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.
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.
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…