Thursday, 21 July 2011

#TDF Stage 18 to the Top of the Tour

Today is Day one of the Col du Galibier, in the celebration of the 100th year in the Alps and the 100th year of that peak. To honour it the Tour is going to have its highest ever stage finish on top of the Col itself. Yes we have ofter summitted the Galibier but the Schlecks will the pleased to know that today there is no final descent*.

Of course today is no easy day. There are indeed two other Hors Categorie climbs on the way to the Galibier. The first the Col Agnel is actually the highest point on the Tour. The first man to scale this will receive the Henri Desgrange prize. It is the longest climb of the day coming in at 23.7km long. Although it has a 6.5% average the final 10km average 9%.

The French-Italian border on Col Agnel
Although once they reach the summit at 2,744m we are also back into France after our brief excursion to Italy. Best not tell the Schleck boys though that once we get here we have to go downhill to Château-Ville-Vieille. So none of the rest of the leaders had better attack or there will be complaints.

However, after we descend into the Guil valley we are ready for the Col d'Izoard. Two of the men who became the first superstars of the Tour had many a hotly contested ascent in the 40s and 50s. Indeed at average of 7.3% for its 14.1km it has the highest average gradient.

In 1949 and 51 it was the Italian Fausto Coppi who summitted the Col d'Izoard first in 1950, 53 and 54 it was the Frechman Lousion Bobet. In 1949 Coppi was the first man to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour in the same year, a feat he would repeat in 1952. In that year he also entered the Pyrenées 55 min behind the leader and led most of the field by almost 30 minutes when he left the Alps. The exception was Gino Bartali his compatriot but also rival at that time. In 1949 he also was the first man to summit on Alpe d'Huez, the mountain we finish our mountain adventure on tomorrow.

Monument to Coppi and Bobet on Col d'Izoard
Louison Bobet first contested the Tour in 1947 but found the going tough and retired on stage nine.  He cried in the Alps that year when the going got really tough, and the Schlecks should learn that he was called cry baby as a result. The following year he was back, leading going into the Alps by 20 minutes over Bartali, however this became a 32 minute deficit as on Prime Ministerial instructions from Italy to divert from a political crisis Bartali won three stages.  In 1953 he had his greatest day on Izoard climbing alone on the route from Gap to Briançon he finished 5 minutes ahead of the field, he went on to win the first of his three consecutive Tours.

So after the historic Col d'Izoard there is only the more historic Col du Galibier left, which will be making history today as they climb above the pass through the town to true top and the hishest ever stage finish at 2,645m. They are climbing mostly up the Col de Lautaret on this approach only taking a spur near the summit of the other Col to climb the Galibier for the last 6km or so of this 22.8km climb. This is the easier approach than the one used in 1911 but we will deal with that tomorrow when we come this way again in revesrse.

Although this may be the easier approach its length of ascent may make it a place that the Schleck's try and attack Alberto Contador again. Also we have yet to see Cadel Evans attack. He is a slower starter of these things but he may be able to ride at an increasing tempo up here to make some sort of move. He is being talked about as a potential winner in Paris but he had yet to instigate a telling move, something he only has two more days to remedy.

PS I haven;y forgotten about todays sprint but as Gilbert and Rojas seemed to yesterday leaving the only remaining point to Green Jersey wearer Mark Cavendish in a procession, I don't think I'll mention that this is in Verzuolo at 46.5km before any of the climbing really starts. Just think that any points on offer will propably go to Cav, who then will need his team to make sure he gets over the passes. He is one person who will not be complaining about the descents as he can make up 3-5 minutes on these, just what he needs to make the cut off times.
* Both Andy and Fränk have both over the last two stages complained about the finishes on downhills. Not sure if this has anything to do with them losing time to Alberto Contador on the first of those two days.

No comments:

Post a Comment