Luke Rowe: Mont Ventoux dishes out a brutal day

08 Jul 2021

Luke Rowe: Mont Ventoux dishes out a brutal day

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Even the most experienced of riders have their bad days.

On stage 11 of the Tour de France, the race for the first time in its history did a double ascent of Mont Ventoux. It was a fine example of how bike racers like Rowe, are renowned for riding ahead of the team leaders, and burying themselves when there’s still a ridiculous amount of kilometres to go until the finish line. Knowing their next battle is to make sure they make the time cut, and can continue onto the next day's stage. 

Straddling that fine line of going deep while performing your day’s role, but making sure you’ve reserved enough energy to make it to the finish line in time should not be underestimated. Even the most skilled at it can falter at times. 

Luke Rowe has been a trusted road captain at INEOS Grenadiers for a number of years now. Having learned the trade from his previous road captain teammates Bernie Eisel and Mat Hayman. But how his day ended yesterday demonstrated that sometimes even the most skilled riders, like Rowe, are not exempt from having a bad day. 

“I started to ride, like I have done one hundred times before,” Rowe explains. “The plan was to move Billy [Carapaz] up in the GC, which we did, and at that point I was feeling ok, I was feeling solid.” 

"Then we hit the first slopes of the first categorised climb and it was literally like I hit a wall, it was like someone had switched a switch. Guys who I would normally be able to out-climb relatively easily, were leaving me for dead. It was over 100km to go and I was on my own. But I never lost belief that I could arrive at the finish within the time limit, but in the end I missed it by five minutes.”

Although it feels like losing Rowe wasn’t in vain, Carapaz has now moved up a position on the general classification, not having him and the years of experience he carries around for the rest of the race is a huge blow for the team. 

It’s not only about losing the fire power of his legs out on the road riding towards the team’s goals; there’s the void of his empty seat on the bus, where, as road captain he is so good at being vocal and inputting into the day’s tactics and rallying the team together.   

“I’m just gutted really, it’s tough, this is the first time in my career that I’ve missed the time cut, and what a race to do it in. It’s going to be hard leaving the guys, but I’m leaving them in a good place, Billy moved up to 4th, and the Tour is a long way from being over,” he laments post-stage. 

As Rowe heads home to be with his family, the race as always carries on regardless, seemingly unaware of its own brutality. But as Rowe says, there’s still a long way to Paris, and during his years of being road captain, he’s seen many times before what this race has the potential of unleashing before that procession onto the Champs-Élysées.