21 HC Climbs the Tour should (re)visit - Volume II

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Jun 2, 2013
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Netserk said:
:eek: Great news!

Alpe queen stage = Barcelonnette - Allos - Champs - Cayolle - Bonette - Isola 2000 :cool:
Lol, that would be the most epic stage ever. And it would be about 210 kms, so perfectly acceptable.

Then, the following day: from Isola 2000 to the top of Lombarda, then Fauniera, Sampeyre, Agnello, Izoard and finish on the Col du Granon.
 
Matt92 said:
Lol, that would be the most epic stage ever. And it would be about 210 kms, so perfectly acceptable.

Then, the following day: from Isola 2000 to the top of Lombarda, then Fauniera, Sampeyre, Agnello, Izoard and finish on the Col du Granon.
Angelo Zomegnan should be in charge of the TdF! :D
 
Sep 29, 2012
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#29: Col de Tende (Alpes-Maritimes)
The endless hairpins



How would you take a hairpin when you're on a bike? Would you play it safe and ride it wide, or take all the risks, minimize the distance and face the steepness of the climb? Hairpins mean a lot to the cycling world. They make the legend of climbs like l'Alpe d'Huez (man, it's incredible how this is returning often in this thread!) or the Passo dello Stelvio, where hairpins are a central part of the road. Turning around at one hundred and eighty degrees, and contemplate the way done. Five times. Ten times. Twenty times. Even more.

Let's go back in history again, even farther away than the col des Champs. In 1952, the col de Tende was crossed for the first time in a stage leading to Monaco, then less than ten years later, the same road was taken to finish in Antibes. But this climb was done twice on the italian side, which is easier than the french side. Also... The col de Tende was a mere 3rd category difficulty. Definitely not what this climb is worth. Since then, the col de Tende was never ridden by the Tour again – too far south, not paved on its south side – to go to Italy, the classic col de Montgenèvre was used over and over again. Ignoring harder possibilities like Lombarde or Agnel, which were both discovered in 2008. Which is in my opinion, way too late.

To come back to the col de Tende, some people might think it might not meet the requirements to be an HC-categorized climb. But I honestly think it otherwise, because it is exceptional in nearly every day, in terms of difficulty and scenery. And I'll show you in the next couple of paragraphs, that this is a unique climb that any cycling enthusiast should ride at least once in its life, because it's just a pure experience you will probably not find anywhere else. In the country, at least. So let's take a ride on this hidden gem that deserves much more attention.


Top: 1871 m
Length: 27.7 km
Ascent: 1424 m
Average gradent: 5.1 %
Climbbybike difficulty score: 130

This climb is quite long, and could be compared to the easiest side of the col du Galibier: so normally, it would be probably a 1st category climb. But the col de Tende as some tricks up its sleeve, especially in its final parts, and it's not only a matter of steep gradients. The climb can be divided into two parts: the first one is 16 kilometers long and goes above the village of Tende. It is basically a long false flat section, with some harder parts but nothing really tough. As a whole, it only averages 3.5 %. It's not really challenging, but it keeps going up. So that's a good training for what's coming next.

Getting past the country club of Vievola, this is where the real deal begins. The last 11.7 kilometers are averaging 7.4 %, and the road will become crazy and twisted in every sense. As the road was pretty much straight with a few turns regularly in the first part, you'll have to use your handlebar much, much, much more. A first tough ramp near 10 % is brought on the table as you get near to the 130-year-old tunnel. But instead of going in, we're going left and up to the paradise of cycling.

The final part will make you face a hairpin every 150 meters in average. Also, the five last kilometers are unpaved, and to celebrate that, you are welcomed with a kilometer averaging nearly 12 %! That will truly make you feel like a rider from the first half of the twentieth century, as you climb the col hairpin after hairpin. This is also the hardest part of the climb, and each hairpin will be farther away from each other. You'll finally reach the top and its magnificent old military fort - and you can also descend safely towards Italy, as the climb is fully paved on this side.

So this is where, in my opinion, we're crossing the Hors Catégorie line: because at this moment, everything will make you feel achieving an incredible feat. The altitude, the road, the hairpins, the difficulty, the scenery – for me, even if the numbers might be a bit low, these are the reasons why the col de Tende deserves the HC classification.

However, the major flaw of this climb is it can only be preceded by the col de Brouis (10.5 km @ 5 %), which culminates at 882 meters. For the people who seek a harder challenge, and of course for the Tour de France – if it ever happens to go to Italy from there, I invite them to do the Turini-Brouis-Tende trilogy which offers over 3000 meters of positive ascent. That would be a real tough alpine stage, even if we're not in the Zomegnan-approved territory. Like Parpaillon, paving this climb would probably remove some of the myth that makes the col de Tende particular. It could be our own Finestre!




Tomorrow, he're going high for a place the Tour didn't visit in 20 years:
The highest station in Europe
 
Ferminal said:
Way too much altitude.
Gavia+Stelvio in the same stage says the riders can handle more altitude than this!
Red Rick said:
So disgraceful that there's not a single climb in the first 70km:rolleyes:. We know you can do better than that Libertine
Ah, but that would be the final stage before the rest day. The first stage after it would be this:



Isola - Aiguilles over 4 high altitude HC climbs - Lombarde, Fauniera, Sampeyre & Agnel...
 
Libertine Seguros said:
Gavia+Stelvio in the same stage says the riders can handle more altitude than this!


Ah, but that would be the final stage before the rest day. The first stage after it would be this:



Isola - Aiguilles over 4 high altitude HC climbs - Lombarde, Fauniera, Sampeyre & Agnel...
That's the routes we all know and love from you:D
 
Jun 2, 2013
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Ferminal said:
Good luck convincing Pescheux's successor.
Didn't Pescheux design the Tignes - Briançon stage of 2007, with Iseran & Galibier on the same day?
 
Jun 2, 2013
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Libertine Seguros said:
Gavia+Stelvio in the same stage says the riders can handle more altitude than this!


Ah, but that would be the final stage before the rest day. The first stage after it would be this:



Isola - Aiguilles over 4 high altitude HC climbs - Lombarde, Fauniera, Sampeyre & Agnel...
No MTF? :eek:
 
Let's be honest, we will never see more than 3 HC climbs in one stage. I think this is the best Tour can ever have:



Short stage with 4800 meters of climbing. At least two of these climbs are among hardest ever in any GT. And Finish in Molines en Queyras is only 15 km after Agnel.
 
Jun 2, 2013
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Is Fauniera climbed from Demonte in that stage? In that case, you could replace it with the Colle di Esischie from Pradleves. The climb ends about 2 kms before Fauniera, but it is much steeper.

This is the profile of Fauniera from Pradleves:



This is the side that was climbed in 1999 and 2003 (until Esischie) and was supposed to be climbed in the notorious Sant'Anna di Vinadio stage of 2001.
 
Yes. It's Fauniera from Demonte and it's a beast with over 1700 meters of elevation gain in less than 25 km and a section of 10km@9%. Not enogh? Yes, Fauniera from Pradleves is even harder (with a section of almost 15km@9% and many double digit sectors) but lower in this case (as we reach Esischie and turn north). No change in stage start and finish:

 
Sep 29, 2012
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#30: Val Thorens (Savoie)
The highest station in Europe



The winter sport stations, since the end of the second World War, have been an important part into the mountain stage finishes in the Tour de France. Offering the required infrastructures nearby to host over five thousand people, tons of room to park all the cars and a powerful mountain scenery, many many stations want to receive the Tour to profit from the huge media exposition and hope to force the legend to happen on their slopes. But not their usual bright snow-covered slopes they use in winter, but their dark asphalted slopes that lead to the station. But there's a fact that no station can ignore – the road that was constructed years ago weren't built for hosting the Tour in mind, because if that was the case we would have Zoncolans all over the place.

Hosting the Tour also costs money, and obviously some smaller winter resorts cannot pay the bill by themselves. They sometimes receive financial help from the area, like la Planche des Belles Filles. So if you're managing a ski station, and you want to host the Tour, keep in mind that you need three things: money, a challenging road, and good infrastructures. The big newcomer of the year, Risoul, after being on the Tour de l'Avenir and the Critérium du Dauphiné routes, finally passed the test to be in the Tour de France. Even though the directors said that it could be tricky logistically. It's not an easy climb, but there's definitely harder challenges – we'll see the outcome of the final alpine stage this July.

The next three climbs of this list will be devoted to those resorts that make most of their money in winter, but have a chance to shine in summer. For the first one, I've decided to make my choice on what could have been a classic in the Tour, especially following a very nice stage in 1994. However it seems that the station lost the interest of hosting the Tour since. And if suffered from some competition coming from another nearby station, which has a “bling” reputation. I wanted to include it last year, but it was one year short of the 20-year rule. So no excuse this year!

Ladies and gentlemen, you probably guessed it, here comes the climb of the day: Val Thorens, the highest winter sports station in Europe.



Top: 2340 m
Length: 36 km
Ascent: 1861 m
Average gradient: 5.2 %
Climbbybike difficulty score: 156

This is probably one of the toughest climbs in France. Not in sheer steepness but the effort is incredibly long, as the ascension to Val Thorens can take nearly more than ninety minutes for a professional rider, and much, much longer for an amateur. To make it simple, just imagine a jumbo-sized Glandon or Croix-de-Fer, which goes even higher than both of these. Without counting the descents, the climb exceeds 2000 meters of positive ascent, which is incredibly rare in France. To go to the highest station in Europe, you'll have to deserve it through a climb that is roughly equal to the col du Galibier in terms of numbers.

We can distinguish three parts on this climb: the Moûtiers-Saint-Jean section (10.7 km @ 6.1 %), the Ménuires section (12.3 km @ 6.4 %) and the final part that leads to Val Thorens (8.5 km @ 6.9 %). It's basically chaining three climbs that would be, on their own, classified on 1st category. This climb offers a real irregularity, forcing us to change our rhythm all the time between steep sections (but fortunately, double-digit ramps are quite rare except in the final part), rolling parts, and the short descents. Overall, the climb offers a true challenge that can only be beaten if you know perfectly where your body can go. A 36-kilometer climb should definitely not be taken lightly!

Also this climb is well located in the Alps, being able to be chained with known climbs: Madeleine of course (the 1994 stage did Glandon-Madeleine-Val Thorens), if you're coming from the south. You can spice it up with Valmorel and Grand Naves before tackling Val Thorens. From the north, Notre-Dame-du-Pré and Hautecour also offer good challenges before going to paradise. There are many possibilities – and let's not forget that Val Thorens is part of the Domaine des 3 Vallées, which also feature the ski stations of Méribel and Courchevel. Both are very hard climbs too, but Courchevel was still in recent memory (last time in the Tour being in 2005 – and why the f is it a 1st category climb?!), and Méribel may be slightly under the HC requirements even when going to Méribel-Mottaret. So that's why I chose Val Thorens, because its difficulty is basically unmatched in the vicinity.




We won't go that far tomorrow. We'll stay in the Alps for a climb well-known by ASO, but still yet to be used in the Tour:
The successful neighbor of Val Pelouse
 
Sep 29, 2012
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I'm just gonna make a little comment about the fact that my latest articles are coming very late in the day (in Europe at least). It's the fact that I don't have much free time at the moment, and sometimes I don't really know what I should write to make the article interesting. You know, writer's block.

So my articles kinda feel rushed and shorter than the first ones in this list. But I still want to bring some quality into them and mostly, I want to stay faithful to the one-climb-per-day rule until the start of the Tour de France. That's how I envisioned it, so when I'll have more time, I'll add more details and some links to make them more complete.

In the first edition, I had more free time and I usually wrote less than this year's edition, so that felt quite light to me. I write this on a day-by-day basis. But this year involves much more work into it. Nothing forces me to stay on my current rhythm, but I take it as a personal challenge, as I'll be later doing jobs involving deadlines and narrow timeframes. I just need some more motivation and inspiration.

I hope that you understand :)
 

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