Tour de France stage 11 analysis: Van Aert masters the Ventoux breakaway

Wout Van Aert on his way to Tour de France glory on stage 11
Wout Van Aert on his way to Tour de France glory on stage 11 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Twenty four hours before Wout van Aert won stage 11 of the Tour de France, which featured a historic double ascent of Mont Ventoux, the Belgian road champion finished runner-up in the bunch sprint in Valence behind Mark Cavendish. There’s always something in the air when the Tour de France climbs Ventoux, and a 78kg heavyweight classics rider winning the showpiece mountain stage of 2021, was another unique chapter in the history of the Tour’s most mythical climb. But then Van Aert’s victory was as much about his tactical navigation of the breakaway during the day as it was his climbing strength when they hit the slopes of Ventoux. 

The key to a breakaway winning at the Tour de France comes down to a multitude of factors. The route has to be right, the combination and number of riders in the group has to be right and the motivations of the riders there has to be right. With different aims and ambitions, the politics of the break can often be its downfall before it’s even begun. 

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Sophie Hurcom is Procycling’s deputy editor. She joined the magazine in 2017, after working at Cycling Weekly where she started on work experience before becoming a sub editor, and then news and features writer. Prior to that, she graduated from City University London with a Masters degree in magazine journalism. Sophie has since reported from races all over the world, including multiple  Tours de France, where she was thrown in at the deep end by making her race debut in 2014 on the stage that Chris Froome crashed out on the Roubaix cobbles.