This climb is deeply embedded in the history of the Tour. When the organisers first discovered it, scouting for the 1910 race, they told the local man responsible for the roads of their plan, and he replied that they were crazy. When they offered to pay him 5,000 francs to clear the pass, he changed his mind.
Climbing to an altitude of 1,709 metres, the Aubisque starts relatively easy. Then at Eaux-Bonnes the riders turn left and the gradient increases. At the ninth kilometre, just before halfway, the road hits a gradient of 10%.
This is the highest paved mountain pass in the Pyrenees ( 2,115 meters - usually the highest pass of the race).
It is best know for the story of Eugene Christophe, who, in 1913, led the race over the mountain , but on the fast descent, his forks broke and he was forced to stop. He walked 10km down a path to the village of Ste-Marie-de-Campan, where he met a young girl who showed him to a blacksmith’s forge. The blacksmith offered to weld his forks but race officials forbade it, threatening Christophe with disqualification. So Christophe had a crash course in welding under the supervision of the blacksmith and three hours later emerged with a working bike. Later he was penalized ten minutes because he’d let a boy of seven pump the bellows for him.
L’Alpe d’Huez (known as a ski resort) is a relatively recent addition to the Tour.
Its first appearance in 1952 was a turning point in the Tour’s history. Not only was it the Tour’s first mountain-top finish but the winner that day, Fausto Coppi, was captured by the television motorcycle crews who had joined the race for the first time.
Ventoux is a beast of a climb.It is perhaps the only notorious mountain in the Tour de France. Every rider respects, even fears it.
It was close to the summit in 1967 that Tom Simpson collapsed and died. More recently, when high winds shortened the 2016 stage, the Tour descended into comedy when Chris Froome was forced off his bike and began running towards the finish. Definitely one for the bucket list.
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