PICTURED: APA / AFP / JEFF PACHOUD
Valence . Tom Simpson tragically died shortly before the summit in the desolate moonscape. Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani once put on an incredible climbing show here. And today the Tour de France climbs the iconic Provence giant Mont Ventoux twice for the first time. A spokes spectacle is guaranteed, but after the initial fall after a collision with a fan standing too far in the street or with her cardboard sign, there is also a lot of skepticism.
Bora team boss Ralph Denk therefore brought a taboo topic to the table before the spectacular stage. “At some point you have to think a step further. Fans come very close in cycling, but you don't get any financial benefit. Perhaps you should charge entry for stages like the one on Mont Ventoux, ”said the manager of the racing team, for which the Lower Austrian Patrick Konrad also drives.
“Heroes” of the country road
If sections of the tour are not closed due to Corona restrictions or for safety reasons, everyone can stand in the street and cheer their heroes for free. It is an unwritten law that it cannot be shaken, the myth of the “Grande Boucle” also lives from this. People often wait for hours for the “heroes of the country road”. For special passages, such as the hairpin bends up to Alpe d'Huez, they put their caravans into position days in advance. Because otherwise there is no getting through.
In connection with the Ventoux double pack, Denk came up with the idea of letting teams benefit from such stages in the future. Also, because it would no longer be a free spectacle, there would possibly be more security in the game. “There might be 500,000 spectators there. If you ask two or three euros, that's a nice sum, ”says Denk. Following the same pattern, mountain arrivals in Alpe d'Huez, the Tourmalet or the Galibier could be subject to charges in the future. “Maybe not the whole mountain, but the passages over the last five kilometers.”
Simpsons memorial stone
For today's stage, of course, all of this is still a long way off. At temperatures of up to 30 degrees, fans will flock to the route en masse. It's the Ventoux. This giant in the otherwise flat patch of Provence. Ex-world champion Simpson died here in 1967, pumped full of almost everything that was to be found in the doping kitchen at the time. A memorial stone reminds of the British on the spot, almost every hobby cyclist leaves a drinking bottle or other souvenir in honor of the Simpsons on the spot.
“It's a very historic climb. I know a few stories, not all of them, ”says Tadej Pogačar from Slovenia, who is preparing to win the tour like last year. A legendary high-speed hunt like the one between Armstrong and Pantani in 2000 between Pogačar and its competitors is not to be expected. Especially since the stage does not end at the observatory at an altitude of almost 2000 meters, but after a rapid descent in the valley in Malaucène. Chris Froome's jogging pad in 2016, when his bike broke after a fall, will also remain unforgettable.
Drivers with weaknesses in the mountains should sleep restlessly on the almost 200-kilometer stage.