Last year,I started a fictional journey through France, made of words and pictures, to the search of hidden and long-forgotten climbs, that would be worthy of the mythical Hors Catégorie classification, and bring them into the light. A whole set of roads, passes and mountains that the Tour de France should definitely use in order to bring new, or refreshing challenges to the peloton.
A journey full of discoveries, stories and history, as we were leading to a very special anniversary: last year, the Tour de France celebrated its hundredth edition. And as nearly every cycling fan in the world had their head turned towards Ventoux, l'Alpe d'Huez and the Champs-Élysées, it was an occasion for me to pay tribute to the climbs that today, could receive the highest honors a mountain can obtain, but were lost in history, or were still hidden to the eyes of ASO.
The principle was simple: for each day that brought us closer to the start of the Tour, one climb in France was revealed, where I considered that the organizers would give it the highest rating a climb can get in the race, the famous and legendary HC.
The response was as astonishing as it was unexpected for me. Some people were actually surprised that we could find climbs that are on par with the legends of the Tour, and found new challenges to overcome in their next trips to France. And even the veterans of CyclingNews, who probably already knew these climbs, really enjoyed this journey made of stories and history. I really didn't think a single second that this thread would be so successful, totalling nearly 50,000 views after a year.
But I thought the best accomplishment for me was when Libertine Seguros, a CyclingNews veteran, decided to start a Vuelta spin-off based on this thread. Even though he deemed in his first post that his thread was inferior to mine, I really consider it much better as every climb and every step was incredibly detailed and gave tons of information, making it a real pleasure to read. So if you haven't seen this thread, you should definitely check this out.
Also, when I announced I would do a second list for this year, I was surprised that some people were coming back to this thread regularly just to read the stories again.
But you may ask me, how I'll be able to find 21 new HC climbs? I've asked myself this question in the first place. And I knew it was possible to bump up the count to 21 again. But I knew that I needed to drop some of the constraints I've imposed myself last year, by proposing climbs that could be realistically taken by the Tour, where ASO could come back without much problems.
So this time, things are going to be a little bit different. To bring up a whole new list composed of 21 HC climbs, I had to rethink my boundaries, my limits. For this edition, I'll just throw all the logistic constraints so far away they'll end up in Qatar, so they'll never be able to host a Tour de France stage.
Dead ends? Not a problem anymore. Tight roads? Just look how the Zoncolan is. Deadly descents? They add to the thrill. Unpaved sections? Finestre does it well.
So that might be considered cheating as, well, this thread is called "21 HC climbs the Tour should (re)visit". That's why I said "should" in the first place. That's not because there are logistic problems that ASO shouldn't take a look at it! They can ask for road adjustments to the local authorities, they do it quite often (*cough* Planche des Belles Filles *cough*). However, I've tried to keep a maximum amount of feasibility, and I widely preferred roads that are paved up to the top.
And anyway, the amateur rider seeking for new challenges in his trips will clearly find a good fresh guide over here, and surely some roads that aren't overcrowded with car traffic like what usually happens on famous climbs like Tourmalet and Galibier, while still having to tackle a challenge similar to the greatest climbs in the Tour.
So here it is, a new journey that will lead to another Tour de France. I hope you'll be many to follow this new trip, and I hope you'll be surprised by these new discoveries. As a sequel of the first thread, I considered that even if this is a new list, it succeeds to the first one, and therefore, we won't start at #1, but at #22.
It all starts this saturday, so the last climb reveal will be the day before the start of the 101st Tour de France. There was a contest at the launch of this thread, where you had to guess what would be the first climb of the list, based on the poster at the top of this post. And Krzysztof_O was first to find it, so he got an exclusive preview.
#22: Col du Sabot (Isère) - The missing link
#23: Col du Solude (Isère) - The cliffhanger
#24: Col de Mantet (Pyrénées-Orientales) - The eastern homophone
#25: Collade des Roques Blanches (Pyrénées-Orientales) - The protected connection
#26: Station d'Issarbe / Col de la Hourcère (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) - The other big basque station
#27: Chalets de Charmant Som (Isère) - The charming finish
#28: Col des Champs (Alpes-Maritimes) - The fields of glory
#29: Col de Tende (Alpes-Maritimes) - The endless hairpins
#30: Val Thorens (Savoie) - The highest station in Europe
#31: Collet d'Allevard (Isère) - The successful neighbor
#32: ??? (???) - The Cerdanyan lost hope
(btw I spent days trying to write a good intro - hope you like it. ^^)