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21 HC climbs the Tour should (re)visit

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Sep 29, 2012
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Netserk said:
No Portet? :(
Nope. Unfortunately, I kept one incompletely paved climb, and this is not Portet. #21 is fully paved however. ;)

By the way, in 1982, the Tour de France was due to have a finish at the col de Portet.
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However the city of Saint-Lary-Soulan said a few weeks before the start of the Tour that it would be impossible. The finish was then moved at Pla d'Adet. Saint-Lary-Soulan didn't host the Tour for the next 11 years following this.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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#20: Col du Parpaillon (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence/Hautes-Alpes)
The time-travelling climb

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There are some climbs that bring you back in the previous century. The time where the riders had to do stages that are twice as long as today, had all their repairing equipment on themselves, without having a supporting car to change a wheel or the entire bike. And this was the time where most of the passes weren't paved by macadam. Izoard, Tourmalet, Galibier, Aubisque... All of them were paved after the second World War. So just imagine the races before. Octave Lapize, in 1910, stays famous for his claim at the summit of the Tourmalet: "You are all murderers!"

The col du Parpaillon is the kind of climb that stayed away from the pavement. Because the nearby col de Vars, which links the same valleys, was actually lower, by around 600 metres. So this climb was paved instead, and the Parpaillon was laid aside, with its 550-meter long tunnel without any light. In fact, if you climb the Parpaillon today, it's like if you climbed the Galibier one century ago. The height is roughly the same, there's a tunnel at the summit, and the last part of the climb is unpaved, leaving you with gravelly roads. Going up there with an ultra-light road bike is strongly not recommended.

This is the climb that the Tour will probably never visit, but definitely should. At least on one occasion. The italian Colle delle Finestre offered a spectacular race in 2005 on unpaved roads. These kind of climbs truly remind how the races were in the first half of the past century, and give an unmatched challenge on unique sceneries, far from the urbanization, far from the buildings of the ski resorts, and close to the wildlife. Of course, I could have chosen harder unpaved climbs. The pic du Midi de Bigorre, that leads to a famous observatory and starts from the summit of the Tourmalet. Or the fictional tracers favourites, the col de Rosael or the col du Jandri, those go over 3000 meters and offer incredible slopes. But I thought that the Parpaillon was the best climb to describe today how a cycling race could have been 100 years ago.

The col du Parpaillon can be climbed from two sides: from La Condamine-Châtelard at the east, and from Embrun at the west.

Top: 2640 m
From La Condamine-Châtelard (east)
Length: 17.2 km
Ascent: 1364 m
Average gradient: 7.9 %
Climbbybike Difficulty score: 158
From Embrun (west - not counting the 2 km descent)
Length: 25.9 km
Ascent: 1840 m
Average gradient: 7.1 %
Climbbybike Difficulty score: 187
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The climbs are already brutal by the numbers, but we need to precise that the final parts are unpaved: from the east, the final 11 km are unpaved. From the west, only the final 7 km are on gravelly roads. The eastern climb is the shortest but the steepest: the paved part is 6 km at 7.8 % average, which by itself is a strong 2nd category climb. But from there, the macadam disappears, leaving only the dust and the rocks. There's 5 km at 6.4 % average to start the unpaved part, before the finale at 9.1 % for 6 kilometers. Short but extremely demanding, it also offers some views on the surrounding mountains that are absolutely spectacular.

From Embrun, the climb is much longer but a little less steeper as a whole. It's also much less regular than the other side alternating false flats and steeper sections. The paved section is also much longer. If we had to take this section only up to the Pont du Réal, we have 19 km at 6.2 %. It's already HC by now. But this is where the climb will become much harder. The last 10 km of the climb are brutally regular and average 9.4 %... Simply breathtaking. Even if it's a delight for the eyes, the legs and the feet will clearly suffer from this climb that have quickly acquired a legendary status for all the amateurs in the area. And many people wouldn't want this climb to be ever paved. Because it's here as a reminder of what were the great passes in the last century. A real journey through time, being spectacular, exhilarating, but also viciously hard and demanding.

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Jul 22, 2011
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I admit, I pretty much discovered all the climbs in this thread from it - and I got Linkinto to thank for that. My knowledge of French mountains is nigh-nonexistant, I can't even recall all the Tour highlight climbs of the last 10 years, let alone climbs that have been out for longer than that or not in at all.

But well, sometimes a long shot does yield a good guess. Bonette from Jausiers.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Broth3r said:
I admit, I pretty much discovered all the climbs in this thread from it - and I got Linkinto to thank for that. My knowledge of French mountains is nigh-nonexistant, I can't even recall all the Tour highlight climbs of the last 10 years, let alone climbs that have been out for longer than that or not in at all.

But well, sometimes a long shot does yield a good guess. Bonette from Jausiers.
Thank you. ^^
By the way, that's not Bonette. It appeared in the Tour in 1993 and 2008, so not eligible in the list. :)
 
Sep 29, 2012
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#21: Pic Maïdo (Réunion)
The far, far away dream

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This is where the journey ends. After visiting virtually 20 climbs in France that the Tour could propose to its riders, one representing a challenge worthy of the legendary Hors Catégorie classification, its time for us to conclude it with the hardest of them all. A climb that is simply unique, and offers one of the most toughest challenges in the entire world. But to reach it, we'll need to explore the entire French territory. The kind of territory that just goes beyond the boundaries of Europe. We're still in France, but we left the mainland. We are 9,394 kilometers away from the Arc de Triomphe which will see the peloton in three weeks. Welcome on the Réunion island, in the Indian ocean.

The Réunion island is an overseas department, previously called the Bourbon island, which has a population of over 800,000 and is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Being a volcanic island, it has one which is still in activity, the Piton de la Fournaise, topping at 2,632 meters. It has a remarkable wildlife, with wonderful sceneries and is also an incredible place for cycling amateurs. And on this island, there is a climb that just simply beats everything in the mainland in terms of difficulty. Harder and tougher than every climb in France. Only the legends, like the north side of the Galibier, the Mont Ventoux, the col de la Madeleine, or the col de la Bonette could come close to the Pic Maïdo.

The Pic Maïdo can be climbed from many starting points, but they are virtually roughly the same as they are next to the ocean, with some kilometers of difference. So I've decided to take the most direct way: from the city of Saint-Paul, the second biggest city of the island. Also, the profile had to be custom-made from the numbers found on Tracks4Bikers, as Climbbybike didn't have any profile for it.

Top: 2180 m
Length: 26.5 km
Ascent: 2170 m
Average gradient: 8.2 %
Climbbybike Difficulty score: 232
1372445342-profilmaido.png


To make it simple: just take the l'Alpe d'Huez climb, then on top of it, put it again. Without any descent. Neverending, the Maïdo climb is rythmed with hundred of turns, some of them being at over 14 % gradient. The first part of the climb is quite irregular, with some berms and false-flats, but has a harsh kilometer averaging 13 %. Its after the tenth kilometer that the climb become interminable. 8, 9, 10, 11 %. It just doesn't stop. It's 5 kilometers longer than the Ventoux, and is still steeper. The drawback of this climb is it might be a little "low", as it starts from the ocean. Topping at 2180 meters, the oxygen only becomes a problem in the very last kilometers. Nevertheless, the climb is so long and hard, it is the ultimate French challenge.

But the Maïdo will probably never see the Tour de France coming up to it. From Paris to the Réunion island, there is a whopping 10 hours of travel by plane. It's just too far away for today. There was a little hope, when the Concorde was still flying with its supersonic speeds, but now being retired from service, but for now, the Maïdo is just a dream. The Tour waited for more than a century to start in Corsica. Will we wait another century to see a departure from the Réunion? Only time will tell. Until then, the road is still welcoming riders from all around the island (and all around the world too), to bring to them a challenge that the world can offer only in a few places.

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I really want to thank everyone who read and posted on this thread. Your support was great, and I had a blast writing these 21 articles, one per day separating us from this 100th Tour de France. If some people here already knew some of these climbs, it was a pleasure to make them a discovery for others. The Tour de France is not only Galibier, Tourmalet, Ventoux or l'Alpe d'Huez, and let's hope these 21 climbs I've presented here will be featured at least once in the next 100 Tours! Of course, I could have put other climbs proposed here: col du Portet, col d'Errozate, Refuge de l'Abérouat, etc., but I had choices to do. That means there's much more than 21 new climbs that could be HC in France!

I really hope you enjoyed this journey!
And let's ride for an enjoyable, beautiful, and hopefully clean, 100th Tour de France. ^^
 

Gugashwill

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Jun 8, 2013
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Nice finish with this last climb. While previous 20 have a chance to feature at the Tour, Le Maido will almost certainly stay out of the Tour's reach. And out of reach for majority of fans here.
Thank you for all the effort and enthusiasm.
I don't know for other members, but I've written down these 21 (including Le Maido... just in case)
Chapeau Linkinito!
 
Jul 22, 2011
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An incredible finish.

A side note: 9394 feet = 2863 meters, just 3 meters over the Bonette summit's height. Figured it was just silly Americans/Brits being silly with their silly imperial units :D
 
Dec 16, 2011
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It was a great list Linkinito, thanks for that!

I've always wondered why the Tour never climbed to Chamrousse from Sechilienne. It would be a great climb combining the steep Luitel (9k, 10%) with the final kilometres of the "normal" Chamrousse climb. In total it would be 18 kilometres around 8%. Chamrousse is a big ski station, and also Grenoble is nearby. So it could be included easily. Any ideas why the Tour ignores this one?
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Another_Dutch_Guy said:
It was a great list Linkinito, thanks for that!

I've always wondered why the Tour never climbed to Chamrousse from Sechilienne. It would be a great climb combining the steep Luitel (9k, 10%) with the final kilometres of the "normal" Chamrousse climb. In total it would be 18 kilometres around 8%. Chamrousse is a big ski station, and also Grenoble is nearby. So it could be included easily. Any ideas why the Tour ignores this one?

They don't ignore, they just select cities and stations that are candidate. If Chamrousse isn't candidate, it won't host the Tour. The only time was in 2001 during an ITT. But yeah, it's a very long and hard climb, especially from the Luitel. Could have been part of the list.