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

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Re:

Linkinitouille said:
Prelude.

Yep, this is me, I'm just using a secondary account because CyclingNews doesn't want to bring back my old account on their new forums. Despite asking for the password mail a billion times, I never recieved it. Well, whatever.

You know, it's been a year that I left this thread, and promising that I would end it before the end of 2015. Of course, it didn't happen, as you can see it. I could have left it behind and never unearth it again. But I did.

Because I felt something was missing.

As the Tour de France 2015 start is coming in a few days, I remember that kind of thread, in the old days, and the pleasure I had to write all these stories and talking about these not-so-known climb that ASO could take in their next competitions. The first edition was a real success and I really wanted to continue the journey. But I kinda hit rock bottom during that time and absolutely nothing could bring me joy at that point. Not even the Tour de France, not even my family, not even the video games.

I didn't lose my sanity (fortunately) but I went through a deep period of questioning, about my own personal life and the path I decided to take regarding my studies in statistics. Basically, my internship was boring as hell, and about that interview that I've talked about, and travelled over 2,000 km in train to do my final oral exam to enter one of the most renowned statistics schools in France and Europe?

Failed it miserably. That was probably the turning point, where I started to question myself and lost nearly all motivation to do something meaningful. Also my future was kinda uncertain, but in the following months, everything started to came back along, and I regained, slowly but surely, motivation. But writing something about cycling, not so much, to be honest. I felt that wasn't the right moment.

Then time passed and I saw that the Tour was coming back quite fast. And I re-read the threads that I created now two years and one year ago. And I found some kind of magic by reading them. It just brought me back in 2013, with the joy I had at the time. I came through hell, and now I'm in full form to bring you the final 9 climbs up until the end of this 2015 Tour de France.

And you know what gives me motivation to finish? Not only the fact that I'm only 9 climbs shy to complete this, because I know that I'm not too far away from reaching the finish line, even though there's kind of a MTF in the end.

But also because I think the 2015 Tour de France route is probably one of the shittiest that I seen in recent memory. Not even joking. Weeks before the presentation, I expected something good with Gouvenou at the pen. Days before, with rumors starting to confirm, I started to worry but I still expected good things. The day before, when the map leaked, I was already horrified at all the choices ASO had made. But I still had hope about good stages.

Then, on the presentation day, I completely lost it. This route was plain shitty, period. The whole first week. The Pyrenees with all the wrong choices. The second week-end with that **** stage up to Valence which is a disgrace to the area I came from and the same old **** up to Gap. The Alps that goes around and around and around in Maurienne. No col des Champs as promised. And those **** hairpins up to l'Alpe, for the 30th time in 40 years.

Yep, I was that mad. And I'm still mad today. I really shouldn't, I could care less about that, but well, I don't know why I rejected that route so much, with all my heart. And there was something that really bugged me. Really, really hard.

The Lacets de Montvernier.

On the day they were shown to the public, they were already applauded, simply because it was a road with an impressive scenery. Kind of a mini-Alpe d'Huez. And I simply hated how ASO made this small, 2nd category climb (which could have definitely been a 3rd category back in the old 1990s days) such a big deal, literally forcing its way into the legendary climbs of the Tour de France. Not because it is hard. Not because it is decisive for the GC. Not because a lot of riders won on lost on its slopes. Simply because this climb is beautiful. And that's all. And there won't be any public to support the riders on the road - it's just that narrow. Forbidden access. I'm sorry, but a legend can't exist without public. The thrill of an opening wall of spectators. Yeah, it might be stupid, but that's part of the legend of the Tour. There won't be any of this in Montvernier. But hell, it will still be on the routes for years to come simply because they discovered this, and ASO said "wow, it's beautiful, let's make it our new smash-hit!".

Basically, they're just forcing a climb to enter the legend of the Tour - and I'm not gonna take this.

And meanwhile a lot of HC-worthy climbs still sleep in the dark and are ignored, deliberately or not, by ASO. Which would deserve a much bigger attention that those 18 miserable hairpins. The col de Tende has more than 60 and the Tour never rode them. And they deserve it, even if there's sterrato. There's tons of other possibilities to explore. And they still serve us the same old stuff.

To finish what I've started.
To unveil truly legendary climbs.
To show you some of the greatest sceneries France can offer.
To bring back one fallen legend, because this thread doesn't have "(re)" before "visit" for the sake of keeping the same title for a sequel.
To push the boundaries and go further and higher.

That's why I'm back. Because we need to go steeper.

21 HC Climbs the Tour should (re)visit - Volume II
Part 2
Starting tomorrow or the day after.
Hey man, gl getting it back together. I'm kinda going through the same thing right now, really struggling to motivate myself for my study and questioning what I've been doing for the past 3 years. Pretty sure you'll find something you love

Really great to see this thread going
 
Great thread indeed, glad to see it back on my radar. Not that I have much knowledge of those (sometimes not-so) secret gems, outside of my native Jura mountains. No HC climbs there, except one maybe, le Grand Colombier. That's a nasty one. Many smaller 2-3 cat that would be deadly if put one after the other. I'll be reading the contributions. Thank you.
 
Jun 24, 2015
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#34: Cirque de Troumouse (Hautes-Pyrénées)
The stairway to heaven



So this is where I stopped last year. One step away from the stairway to heaven, from the road to paradise. Let's be honest – I'm no believer, but we must admit, sometimes mother nature offers us some sceneries that thinking that "science" made them possible would be barely believable. And it's mostly thanks to time. Let a planet cook something for millions of years, and any chain of mountains can provide something that looks like art. And the higher you go, the smaller you look like between these giant pieces of rocks shaped over eras. And the little man likes a challenge. That's why he decided to climb them. He invented tools, he created the wheel, he found the ways to mold iron and shape the earth. The rest is just about putting everything together to complete the puzzle. And here we are today.

And today I'll bring you on a journey through the Pyrénées. The next four climbs will be all located in these mountains, and provide incredible challenges that really deserve the Hors Catégorie rating. This year marks another « official » addition to the HC Club : La Pierre Saint Martin. I already talked about it in 2013 (even if it was about the pass above the station) and in another post last year on the neighbouring Col de la Hourcère. But like some people who pointed it out, it's « just a longer Soudet ». And Soudet was already climbed by the Tour, and was already rated HC. So, not that new, after all.

This one however, is unknown to the Tour. Which is a bit surprising, considering it's only 30 km away from the most taken pass in the history of the race : the mythical col du Tourmalet. But back in the day it was introduced, it was all about the long raids from city to city, and the Tourmalet was always in the middle of the stage. Then when mountain top finishes became a thing, they went to Luz-Ardiden or Hautacam, like last year. But they always went north, in the downstream of the Gave de Pau river. They never dared to go south, to the source. And this year, they're going north again, to a stage towards Cauterets that can be promising (even if it looks like a less good version of the Mortirolo – Aprica combo in the Giro). So for once, let's head south to the end of the valleys. And it leads to two secluded villages : Gèdre, and Gavarnie. We'll turn left at the first one to tackle our first difficulty since my return : the Cirque de Troumouse.



Between parenthesis: starting from Gèdre.
Top: 2102 m
Length: 27.2 km (17 km) 
Ascent: 1432 m (1102 m)
Average gradient: 5.3 % (6.5 %)
Climbbybike difficulty score: 125 (135)

When looking at the numbers and the profile, it's actually quite close to the col de la Croix-de-Fer from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (which will be now taken in stage 20 of the Tour 2015 since the Galibier cancellation). Nearing a whopping 30 km of climbing, it really stands as a demanding climb as it's also very irregular. The first 10 clicks up to Gèdre is quite a breeze, averaging only 3.2 % gradient. But that's just the easy part, that's the hors-d'oeuvre to prepare for the plat de résistance. Because when you get out from Gèdre turning left towards the Cirque de Troumouse, you'll have to adapt and each ramp will look like a step before another short easy part.

And this is why I call this climb the "stairway to heaven". Simply because it really looks like a stairway on the profile and you end up in one of the most beautiful places you can find on French territory. But each step has its surprises and will require a perfect management of effort and endurance over 17 km, which is roughly the same length as a climb like La Toussuire but with much more irregularity. When you reach Gèdre, you're welcomed with a steep section averaging nearly 10 %. Quite a difference considering the false flat leading to it. After passing it, there's another short flat section of the same length only averaging 2.5 %. That's the first step, and each step will be harder and harder as you climb in altitude and reach spectacular backdrops.

The second step starts easily but ends with a very hard part reaching double-digit average gradients and stretches up to 14%! And up to the second step, you'll have 10 more kilometers to go. This climb will definitely feel neverending. It might not be as hard as the Galibier or Val Thorens, which are both longer climbs, but this one is very special by itself. Reaching Héas, another harsh step awaits you with 4 km at 7.4 % average gradient. And to finish, the hardest step : after only 1 km to rest, the final part averages 9.5 % in a brutal regularity and with some hairpins for good measure. And this is where it ends. Surrounded with mountains, in the arena of the gods. Probably one of the best places a Tour de France stage can end.



It could be used as a lone MTF Vuelta-style, or could be preceded with the Tourmalet for a challenging combination, with the best of both worlds : a legendary climb from the Tour, and a newcomer that could also forge its own legend. With this « stairway-like » road, riders would be definitely challenged as they would constantly change their rhythm of climbing. Makes it easier to derail trains of riders. And honestly, ASO would definitely love these spectacular sceneries. But there's one detail that basically fucks it up.

And it's called UNESCO. And local authorities.

I have nothing against protecting nature and some of the greatest places on Earth, but the Cirque is now part of the World Heritage Sites, and has to comply with some strict rules especially concerning car trafic. Last year, an experiment was done by completely restricting cars after the Auberge du Maillet located at 1830 m of altitude (so basically before the last step of the climb). The experiment was deemed successful and now car trafic will be completely forbidden past these point. So good luck to ASO to try to host a finish there – as they also need to comply with the National Park authorities. It might be a cycling race, but there's easily 10 times the amount of cars and trucks compared to the number of riders. The Tour got that big.

And that's kind of a shame the Tour never went in this beautiful place. It would have changed from the usual finishes in Pau, Ardiden or Hautacam. It would have been something beautiful. But due to ecological reasons, it probably might never happen. But who knows…

As the new route director wants to go somewhere in the vicinity. Not so far, actually. And that's where we're going.

In the next episode of 21 HC Climbs:
The wish of Gouvenou
 
Jun 22, 2014
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First found Cirque de Troumouse while randomly looking around on Google for Pyreneean climbs. Was immediately fascinated by the sheer scenery. I know we probably will never see the Tour here but it truly is beautiful.

Regarding the next entry, I was thinking Piau-Engaly or Pont d'Espagne. Not sure if the latter is hard enough for HC (easily 1C though) and the first was done in '99. Not sure where Link is going with this one. Gavarnie?
 
Jun 2, 2015
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Without reading the entire posting history of this blog, I'll propose:

1. Col de la Bonette (huge, awesome and beautiful).

2. Col du Romme / Col de la Colombriere (back-to-back Category 1 climbs, used in the epic Stage 17 of the 2009 TDF, where Contador attacked the Schlecks and his own teammate, Kloden, costing Kloden 2nd or 3rd in the Tour, and infuriating Bruyneel since it hurt Armstrong's bid for the podium by helping the Schlecks).

3. Any or all of the Dolomite climbs, including the Zoncolan. Put some meat in the TDF climbs, and some real grade.
 
Jun 24, 2015
30
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ninjadriver said:
Without reading the entire posting history of this blog, I'll propose:

1. Col de la Bonette (huge, awesome and beautiful).

2. Col du Romme / Col de la Colombriere (back-to-back Category 1 climbs, used in the epic Stage 17 of the 2009 TDF, where Contador attacked the Schlecks and his own teammate, Kloden, costing Kloden 2nd or 3rd in the Tour, and infuriating Bruyneel since it hurt Armstrong's bid for the podium by helping the Schlecks).

3. Any or all of the Dolomite climbs, including the Zoncolan. Put some meat in the TDF climbs, and some real grade.
Hi,

The original purpose of this thread is to show french climbs that the Tour has either never taken or forgotten long ago (ie 20+ years).

However, your three propositions don't fit the thread:
- Bonette, even though it was passed only 4 times since its introduction in 1962, was on the Tour for the last time in 2008. Also, being the highest road in France (and not in Europe despite the several claims that are entirely false), it's also part of the legend of the Tour - because it never went higher. Also mostly because, it can't.
- The Romme/Colombière combo is of course quite demanding but again, they were taken in 2009. They might make their return in the following years - probably 2016 if there's another finish in Le Grand Bornand (and they could go to the Col des Annes offering 5 km @ 9 %). And also, these are Cat. 1 climbs.
- Dolomites are not in France and are way too far from the borders to be ever taken by the Tour, except if we have a Grand Départ in Italy or Austria. Also this thread is limited to French territories only.
 
Jun 2, 2013
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I think it's Gavarnie, which is very close to the last climb posted (which is awesome, but I'm afraid we won't get to see it any time soon).
 
Jun 2, 2015
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Linkinitouille said:
ninjadriver said:
Without reading the entire posting history of this blog, I'll propose:

1. Col de la Bonette (huge, awesome and beautiful).

2. Col du Romme / Col de la Colombriere (back-to-back Category 1 climbs, used in the epic Stage 17 of the 2009 TDF, where Contador attacked the Schlecks and his own teammate, Kloden, costing Kloden 2nd or 3rd in the Tour, and infuriating Bruyneel since it hurt Armstrong's bid for the podium by helping the Schlecks).

3. Any or all of the Dolomite climbs, including the Zoncolan. Put some meat in the TDF climbs, and some real grade.
Hi,

The original purpose of this thread is to show french climbs that the Tour has either never taken or forgotten long ago (ie 20+ years).

However, your three propositions don't fit the thread:
- Bonette, even though it was passed only 4 times since its introduction in 1962, was on the Tour for the last time in 2008. Also, being the highest road in France (and not in Europe despite the several claims that are entirely false), it's also part of the legend of the Tour - because it never went higher. Also mostly because, it can't.
- The Romme/Colombière combo is of course quite demanding but again, they were taken in 2009. They might make their return in the following years - probably 2016 if there's another finish in Le Grand Bornand (and they could go to the Col des Annes offering 5 km @ 9 %). And also, these are Cat. 1 climbs.
- Dolomites are not in France and are way too far from the borders to be ever taken by the Tour, except if we have a Grand Départ in Italy or Austria. Also this thread is limited to French territories only.
Linkinitouille: Thanks for setting me straight!!! I didn't take much time to review the thread - busy at work yesterday. Enjoy Le Tour!!!!
 
Sep 19, 2013
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0
Re:

Linkinitouille said:
#34: Cirque de Troumouse (Hautes-Pyrénées)
The stairway to heaven



So this is where I stopped last year. One step away from the stairway to heaven, from the road to paradise. Let's be honest – I'm no believer, but we must admit, sometimes mother nature offers us some sceneries that thinking that "science" made them possible would be barely believable. And it's mostly thanks to time. Let a planet cook something for millions of years, and any chain of mountains can provide something that looks like art. And the higher you go, the smaller you look like between these giant pieces of rocks shaped over eras. And the little man likes a challenge. That's why he decided to climb them. He invented tools, he created the wheel, he found the ways to mold iron and shape the earth. The rest is just about putting everything together to complete the puzzle. And here we are today.

And today I'll bring you on a journey through the Pyrénées. The next four climbs will be all located in these mountains, and provide incredible challenges that really deserve the Hors Catégorie rating. This year marks another « official » addition to the HC Club : La Pierre Saint Martin. I already talked about it in 2013 (even if it was about the pass above the station) and in another post last year on the neighbouring Col de la Hourcère. But like some people who pointed it out, it's « just a longer Soudet ». And Soudet was already climbed by the Tour, and was already rated HC. So, not that new, after all.

This one however, is unknown to the Tour. Which is a bit surprising, considering it's only 30 km away from the most taken pass in the history of the race : the mythical col du Tourmalet. But back in the day it was introduced, it was all about the long raids from city to city, and the Tourmalet was always in the middle of the stage. Then when mountain top finishes became a thing, they went to Luz-Ardiden or Hautacam, like last year. But they always went north, in the downstream of the Gave de Pau river. They never dared to go south, to the source. And this year, they're going north again, to a stage towards Cauterets that can be promising (even if it looks like a less good version of the Mortirolo – Aprica combo in the Giro). So for once, let's head south to the end of the valleys. And it leads to two secluded villages : Gèdre, and Gavarnie. We'll turn left at the first one to tackle our first difficulty since my return : the Cirque de Troumouse.



Between parenthesis: starting from Gèdre.
Top: 2102 m
Length: 27.2 km (17 km) 
Ascent: 1432 m (1102 m)
Average gradient: 5.3 % (6.5 %)
Climbbybike difficulty score: 125 (135)

When looking at the numbers and the profile, it's actually quite close to the col de la Croix-de-Fer from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (which will be now taken in stage 20 of the Tour 2015 since the Galibier cancellation). Nearing a whopping 30 km of climbing, it really stands as a demanding climb as it's also very irregular. The first 10 clicks up to Gèdre is quite a breeze, averaging only 3.2 % gradient. But that's just the easy part, that's the hors-d'oeuvre to prepare for the plat de résistance. Because when you get out from Gèdre turning left towards the Cirque de Troumouse, you'll have to adapt and each ramp will look like a step before another short easy part.

And this is why I call this climb the "stairway to heaven". Simply because it really looks like a stairway on the profile and you end up in one of the most beautiful places you can find on French territory. But each step has its surprises and will require a perfect management of effort and endurance over 17 km, which is roughly the same length as a climb like La Toussuire but with much more irregularity. When you reach Gèdre, you're welcomed with a steep section averaging nearly 10 %. Quite a difference considering the false flat leading to it. After passing it, there's another short flat section of the same length only averaging 2.5 %. That's the first step, and each step will be harder and harder as you climb in altitude and reach spectacular backdrops.

The second step starts easily but ends with a very hard part reaching double-digit average gradients and stretches up to 14%! And up to the second step, you'll have 10 more kilometers to go. This climb will definitely feel neverending. It might not be as hard as the Galibier or Val Thorens, which are both longer climbs, but this one is very special by itself. Reaching Héas, another harsh step awaits you with 4 km at 7.4 % average gradient. And to finish, the hardest step : after only 1 km to rest, the final part averages 9.5 % in a brutal regularity and with some hairpins for good measure. And this is where it ends. Surrounded with mountains, in the arena of the gods. Probably one of the best places a Tour de France stage can end.



It could be used as a lone MTF Vuelta-style, or could be preceded with the Tourmalet for a challenging combination, with the best of both worlds : a legendary climb from the Tour, and a newcomer that could also forge its own legend. With this « stairway-like » road, riders would be definitely challenged as they would constantly change their rhythm of climbing. Makes it easier to derail trains of riders. And honestly, ASO would definitely love these spectacular sceneries. But there's one detail that basically **** it up.

And it's called UNESCO. And local authorities.

I have nothing against protecting nature and some of the greatest places on Earth, but the Cirque is now part of the World Heritage Sites, and has to comply with some strict rules especially concerning car trafic. Last year, an experiment was done by completely restricting cars after the Auberge du Maillet located at 1830 m of altitude (so basically before the last step of the climb). The experiment was deemed successful and now car trafic will be completely forbidden past these point. So good luck to ASO to try to host a finish there – as they also need to comply with the National Park authorities. It might be a cycling race, but there's easily 10 times the amount of cars and trucks compared to the number of riders. The Tour got that big.

And that's kind of a shame the Tour never went in this beautiful place. It would have changed from the usual finishes in Pau, Ardiden or Hautacam. It would have been something beautiful. But due to ecological reasons, it probably might never happen. But who knows…

As the new route director wants to go somewhere in the vicinity. Not so far, actually. And that's where we're going.

In the next episode of 21 HC Climbs:
The wish of Gouvenou
Just wanted to bump this great thread hopefully we will see some more climbs as it's fantastic to read and see them, plus being able to enjoy riding them as a result. Waiting for #35 :)
 

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