Wout van Aert gave his Jumbo-Visma team something to smile about at this Tour de France as he soloed to a memorable victory over Mont Ventoux on stage 11.
The Belgian champion made it into the day's main breakaway but was able to bridge to lone leader Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) on the second of two ascents of Ventoux, before attacking the Frenchman to go solo with 33km to go and 11km to the top of the climb.
Van Aert held on to keep a gap of two minutes to the chasing GC group and over a minute to Elissonde and his team-mate Bauke Mollema as he powered towards the summit. After cresting the climb, Van Aert soared down the descent to Malaucène to claim his fourth career stage victory at the Tour, and certainly his most memorable stage win.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) stays in control of the general classification despite getting dropped by Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) towards the top of Mont Ventoux. The yellow jersey caught the Danish rider on the final descent to the line, and was able to outsprint him as well as Rigoberto Uràn (EF Education-Nippo) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) for fourth place.
How it happened
Stage 11 of the 2021 Tour de France was one many cycling fans had marked in their calendar, with the peloton set to tackle a double ascent of the historic climb of Mont Ventoux before a downhill finish to Malaucène after 198.9km.
As expected, there was a huge fight for the breakaway with a fast start. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) were the first two to get a serious gap, before Quintana dropped back with 173km to go.
Alaphilippe continued solo before eventually being joined by Jakob Fuglsang (Astana-Premier Tech), Daniel Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Neilson Powless (EF-Nippo), and Élie Gesbert (Arkéa-Samsic) with 20 seconds in hand.
That break also didn’t last too long but Martin and Alaphilippe were able to stay clear along with Perez, and Pierre Rolland (B&B) who joined them from the peloton with just over 150km to go.
They managed to steadily build a gap, but a group of 12 riders formed behind them that included Wout van Aert, Bauke Mollema, and Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën Team) among others.
With 120km to go, it seemed like the peloton might let the break stay away as the gap rose to around 4-30 with the 12 chasers at a minute behind the leaders.
Ineos took over control of the front of the peloton, with Geraint Thomas doing a long turn at the head of affairs.
At just under 100km remaining the leading two groups came together to make 16 riders ahead of the first ascent of the Ventoux from Sault, with a gap of just over five minutes.
That break split up on the early slopes of Ventoux, with seven riders getting away, including Julian Alaphilippe, Julien Bernard and Kenny Elissonde (both Trek-Segafredo), Wout van Aert, Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix), and Anthony Perez. Bauke Mollema joined them towards the top of the first ascent after dropping Rolland who had been chasing with him.
The break’s five minute gap held over the first summit of Ventoux to the Ineos-led peloton, with Van Aert pushing on down the descent towards Malaucène for the first time.
The eight leading riders worked together to carry 4-50 into final 40km, with Ineos still working hard on the front of the bunch, presumably to set things up for Richard Carapaz.
Perez was the first of the breakaway to be dropped with 38.6km to go, with Julian Bernard and Kenny Elissonde driving the pace. Bernard then fell away with 37.3km left following his effort as Elissonde attacked at the foot of Ventoux from the Bédoin side.
Durbridge and Meurisse were the next to be shelled a kilometre later as the pace from the break increased. They still held 5-03 with 14.7km to the top of the climb and 36.5km to the finish, with Elissonde now 20 seconds ahead.
Van Aert then put in a powerful attack to drop Mollema and Alaphilippe with 14km to the top of the climb, powering away in pursuit of Elissonde.
The Belgian managed to quickly catch the Frenchman with 35km remaining and immediately started setting the pace in front. Behind, Mollema eventually dropped Alaphilippe inside the final 12km of the climb but the gap to the leading duo was now up to 40 seconds.
With 11km to the top of the climb, Van Aert decided it was time to attack, instantly dropping Elissonde and getting into time trialling mode as he went in search of the stage win.
In the peloton around five minutes back, second overall Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën Team) saw his GC hopes begin to drift as he was dropped from the other contenders as Ineos continued to set the pace and thin out the main group.
With 3km to go to the top of the climb, Van Aert had maintained an advantage of well over two minutes to the GC group and a minute to Mollema and Elissonde who had come together to chase. Michał Kwiatkowski was now the only rider in the GC group left to support Carapaz, who still hadn’t tried an attack on Tadej Pogačar with just eight riders left in that group.
Once Kwiatkowski pulled off following his effort, there was no reaction from Carapaz.
It was Jonas Vingegaard who made the evental attack with 23.5km to go and just over a kilometre from the summit. Pogačar managed to follow initially but couldn’t hold the speed of the Danish rider, with Carapaz and Rigobert Uràn already dropped.
Vingegaard was able to put 35 seconds into Pogačar before the summit, with Carapaz and Uran starting to come back to the yellow jersey. They made contact with Pogačar on the descent with around 19km to go, with Van Aert still around two minutes ahead and now guaranteed stage victory.
As his Jumbo-Visma team-mate soloed to the line and stage victory, Vingegaard was struggling to hold off Pogačar, Uràn, and Carapaz on the descent, eventually getting caught before the line, with the race leader taking the sprint for fourth place.
Pogačar extends his overall lead to second place after Ben O'Connor was dropped, with Uràn now second at 5-18. Vingegaard moves up to third at 5-32, with Carapaz just a second behind him in fourth. The race however remains firmly in the grasp of the defending champion with 10 stages remaining.
The Tour de France continues on Thursday with stage 12, a flat day from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Nîmes over 159.4km that should suit the sprinters. The peloton however will need to be wary of crosswinds which can often affect stage in this southern area of France.
Tour de France 2021, stage 11: Sorgues to Malaucène (198.9km)
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 5-17-43
2. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-14
3. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
4. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-38
5. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo
6. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
7. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, all at same time
8. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 1-56
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
10. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 3-02
General classification after stage 11
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 43-44-38
2. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 5-18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-32
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-33
5. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r-Citroën, at 5-58
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-16
7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 6-30
8. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 7-11
9. Giullaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 9-29
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 10-28
Richard began working with Cycling Weekly in 2013 alongside the then web editor, Nigel Wynn. Taking over as digital editor or Cycling Weekly and mbr in 2014, Richard coordinates site content and strategy with the team.
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