Tour de France Stage 8: Julian’s Day?

I didn’t really realize this till today, but my little articles on this year’s Tour have basically been me saying ‘I’ve been there!’. Since nobody has complained about it, I think I’ll continue while I can.

But first, is this a stage tailor-made for Alaphilippe? There are 3 big Pyrenean climbs before a fast and short descent to the finish in Loudenvielle, next to a pretty alpine lake. I have stopped guessing how this Tour will go after all the weirdness this week, but if Julian is near the front on the Peyresourde you’d expect a daring last-minute attack over the top. In any event, you can expect some fireworks on this last climb, no matter who’s there. Oh, that’s me prognosticating again. Let’s see how wrong I’ll be.

Anyway, I have been to the area that the pros are riding today and have actually climbed all three cols. The first one – Menté – is a beautiful and steep climb that has a great descent down the side the peloton will be going up.

The other side of the mountain has a couple of sad stories. In 1971 Luis Ocana crashed out on this descent and handed Eddy Merckx the Tour win that year. Ocana had an insurmountable lead at the time. Interestingly, Ocana gained a lot of this time on a stage to Orcières-Merlette, the finish of Stage 4 just a few days ago.

Plaque on the hairpin where Ocana lost it

In 1995 a more serious chute occurred, when Fabio Casartelli died after losing control on the same descent and hitting his head against a low barrier. I might be wrong here, but I think this incident accelerated the mandatory helmet debate and it wasn’t very much longer that we started to see everyone wearing them in the pro peloton.

Later that day: No, it wasn’t Menté that Casartelli fell, but the Portet d’Aspet, right near the beginning of the climb of Menté. Got my cols confused.

The 2nd climb of the day is a little monster of 12 km. The profile states that it is 7.7% on average, but I just remember that I could hardly turn the pedals in last year’s Haute Route Pyrenees.

Only the cows had an easy day of it

Finally, the Peyresourde. This is a classic climb of the Pyrenees and has been ascended many times, starting 110 years ago, the first time the Tour went into these mountains. Here’s something I wrote 8 years ago while fretting about the Etape du Tour I did there that year. I was right to fret…

7 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 8: Julian’s Day?

  1. Yes, I’m pretty sure Casartelli’s death was the main reason to require helmets. Initially everyone said they were too hot, so they let the riders take them off before any finishing summit – I suppose later they realized they weren’t that hot.

    I also realized that I was in both cyclos you mention. Port de Bales was our first and only big climb of the 2nd stage in HR pyrenees. and Peyresourde was our last climb in Etape du Tour in 2012. But we actually climbed it from the opposite side of today’s TDF stage. You may not remember but we climbed it from the same side as the pros today in the 4th stage of HR last year. It was the first climb of the day that was shortened due to freezing cold rain.

    • I remember that big net they used to have for riders to thrown their helmets in before the last climb!

      Ah, you did the 2012 Etape. Maybe I had forgotten that. I do remember last year’s climb, though. I was sort of disappointed that they stopped us on the 2nd climb. I was so numb that I wasn’t cold anymore!

      I half expected that you’d be at the Marmotte right now. I have one client doing it (you might meet him at HRV next month). Interested to find out what sort of turnout they had.

      • I almost did la marmotte with my co-7majeurs companion, but decided not to based on fatigue. He told be they had 1500 instead of the usual 7000. I’m still not sure I understand how they could have an event with more than 1000 people during covid, while other smaller races have been cancelled…

        • I think I saw nearly 2000 on the results list, although many were DNFs. As for it going ahead with the event, I’m with you on that.

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