This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
It's Bastille Day, the next day is a rest day and the finish is atop one of the Tour's most renowned peaks. This is also the race's longest day, so everyone will need to hold back as much as they can for those final 21km.
Once again, plenty of riders will want to get into the break but their chances of fending off the GC hopefuls will be a lot slimmer than they were into Lyon. The stage bumps through the Drôme region, reaching the foothills of the Ventoux beyond Nyons, where the riders will start a half-circuit of 'The Bald Mountain', passing over the Col de la Madeleine and into Bédoin.
From there the road starts to rise gently to reach the first sweeping bend, which launches the riders up into thick forest that hides the steepest ramps. Coming out of the trees at Châlet Reynard, the riders enter the Ventoux's barren moonscape. The direction of the wind is crucial. Usually, it's from the front, potentially nullifying attacking intentions. It's a devilish climb to judge well but quite an easy one to make a hash of.
Stephen Roche: "This is the moment the Tour gets serious. So much depends on the weather on the Ventoux. It can be incredibly stifling if it's hot and extremely hard if there's a headwind when you get out of the trees at Chalet Reynard. If a specialist climber is to win they will need to make a move here."
Video: Tour de France stage 15 preview with Magnus Bäckstedt
The Ventoux finish in 2009 will give today's escapees some sustenance. Juan Manuel Gárate and Tony Martin survived from the break that day, the Spaniard beating the German on the final ramp. The yellow jersey group stuck pretty much together in a strong headwind, although Bradley Wiggins did lose some ground.
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