Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) missed out on victory in the inaugural Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge, finishing second to Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) in a final dash to the finish line.
Overwhelming favourite of the race, Bardet attacked from a small group with 8.6km to go and only Spaniard Herrada could go with him.
From there on, the two rode almost side-by-side to the finish at the summit of the notorious Mont Ventoux, with Bardet attempting numerous attacks.
But the Frenchman could not shake an extremely poised Herrada, who eventually made an attack with 400m to go with Bardet unable to hold on to his wheel.
Herrada was able to cross the line with clear day light to take victory, with a forlorn looking Bardet rolling in for second place.
Rein Taaramäe (Total Direct Energie) arrived at the summit to take third place, at 1-12 down on Herrada.
How it happened
The first ever edition of the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge set off in sunny conditions on Monday from Vaison-la-Romaine for a 171km course to the summit of Mont Ventoux.
The peloton would face six categorised climbs before taking on Ventoux, a torturous 21.3km climb that features an average gradient of 7.4 per cent.
The race winner would almost certainly emerge on the climb, with Romain Bardet the outright favourite for victory, taking part in the race immediately after finishing the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday.
A breakaway of five men got up the road early on as the peloton settled in to take on the early climbs. Brice Feillu (Arkéa-Samsic), Angelo Tulik (Total Direct Energie), Rémy Rochas (Delko–Marseille Provence), Mario Gonzalez (Euskadi–Murias), and Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural) were the riders to escape, establishing a maximum gap of around three minutes.
They worked well together, still holding a steady gap of 1-55 in to the final 50km, with EF Education First and Cofidis doing much of the work on the front of the peloton.
The gap drastically reduced however into 20km to go, dropping down to around 35 seconds.
Feillu and Aranburu then went clear heading into the bottom of Mont Ventoux, holding on with 25 seconds in hand.
After hitting the final climb proper however, they were quickly caught by an Ag2r La Mondiale led peloton with Bardet poised for his expected attack.
By 10km to go the front group, led by Tony Gallopin and Bardet, only had a few riders in tow thanks to the attritional pace set, with Jesús Herrada and Rein Taaramäe the standout names to try and challenge the French team.
Bardet then made his attack with 8.6km to go, with Herrada the only rider able to respond. Taaramäe quickly dropped to around 30 seconds behind the pair, with riders now scattered down the mountain.
Things remained relatively calm up the bulk of the climb, with Bardet and Herrada sharing turns or riding side-by-side for the most part.
Bardet made a small dig with 2.6km to go, but Herrada was equal to it, looking extremely composed despite the climbing prowess his rival.
It was then a now seemingly desperate Bardet to go again with 1.8km remaining, clearly not content at a sprint finish to the summit. Herrada yet again held on and responded likewise when Bardet tried his final attack with 1.2km to go.
It was then Herrada’s turn, making the decisive attack with 400m to go with Bardet quickly dropping the wheel and unable to claw back the space that had opened up.
The Cofidis man was able to cross the line with clear distance to Bardet to take victory, who had to settle for second at the first outing of the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge.
Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge 2019 (171km)
1. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, Solutions Crédits, in 5-02-05
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 9 seconds
3. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Total Direct Energie, at 1-12
4. Julien El Fares (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence, at 1-38
5. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 2-24
6. Javier Moreno (Esp) Delko Marseille Provence, at 2-29
7. Pierpaolo Ficara (Ita) Amore & Vita-Prodir, at 2-40
8. Óscar Rodríguez (Esp) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias, at 2-43
9. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 2-53
10. Darwin Atapuma (Col) Cofidis, Solutions Crédits, at 2-58