Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dreams of Mont Ventoux

1994-Italy's Eros Poli is anything but a climber. At 1.94 meters tall and 85 kilograms Poli is one of the peloton's powerful locomotives. He is many things, but absolutely not a climber. Thus on the 231-kilometer stage over the Mount Ventoux, Poli knew his only chance would be with an early attack. So with 171 kilometers remaining, Poli took off. And under the hot Provincial sun he built up over a 20+ minute lead. His gap was large enough that he managed to make it up the 21-kilometer climb before the leaders. And after bombing down the descent to Carpentras, one of the most prestigious stage victories was his.

2009-"I dreamt of this moment last night, and to have it come true today - it's amazing," said Spain's Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), the first Spaniard to win on Mont Ventoux. Away in a 16-man break since the third kilometre, Garate bided his time until the lower slopes of the bald-headed mountain. Early on, he had just Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) for company with less than five minutes separating the trio from the groupe maillot jaune 20 kilometres from the finish. After a short dig by Garate, the three decided to work together in search of the impossible. Past the verdant tree line, Riblon had gone, leaving just Garate and Martin to ascend the six kilometres of lunar landscape, the last five straight uphill and over 1,400 metres. As the road twisted towards the summit, the German from Columbia-HTC doggedly hung on to the better-credentialed climber, nine years his senior. But as the line approached on this incessant, dog-of-a-climb, Garate gave it one last push, and it proved enough to grant him the best win of his career.

Photos: the communications tower atop Mont Ventoux; 1994 Eros Poli climbing and descending Mont Ventoux; 2009 Mont Ventoux ascent and Juan Manuel Garate's victory

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