We pick up the action in the opening kilometres of the second edition of the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, which brings the peloton from Vaison-la-Romaine to the summit of Mont Ventoux for a total of more than 4,000m of climbing. Last year an epilogue to the Critérium du Dauphiné, this year's event is a preamble to the Tour de l'Ain, which gets underway tomorrow, but, above all, it is a staging post en route the Tour de France, which is just over three weeks away.
124 starters were flagged away from the start at 10.36 CET and there was an immediate flurry of attacks, as well as an early crash in the peloton. The race has settled since then and we pick up the action after 15km with eight riders out in front with a lead of 3:30 over the bunch.
The escapees are: Carmelo Urbano Fontiveros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Jose Gonçalves (Nippo Delko One Provence), Juan Felipe Osorio Arboleda (Burgos-BH), Alessandro Monaco (Bardiani-CSF), Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) and Robert Scott (Canyon dhb p/b Soreen).
The leaders hit the day's first classified climb, the Col de Fontaube, with a lead of 6 minutes over the peloton, where Arkea-Samsic are setting the tempo on behalf of the pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana.
The Fontaube is a relatively gentle ascent and unlikely to do much damage beyond steadily adding metres to that daunting overall altitude gain of 4,000m. There isn’t much by way of flat on today’s route, as the race winds clockwise around Mont Ventoux before reaching the base of the Giant of Provence at Bedoin after 89km. The first time around, they ascend 13.2km as far as Chalet Reynard, site of Quintana’s win at the Tour de La Provence earlier this year and Thomas De Gendt’s victory on the shortened stage here on the 2016 Tour de France.
That is far from the end of the day’s climbing, however, as riders swing off to the right, drop down Mont Ventoux and then circle back to Bedoin to do it all over again. The second and final haul up Mont Ventoux is the whole nine yards – or, more accurately, the whole 19.4km – as competitors climb all the way to the observatory at the top, 1912m above sea level.
The Fontaube is, however, doing some damage to the break's lead. Arkea-Samsic's steady pace-setting on the ascent has chipped away considerably at the deficit, which has dropped inside 4 minutes.
Over the top of the Fontaube, the break's lead is at 3:30. A reminder of the eight escapees: Carmelo Urbano Fontiveros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Jose Gonçalves (Nippo Delko One Provence), Juan Felipe Osorio Arboleda (Burgos-BH), Alessandro Monaco (Bardiani-CSF), Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) and Robert Scott (Canyon dhb p/b Soreen).
Away from the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, the Deceuninck-QuickStep team has described Fabio Jakobsen's condition as 'stable' after he underwent five and a half hours of facial surgery in Sosnowiec. The Dutch champion remains in an induced coma after he was injured in an horrific crash in the finishing straight of stage 1 of the Tour de Pologne in Katowice on Wednesday. "His situation is stable at the moment and later today the doctors will try to wake Fabio up,” read the statement from Deceuninck-QuickStep.
Four minutes the advantage for the break. Arkea-Samsic lead the peloton, though delegations from Astana are also prominent towards the front. They have both Miguel Angel Lopez and Aleksandr Vlasov in their ranks today. Vlasov was 4th at Chalet Reynard in February's Tour de La Provence, after winning the previous day's uphill finish at La Ciotat. The Russian arrives at the foot of Mont Ventoux in sparkling form, having been the last man to withstand the Ineos assault on the Col de Beyrede at the Route d'Occitanie on Monday. He placed third there and third in the general classification.
Vlasov, incidentally, is a native of Vyborg, the city near the Finnish border that was also home to 1994 Giro d'Italia winner Evgeni Berzin. Vlasov won the under-23 version of the Giro in 2018, and this is his first year at WorldTour level after joining Astana from Gazprom-Rusvelo during the off-season.
The break covered 39.4km in the opening hour of racing.
Carmelo Urbano Fontiveros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Jose Gonçalves (Nippo Delko One Provence), Juan Felipe Osorio Arboleda (Burgos-BH), Alessandro Monaco (Bardiani-CSF), Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) and Robert Scott (Canyon dhb p/b Soreen).
Peloton at 4:10
Richie Porte is on hand today for Trek-Segafredo before lining out at the Tour de l'Ain tomorrow and the Criterium du Dauphine next week. The Australian placed 6th overall at the Route d'Occitanie, where he said there was little that could be done against the strength of Team Ineos on the Col de Beyrede. "I went a little bit into the red and then dropped back, but there was no way anyone could have attacked them," Porte told Cyclingnews earlier this week. "It would have been pointless. Anyone who attacked would have been reeled in almost right away.” Porte has been linked with a return to the British team in 2021, though he preferred not to discuss his future at this point in the season. Read the full story from Pete Cossins here.
This race marks Nairo Quintana's first competitive outing in just under five months. His last appearance ended in victory atop at La Colmiane on the final stage of Paris-Nice, and that was his fifth triumph since signing for Arkea-Samsic, after claiming his overall victories at the Tour de La Provence and the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, and his mountain stage wins at Chalet Reynard and the Col d'Eze. “I really wanted to start the season well and that’s what happened,” Quintana said, according to L’Équipe. “In hindsight and taking into consideration what happened in the world since, those wins were already very important, for me and the team. I’m going into the upcoming races above all with tranquillity. Now, I need to find those same good sensations before the Tour.”
It's been a relatively brisk morning of racing so far, and the escapees are not far from Bedoin and the first of the day's hauls up Mont Ventoux. Arkea-Samsic continue to patrol the head of the peloton.
Carmelo Urbano Fontiveros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Jose Gonçalves (Nippo Delko One Provence), Juan Felipe Osorio Arboleda (Burgos-BH), Alessandro Monaco (Bardiani-CSF), Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) and Robert Scott (Canyon dhb p/b Soreen) hold an advantage in excess of five minutes over the peloton with those two ascents (or rather, one and two-thirds ascents) of Mont Ventoux still to come.
While Arkea-Samsic, Trek-Segafredo and Astana continue to lead the peloton, it's worth recalling that last year's winner Jesus Herrada is on hand as part of a strong Cofidis squad that also includes Guillaume Martin. This, too, is Martin's first race since Paris-Nice, where he placed 7th at La Colmiane. The Frenchman will ride the Tour de l'Ain and the Criterium du Dauphine as he builds towards the Tour de France.
It feels a long, long time ago now, but we sat down with Guillaume Martin at the Vuelta a San Juan in January to discuss his move to Cofidis, his ambitions for the Tour, and his life as a writer. Martin's excellent Socrate à vélo (‘Socrates on a bike') was published last year, while last July, his play Platon versus Platoche was performed at the Festival d’Avignon while he was on duty at the Tour. There is a playfulness to Martin's writing and his style on the bike, but, as he told us in January, it's a game he takes seriously. “When you talk about a game, you have the image of something trivial, but for me, a game is very, very serious, so that means that this game, cycling, is something that I do very seriously,” Martin said. Read the full interview here.
The leaders have passed through Bedoin and are about to take on the first ascent of Mont Ventoux. Their lead over the peloton stands at just over 4 minutes.
Carmelo Urbano Fontiveros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Jose Gonçalves (Nippo Delko One Provence), Juan Felipe Osorio Arboleda (Burgos-BH), Alessandro Monaco (Bardiani-CSF), Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) and Robert Scott (Canyon dhb p/b Soreen)
Peloton at 4:15
The break is grinding through the forestry at the foot of Mont Ventoux, a stiff and seemingly interminable grind. A reminder that they will not go all the way to the exposed summit on this first ascent. They will instead swing off to the right at Chalet Reynard and drop to Sault before circling the base of the mountain for a second and full ascent.
Dylan Groenewegen has made his first public response to his role in the crash at the Tour de Pologne that saw his fellow countryman Fabio Jakobsen sustain serious injury. Jakobsen underwent facial surgery overnight and remains in an induced coma. His Deceuninck-QuickStep team described his condition this morning as stable. "I hate what happened yesterday. I can't find the words to describe how sorry I am for Fabio and others who have fallen or been hit," Groenewegen wrote on Twitter. "At the moment, the health of Fabio is the most important thing. I think about him constantly."
Ik vind het verschrikkelijk wat er gisteren gebeurd is. Ik kan de woorden niet vinden om te beschrijven hoe erg ik het vind voor Fabio en anderen die zijn gevallen of geraakt.Op dit moment is vooral de gezondheid van Fabio het allerbelangrijkste. Ik denk aan hem, constant.August 6, 2020
At the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, there has been an uptick in the intensity of the main peloton despite the temperatures in excess of 30°C. The break's lead has dropped accordingly, and it now stands at 2 minutes.
Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacks from the break as the gradient bites further on Mont Ventoux. Basque teams in orange have some previous on the Giant of Provence. Iban Mayo set the record time up Mont Ventoux when he won the time trial here en route to overall victory at the 2004 Dauphiné.
Bravo's attack has fractured the break beyond repair. The Spaniard is alone in front, 15 seconds ahead of Marlon Gaillard (Total-Direct Energie), Jose Goncalves (Nippo Delko One) and Alessandro Monaco (Bardiani-CSF), while the a rapidly shrinking peloton is just two minutes down and picking off the remnants of the break, starting with Askey and Scott.
Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) reaches Chalet Reynard alone at the head of the race. The Basque begins the descent off the mountainside with a lead of 30 seconds or so over Gonçalves, Monaco and Gaillard.
Astana took up the reins in the peloton on that first ascent of Mont Ventoux. The Kazakhstani squad succeeded in thinning out the bunch considerably and their deficit on Bravo stands at two minutes. It remains to be seen whether Astana are riding in support of Miguel Angel Lopez or Aleksandr Vlasov. At the Route d'Occitanie, the Russian was their anointed leader, but Lopez is building towards his Tour de France debut and he will surely want the chance to gauge his own form on this mighty ascent.
Astana have brought a very strong climbing team to this race, with Lopez and Vlasov joined by Hernando Bohorquez, Merhawi Kudus, Harold Tejada, Luis Leon Sanchez and Oscar Rodriguez.
When Robbie McEwen was still racing, he approached both the UCI and ASO with a barrier designed to protect sprinters who crash in bunch sprints. Eight years on from his retirement, safety measures appear to improved little, as Wednesday's horrific crash at the Tour de Pologne demonstrated. Speaking to Cyclingnews, McEwen stressed that he did not condone Dylan Groenewegen's manoeuvre in the sprint, but he pointed out that the design of the finish area seemed to exacerbate the consequences of the crash.
"I put forward a barrier design to both the UCI and the ASO at the same time, for exactly the circumstances like this," McEwen said. "While things have improved at some races, a good barrier set-up has to be solid, it can’t come apart, and it’s got to be heavy. The board on the front of the barrier also has to come down at an angle and meet the road. Everything has to deflect the rider back onto the road.
"The barriers in Poland flew every which way, and it looked to me like they were made of plastic. One of them broke into pieces and that doesn’t happen with the metal ones. There’s a lot to be done in regard to safety in the last few hundred meters.”
Read the full story here.
Back at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, Bravo has extended his lead over the chasing trio to more than a minute, while his buffer over the peloton has extended to 2:40.
Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Chasers at 1:10: