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The legendary "Giant of Provence" occupies a unique space within the mythology of the Tour de France. This year, for the first time in Tour history, the Bald Giant will be ascended twice within a single stage during a grueling stage 11 on Wednesday, July 7.

The stage takes in the ascent of the Mont Ventoux twice over 198.9 kilometers with finishing descent into Malaucène. After 100km, including three other categorized climbs to warm-up the legs, the riders will ascend to Ventoux's windswept, treeless summit first via the more "gentle" side from the town of Sault (22km at 5.1%), then descend to the bottom in Malaucene and tackle the shorter but steeper climb from Bedoin (15.7km at 8.8%), before the race drops a second time down the descent to the finish in Malaucène.
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The Giant of Provence is truly a mountain like no other, it is more than just a cycling climb, and its history and mythical statue in Provence has impacted the region for centuries. The Tour de France first ascended Mont Ventoux in 1951 (Malaucène side) but wasn’t used as a hilltop finish until 1958 (Bédoin side) with Charly Gaul setting the winning time.
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Charly Gaul's time of 1:02:09 for the 21.4 kilometer ascent in 1958 would stand as the record for nearly 41 years until Jonathan Vaughters would set a new best time winning stage 3 of the 1999 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, a time trial along the same course from Bédoin to the Mont Ventoux summit, in 56:50.9.
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On July 13, 1967, Tom Simpson tragically died after collapsing on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, only two kilometers from the summit. His death was attributed to a combination of dehydration from the day's extraordinary heat, a case of diarrhea, lack of available water, and amphetamines.
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A monument to Simpson had been build by the time the Tour returned in 1970 when Eddy Merckx soloed to victory at the summit. While Merckx was a dominant stage winner, he was almost defeated by Mont Ventoux itself. Merckx found himself being administered oxygen in an ambulance after the finish.



One of the most memorable ascents of Mont Ventoux in Tour history occurred in 1994 when the 1.94m tall Italian Eros Poli broke away early in the 231-kilometer fifteenth stage from Montpellier to Carpentras. Poli arrived at the base of Mont Ventoux with nearly a 25 minute lead over the peloton and needed virtually all of those minutes to drag his 62cm frame up the 21.4-kilometer ascent to take the stage win after 171 kilometers alone.


Marco Pantani broke away on Mont Ventoux during stage 12, Armstrong bridged to the Italian and then eased slightly to let Pantani take the stage. The American later told the press he had let Pantani win. Pantani later that Tour launched several attacks in the mountains aimed at Armstrong.
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The last Tour de France stage winner on Mont Ventoux was Thomas De Gendt. In 2016, the stage was shortened and finished at Chalet Reynard due to heavy wind gusts on the bald section of the Bald Mountain. Meanwhile, Chris Froome was involved in a bizarre accident that damaged his bike and left him running up the Mont Ventoux climb as he waited for a replacement bike.
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While blasting his way to the top of Mont Ventoux in 2004, Iban Mayo averaged 23.1km/h to beat some of the biggest names of the time, including Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong and is still the fastest ever ascent on record. The Spaniard won the individual time trial from Bédoin to Mont Ventoux on stage four of the Critérium du Dauphiné setting a time of 55:51.

1. 2004: 55:51 Iban Mayo 23.10 km/h
2. 2004: 56:26 Tyler Hamilton 22.86 km/h
3. 1999: 56:50 Jonathan Vaughters 22.70 km/h
4. 2004: 56:54 Oscar Sevilla 22.67 km/h
5. 1999: 57:33 Alexander Vinokourov 22.42 km/h
6. 1994: 57:34 Marco Pantani 22.41 km/h
7. 1999: 57:34 Wladimir Belli 22.41 km/h
8. 2004: 57:39 Juan Miguel Mercado 22.38 km/h
9. 1999: 57:42 Joseba Beloki 22.36 km/h
10. 2004: 57:49 Lance Armstrong 22.31 km/h




The Mont Ventoux is the highest Provence summit as it culminates at 1909 meters high. The mountain is crossed by very strong winds, from which its name comes (Ventoux means windy in French). It can get windy at the summit, especially with the mistral with the wind blowing for about 240 days per year, at an average of 90km per hour. Wind speeds as high as 320km/h have been recorded.

Images: Jered Gruber, GettySport, Sirotti Photos, InGamba, Castelli Archive
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