Cycling: Iconic Mont Ventoux stage finish lowered due to high winds

A picture taken on the Mont Ventoux on July 12, two days before the passage of the Tour de France shows a sculpture of a cyclist against the Mont Ventoux' summit.
A picture taken on the Mont Ventoux on July 12, two days before the passage of the Tour de France shows a sculpture of a cyclist against the Mont Ventoux' summit.PHOTO: AFP

Montpellier, France (AFP) - Thursday's Tour de France stage 12 finish on the iconic Mont Ventoux has been brought forward by 6km due to high winds, organisers said on Wednesday.

"Given the weather conditions predicted by Meteo France at the Mont Ventoux summit and the fact winds topping 100km/h have been recorded there, Tour organisers have decided to change the finish to the 12th stage in order to guarantee safety," said a statement from Tour organisers.

French television showed pictures of amateur cyclists being blown off their bikes on the climb up to Ventoux on Wednesday.

The finish has been brought 6km down the mythical mountain to the Chalet Reynard, removing a large part of the toughest climb, usually 21km long, on this year's race.

Current race leader and reigning champion Chris Froome was one of the first to learn the news.

"It's the right thing to do for safety. Everyone wants to see a great show but the most important thing for the riders is safety," said the 31-year-old Briton.

Froome insisted the move wouldn't detract from the importance of a finish on Ventoux, though.

"To be honest I don't think it really changes too much," he added.

"The climb until Chalet Reynard is extremely hard. Already another it's another 200km+ stage, a lot of wind is predicted.

"There could be a split (in the peloton) even before the climb.

"I don't know what to expect, if anything it's going to mean an even more intense race before we hit the climb because it's going to be shorter."

Not everyone is disappointed, though.

Wednesday's stage 11 winner Peter Sagan said: "It's going to be 6km shorter? Wow, nice!"

The 12th stage was originally meant to be 184km long and mostly flat until the final 21km climb.

Froome won atop Ventoux in 2013 on his way to winning his first Tour, with Nairo Quintana finishing second both on the stage and overall.

Although cut to 15km, the last 10km of that will have an average gradient around 9 per cent, making it nonetheless a huge challenge to surmount.

Quintana, who is fourth overall at 35sec, still believes he can make an impression on Froome's lead.

"It's a magnificent climb and very important for me," said the Colombian.