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MONTPELLIER, France (CT) – Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has explained the decision to cancel the summit finish on Thursday’s Mont Ventoux climb, saying that it would otherwise be far too dangerous for riders, the Tour organisation and fans.
The Frenchman spoke to the media in the race’s mixed zone in Montpellier, giving his reasons shortly after word came through of the change.
“As you saw today, there is a lot of wind. The wind today was at more than 100 kilometres per hour… the strongest wind was 104 kilometres per hour,” he told journalists. “According to the weather forecast, it will be more windy tomorrow. Also, it says it will be four degrees at the summit. It is just impossible to go there for safety reasons.
“So the finish line will be on the Chalet-Reynard, six kilometres away from the summit. It is at the end of the wood; after it is only rocks and it will be very, very windy.
“So for safety, [it is not good] to go further away for the riders and for the fans. Even for all our technical things at the finish line….it is impossible to do something, apart from something with chalk on the road [laughs]. And that won’t be the case.”
Mont Ventoux is very much part of Tour history. It has been used as a stage finish ten times in the Tour and was described by Prudhomme as a legend of the race.
Despite the change, he said that he is convinced that the stage will be a very significant one.
“It is very important for us to have a battle between the best riders in the world tomorrow. It will be ten kilometres with an average of nine percent. That will be very tough and I am sure it will be a big battle.”
Chalet-Reynard has featured in past editions in Paris-Nice. This year’s race also included it, although the stage descended from the summit and concluded in Salon-de-Provence.
Prudhomme was asked if he was disappointed to have to change the course, but he put things in perspective.
“There are many climbs before Paris. There is the Ventoux, ten kilometres at about nine percent,” he said. “There is the Grand Colombier on Sunday. There will be four stages in the Alps, so the battles will take place anyway.
“Of course, if it was 30 degrees [at the Ventoux summit], it would be perfect. But is not the case.
“It will be the first time in the history of the Tour that the finish line is not at the summit of Chalet-Reynard. It is like Paris-Nice in March, but the weather tomorrow will be like March. And there will be a headwind before the Ventoux. So that for me is the only thing to do tomorrow.”
Froome, Yates and Sagan have mixed reactions:
Chris Froome won on Mont Ventoux en route to his first Tour victory in 2013. He was relishing the chance to try again, but said after the decision was announced that there are merits for the change.
“Of course I was also looking forward to doing Ventoux,” he said. “It is the most iconic climb, the most legendary climb of this year’s race. But at the end of the day, there are gale force winds up at the top and it really wouldn’t be safe for the riders.
“So thank you to the organisers for taking this decision. In relation to the safety of the riders, I think it is the right thing to do.”
Green jersey Peter Sagan was up the road with Froome on Wednesday’s stage but has zero expectations of that on Thursday. He wasn’t aware of the change of finish until told about it in his post-stage press conference, and gave the news a thumbs up..
“Ah, it will be six kilometres less? Oh, nice,” he smiled. “For sure it will be hard to come in the bottom of Mont Ventoux because it will be wind also before, I think. It will maybe be a crazy stage tomorrow.
“Tomorrow I hope for me….it will be not a rest day, but I hope to take it easy. For sure for me it is better [that the climb is shortened]”
Surprisingly, Adam Yates echoed this. The Briton is second overall and a strong climber, but said that he felt that the amended route would work in his favour.
“It is kind of better. The shorter it is, the more it suits me,” he said. “Twenty kilometres at eight to nine percent is pretty tough. Obviously everybody will be suffering but 20 kilometres is a lot more suffering than 10 kilometres. In my opinion it is kind of an advantage. If I have good legs I will try to do something.
“Whatever they decide, it will still be a mountain top finish. We will see what happens. My condition is good and if I have good legs, I will give it a go.”
Froome would have liked the chance to battle his rivals to the summit but, like Yates, said the shortened climb didn’t mean the race will be less exciting.
“To be honest I don’t think it really changes too much,” he explained. “The climb up to Chalet-Reynard is extremely hard already. It will be another 200 plus kilometre stage tomorrow, a lot of wind predicted. It could be even split to pieces before the climb, so I really don’t know what to expect. We’ll have to wait and see.
“But if anything I think it’s just going to mean that it’s a more intense race once we do hit the climb because it’s slightly shorter.”
Interestingly, though, he suggested that he might not go flat out on the ascent because of what is yet to come.
“To win on the Ventoux stage really is something special. But certainly at the back of all our minds will be the time trial the next day,” he said. “Whoever goes really deep on Ventoux will pay the price the day after. I think like any consecutive GC day, you’ve got to be thinking about the day afterwards and what any big efforts are going to cost you for the next day.
“That’s definitely on my radar. Maybe some of my rivals are approaching it a bit differently — maybe they want to try and take maximum time on Ventoux and then try and hold that on the time trial. But let’s see…everyone’s got their own tactics. Mine personally are to be keeping the time trial in mind for the day after.”
— Specialized (@iamspecialized) July 13, 2016