Guerreiro wins solo at Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge

EF Education-EasyPost claimed a memorable one-two triumph in the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge on Tuesday as Ruben Guerreiro soloed to victory ahead of teammate Esteban Chaves.

In a dominant performance by the American team on a day featuring an arduous double ascent of the Mont Ventoux, the former Portuguese national champion crossed the line 53 seconds ahead of Chaves and over a minute ahead of third-placed Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ)

A winner of the Giro d'Italia's King of the Mountains classification in 2020, two years later Guerreiro put his climbing skills on full display on the Ventoux as he blazed out of a fast-shredding peloton some 12 kilometres from the finish.

Behind, Chaves shadowed Storer for the bulk of the climb, then dropped the Australian to clinch a second place that, the team's final Tour de France selection notwithstanding, also bodes more than well for the Colombian in July.

"It's beautiful to win here," Guerreiro said afterwards, "I've had a lot of bad luck since my last win, in the [2020] Giro d'Italia, but if you keep fighting, you see you can finally do it."

The 27-year-old also agreed with TV reporters that taking first and second on the Ventoux  was exactly the kind of result that the team needed right now for a tough-looking WorldTour points ranking battle.

"After the Dauphiné, the team director told us we had to come here because the situation for the team was not fun, and luckily we got the result."

How it unfolded

On a day of blistering heat in southern France, with temperatures well into the 30s Celsius, and over 4,000 metres of climbing on the menu, EF Education-EasyPost perhaps wisely kept their cards to their chest for much of the early part of the day.

Instead Israel-Premier Tech put their shoulder to the wheel for Mike Woods - teammate Chris Froome had been hoping to race, according to the squad last week, but those plans were likely scuppered after the Briton abandoned the Dauphiné because of sickness - and kept a dangerous-looking early breakaway in check all the way up the Ventoux on the first ascent.

The move of five, comprising one Belarus racer, Alexandr Riabushenko (Astana Qazaqstan) and four Frenchmen Alan Jousseaume (TotalEnergies), Lillian Calmejane (AG2R-Citroën), Victor Koretzky (B&B Hotels-KTM) and Nicolas Debeaumarché (St Michel-Auber93), maintained a solid 3-30 lead at the landmark Chalet Reynard restaurant half-way up the climb. But the pace set down by Israel-Premier Tech nonetheless  left the chase group down to just 40 riders by the summit and fast descent.

Perhaps logically, the one none-WorldTour rider, Debeaumarché, was the only rider of the five ahead to crack on the Ventoux. And despite the searing heat and relentless series of uncategorized ascents that followed, the remaining quartet stormed through the tiny towns of Malaucene - scene of Wout van Aert's memorable Tour de France stage win last year - and Bedouin at the foot of the climb with enough of a lead to start their definitive assault on the 'Bald Giant' a good minute ahead of the pack.

When Riabushenko launched one attack 18 kilometres from the line, the break crumpled instantly and only Jousseaume could follow. Then a second move after the well-known Virage Saint Esteve - the long lefthand corner where the climb really starts to steepen, the rider from Belarus pushed ahead alone.

But EF Education-EasyPost were in no mood to let the break stick, with Simon Carr putting in one particularly effective attack that all but saw Riabushenko's lead dissolve.

When Guerreiro attacked, you could almost hear the sigh of collective relief in the lead  bunch of some 20 riders as they no longer had to handle EF's merciless rhythm and instead could take the climb at their own pace.

Storer was the most unwilling to give up the chase of Guerreiro, but metre by metre, the former Portuguese national champion slowly but surely prised open a gap of almost 60 seconds. And with Chaves shadowing the Australian and the rest of the opposition scattered over the mountain, long before Guerreiro turned the final left-hand bend under the Ventoux weather station and raised his arms in an impressive solo victory, the race was effectively over and the winner abundantly clear.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.

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