For both pundit and rider alike, Stage 12 has long been regarded as the first real showdown amongst the general classification favourites likely to trade blows in pursuit of this year’s maillot jaune. However, expectations and race plans will need to be altered as a result of the original ascent to Mont Ventoux being reduced by 6km due to immense wind speeds in excess of 100km/h around the summit. The day now totals 178km from the start in Montpellier to the newly christened summit of Mont Ventoux, also taking in two categorised climbs around the 130km mark to ensure it is not simply a flat run into the day’s HC ascent.
Chris Froome is expected by many to take Stage 12 by the scruff of the neck and record another victory upon the slopes of Mont Ventoux. He has taken time at the expense of his rivals at every attempt thus far, showcasing a degree of condition which is a struggle to see reflected elsewhere within the peloton’s ranks right now. It simply seems a tough ask to establish an argument against Froome winning once again here, a fact which must shatter motivation for any rider who had hoped for signs of weakness heading into the stage.
Richie Porte was riding as a teammate of Chris Froome when the tour last hauled itself up Mont Ventoux, but today will seem an ideal springboard for the former Sky rider to attack his old friend and potentially steal the stage win. The amount of time he has already conceded on the general classification was a result of misfortune rather than weakness and could subsequently provide him with the freedom to win today’s stage.
Nairo Quintana has long been able to match Froome on ascents such as these, yet has rarely proven to have enough to bury his Sky rival and gain time as a result. It would be an exaggeration to say the Colombian has been riding defensively, though conservatively does seem an accurate description of how Quintana has approached the stages leading up to this first big showdown amongst the general classification riders. His tactics are difficult to anticipate, as the approaching time trial could encourage him to gain time up Mont Ventoux or save energy in the hope of reducing Chris Froome’s gains against the clock.
Adam Yates has already spoken out twice, once ahead of Stage 12 and then secondly after the subsequent course alteration, signalling his intentions to attempt something in regards to a stage win if he finds himself in a advantageous position. The young British rider looks to be enjoying this Tour de France more than anything else and that sort of confidence can breed success which leads to a stage win.
Dan Martin is enjoying some of his best form ever at Le Tour de France and deserves a place in contention for Stage 12’s honours atop(ish) Mont Ventoux. His current strength suggests he will be able to stick the pace of the likely frontrunners, which given his sprinting prowess, could definitely convert into a stage win if he approaches the finish line within the lead group.
Tomorrow is also the French holiday of Bastille Day, notorious for imbibing the nation’s best climbers with a sense of (often misplaced) invincibility. Thibaut Pinot is in pursuit of the polka dot jersey as a consequence of losing such a great deal of time early on in this race and will be aware that a victory upon Mont Ventoux will establish a convincing lead in the mountains classification too. Compatriot Romain Bardet certainly has the potential to win here, but his focus appears to be on cementing a convincing place on the general classification instead, so his ambition is likely to be following wheels for the most part. Warren Barguil already has grand tour stage wins under his belt, so there is little to question in regards to his abilities, while the last week suggests he is riding himself into a competitive state and thus makes him a rider worth maintaining an eye upon given the occasion.
1st Richie Porte 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Chris Froome