We have have to go to 1987 to draw a comparison with today’s stage 18, 2016. There hasn’t been many Time Trials (TT) on stage 18 of the Tour de France and mountain TT’s are just as infrequent. Modern tours feature less TT’s which seemed to be a traditional staple over the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. 1987 had no less than five! The 1987 Tour de France was the 74th Tour de France, taking place from July 1 to July 26, 1987. It consisted of 25 stages over 4231 km, ridden at an average speed of 36.645 km/h. It was the closest three-way finish in the Tour until the 2007 Tour de France, and was won by Stephen Roche, the first and so far only Irishman to do so.
But it is Stage 18 we must attend to, not only for the comparison but for the rider who won on the day. The 1987 stage was a much tougher affair scaling Mont Ventoux but, it appeared as a summit finish this year on Stage 12, but was shortened by 6 km the day before, after a weather forecast of high winds at the summit (which is common). The stage then finished at Chalet Reynard at 1,435 metres (4,708 ft), with approximately 10 kilometres of ascent up the mountain. This stage also featured a memorable motorcycle-induced crash which damaged Chris Froome’s cycle, prompting him to jog some hundred metres up the mountain – history in the making. 1987 was a race of truth to the top. Mont Ventoux is a mountain in the Provence region of southern France. It is the largest mountain in the region and has been nicknamed the “Beast of Provence”. The race has finished at the summit of Mont Ventoux ten times. The finish line is at 1909 m, although in 1965, 1967, 1972 and 1974 the finish was lower, at 1895 m. The mountain achieved worldwide notoriety when it claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson, who died there on 13 July 1967 from heat exhaustion caused by a combination of factors, including dehydration, amphetamines, and alcohol. It is admired and feared by al cyclists who go there.
Jean-François Bernard was the winner. He competed in the team time trial event at the 1984 Summer Olympics and had the ability to do very well in TT’s. The 1987 saw him win two stages, both time trials, including one on Mont Ventoux. He finished the race third behind Stephen Roche of Ireland and Pedro Delgado of Spain.
He won three stages in the 1988 Giro d’Italia and led the race, but he crashed in a tunnel, injured his back and abandoned the race. A saddle sore and another operation forced him out of the 1990 Tour de France. He never again challenged in the grands tours. In 1991 he joined the Spanish team, Banesto which had two leaders for stage races in Delgado and Miguel Indurain. Bernard helped Indurain dominate the Tour from that point on. Bernard also won the 1992 Paris–Nice. A talented and great French rider who tamed the beast of Mont Ventoux.
He retired at the end of 1996 with 52 professional wins. He is now a consultant for L’Équipe, L’Équipe TV and Eurosport.