial that has become a place of pilgrimage for British cyclists.
Here's Mike Cotty riding it in a Col Collective video.
There are three potential routes to the summit, the most popular – and the one most often used in the Tour de France – being from the village of Bedouin and passing Chalet Reynard. There’s even a challenge for the most determined – or mad, take your pick – cyclists to become a member of the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux by riding all three climbs on the same day.
Earlier this year, researchers from the Netherlands who staged a race involving amateur riders that finished on the summit of the mountain concluded that EPO had no effect on performance, with the half of the participants who had been given a placebo performing better on average than those who had been given the banned drug in the preceding months.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.