Friday, 22 July 2011

#TDF Stage 19 Centenary for Galibier

After yesterday exhilarating stage with Andy Schleck going on an attack 60km out and holding the virtual lead on the road by over a minute. Only for Cadel Evans paced himself, the Maillot Jaune of Thomas Voeckler and Ivan Basso back and allowed Fränk Schleck to leapfrog him into a podium position. How can we possible top that? Well the Tour is hoping that they can, they give us a shot stage at only 109.5km but they were expecting fireworks from early on today, not yesterday.
Scene from the 1924 ascent of the Galibier

It may be time to finish on Alpe d'Huez for the 27th visit to that peak, but on the way the Tour is paying an honour to another Alp.

Last year we celebrated the centenary of the Pyrénées, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Galibier first appearing in the Tour. Having taken on the Pyrénées the year before Henri Desgranges wanted his race to take on the high Alps. On the 12th July 1911 the Tour left Grenoble heading for Nice, but for the first time passed over the Col du Galibier in the Dauphiné Alps.Yesterday we may have finished on the Galibier, but today we take the same approach as in 1911 and it is harder than yesterday's ascent.

Monument to Henri Desgranges on the Galibier
It was French rider Emile Georget who was first to the emerge through the tunnel to the peak that day, only two others Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou made the summit without walking. That day with his single gear bike Georget had taken 2 hours and 38 minutes to cross both the Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier, today the ascent from St-Michel-de-Maurienne to the Galiber is expected to take only about an hour. On that first ascent riders took over 8 hours more than Georget to arrive in Grenoble for the finish, indeed Raymond Harquet the 50th and last man to finish the stage took 22 hours.

The Galiber became an established part of the Tour from then and the following year they were back. This time Eugène Christophe rode the Télégraphe and Galiber five minutes faster that Georget's time. Even though he fell three times in the last 400 metres of the Galiber due to the sticky nature of the road.

In 1919 the year of the introduction of the Maillot Jaune in the first post war Tour it was Christophe who first wore it on the slopes of the Galiber. The jersey intended to spot the leader was hardly needed at this stage as there were only 11 of the 65 starters still riding at that point. Not wishing any bad omens on Thomas Voeckler but on that day the penultimate of that Tour he lost the yellow jersey to his team mate Firmin Lambot (the man who famously in 1913 mended his broken forks on the Col du Tormalet). In 1922 he hit a rock on the descent of the Galibier and changed his pick for volunteers on the course twice before again losing his Maillot Jaune.

Fausto Coppi, Charly Gaul, Eddy Merckx, Luis Ocana, Tony Rominger and of course Andy Schleck are now all amongst the names of the people who have reach the summit of the Galibier first. Like on six occasions before though the stage still has another monster to come. Alpe d'Huez looms large.

  • In 1979 Lucien van Impe peaked on the Galiber first only for Joop Zoetemelk to reach Alpe d'Huez first.
  • 1986  it was Luis Herrera on Galibier but Bernard Hinault and Greg Lamond to race side by side for that iconic stage finish as team mates, the Frenchman took the line first
  • 1989 Gert-Jan Theunisse was the first and thus far only man to summit both peaks first on the same stage
  • 1992 Franco Chioccioli took honours at Galibier for Andy Hamsten to be the first American to win on Alpe d'Huez
  • 2003 Stefano Garzelli lead on Galiber but Iban Mayo took the honours on d'Huez
  • 2008 it was Stefan Schumacher only for Carlos Sastre to win on Alpe d'Huez
Those 13.8km up Alpe d'Huezhave often been where minutes can be pulled out. How much will Andy Schleck have in the tank today? Can his brother make a crucial move today to give him a buffer he would need over Evans to give him a chance in tomorrow's time trail? Will Thomas Voeckler keep the yellow jersey for one more day? All these questions we will get answers to on Alpe d'Huez.

Here is that iconic 1986 finish.

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