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21 HC climbs the Tour should (re)visit

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Opposite direction?

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Jun 12, 2013
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yeah there's several 10% climbs which seem plausible. was meaning an average gradient of 10% over the whole climb - colombier is below 9% same with mont du chat. both appear to be good climbs tho imo; colombier was used last year tho
 
Sep 29, 2012
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#8: Grand Ballon (Haut-Rhin)
The toughest, highest vosgian climb

800px-Col_du_grand_Ballon_d%27Alsace.jpg


This might be the only climb in northern France that could be categorized as HC. Of course, it might be not high enough, or just below the requirements needed to be HC. But let's go for it like Lusette, and if only one climb could be rated as such in the Vosgian mountains, that would definitely be the Grand Ballon. Being the highest climb in the Vosges, it's also the hardest, much harder than classics like Ballon d'Alsace, Col du Platzerwasel, and other less known climbs like the Champ du Feu.

Also known as the Ballon de Guebwiller, the road coming up tops at 1343 meters, and offers plenty of ways to climb it. The Tour de France climbed it six times, but never by its hardest side. It used the Willer-sur-Thur side in 1992, being 16 kilometers long and averaging 6.1 % in gradient, a regular climb which constantly increases in difficulty while coming near the top. It was also climbed several times from the north-east, but it was more a Markstein climb than a real Grand Ballon climb (as an example, just look at Netserk's post with the 2005 Tour de France stage between Gérardmer and Mulhouse).

But the Willer-sur-Thur side isn't enough for the climb to be rated HC. There's one side that could really get close to that classification, and it debuts in the little town of Moosch.

Top: 1343 m
Length: 12.3 km
Ascent: 951 m
Average gradient: 7.7 %
Climbbybike Difficulty score: 105
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As you can see, the climb is quite irregular, with some rather easy parts at 4-5 %, immediately followed by huge ramps coming up to 12 % average and going up to 14 % in some sections. We can divide this climb into three distinct parts, the first one that goes above Geishouse, then a much more rolling part, and the 3 final kilometers, harsh and hard, averaging 10 %, with 800 meters averaging 12 %... And there's a twist to this climb: after getting past Geishouse, the quality of the road becomes a nightmare. The macadam doesn't give back the effort and there are some holes and gravel all along the way. They're still easy to avoid, but that makes this climb even more difficult.

There's also an alternative side, that joins this climb at Geishouse. It starts from the city of Saint-Amarin, and is 12.7 km at 7.3 %. It has a difference with the Moosch side, is that the climb as a 1 km descent after some kilometers. Which makes this climb even more irregular. But considering it has some similarities with its neighbor, I preferred taking the hardest way in my opinion. Some people claim the Saint-Amarin side is harder, some people say it's the Moosch side. In both cases, they lead to the same point and make a much better climb than the side starting from Wildenstein. Even if we can also mention the climb starting in Willer-sur-Thur which also has its qualities (long ascent, progressive difficulty, wide road).

The Grand Ballon should definitely have more attention from ASO. As the Vosges mountains definitely hold some hard passes and climbs (la Planche des Belles Filles proved it last year), they can definitely create a surprise in the peloton. Some people can argue the road is just too bad. But well, the PDBF climb was quite the same before being refurbished for the passage of the Tour. And again, some people argued this repavement was useless and was done without any public consent. In anyway, the slopes are there, the quality maybe isn't: it's up to the authorities and the organizers to get an agreement to make this climb into the Tour a reality.

(And they still go down Sarenne despite a bad surfacing, so... Maybe it isn't a problem at all.)

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800px-Grand_Ballon.jpg
 
nick101 said:
yeah there's several 10% climbs which seem plausible. was meaning an average gradient of 10% over the whole climb - colombier is below 9% same with mont du chat. both appear to be good climbs tho imo; colombier was used last year tho

In what sense though? Most of the French climbs that average 10%+ are either goat tracks, or are one way routes that don't have enough room at the summit for Le Tour to be there (remember, Le Tour needs more space than other races, because of the bigger race caravan and media coverage).

There are some that could be used that get close - Errozate is the one I always dredge up, 10,1km @ 9,6% in Iparralde, along with large sections of Arnostegi being similarly steep. the Col d'Irey averages 12% but is only 4,5km long. The Réfuge L'Abérouat averages 9% but most of it's over 10, but has little space at the summit, while Ski Station Mourtis, above Menté, is about 10km at 9% too. I think the purpose of this thread is to point out climbs that should be on the Tour's list - and could have been at any point in the last 20 years - rather than climbs like the Col du Jandri, that would need a lot of work to be Tour-worthy and will remain solely parcours-designer's pipe dreams for at least a few years to come.
 
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Libertine Seguros said:
In what sense though? Most of the French climbs that average 10%+ are either goat tracks, or are one way routes that don't have enough room at the summit for Le Tour to be there (remember, Le Tour needs more space than other races, because of the bigger race caravan and media coverage).

There are some that could be used that get close - Errozate is the one I always dredge up, 10,1km @ 9,6% in Iparralde, along with large sections of Arnostegi being similarly steep. the Col d'Irey averages 12% but is only 4,5km long. The Réfuge L'Abérouat averages 9% but most of it's over 10, but has little space at the summit, while Ski Station Mourtis, above Menté, is about 10km at 9% too. I think the purpose of this thread is to point out climbs that should be on the Tour's list - and could have been at any point in the last 20 years - rather than climbs like the Col du Jandri, that would need a lot of work to be Tour-worthy and will remain solely parcours-designer's pipe dreams for at least a few years to come.
This is exactly my thoughts. I want climbs where the Tour could go.

The problem with Errozate is well, the road is narrow. Reaaaaaaaaally narrow.
As an example, let's compare Errozate with Péguère (which I consider being the absolute limit in terms of width):
1371311625-peguere-errozate.png

As you can see, the ascent sides are pretty much the same in terms of size. If the Tour can go through Péguère, it could go through Errozate. But if you look at the descent, Péguère had a large advantage of getting a wide road. Errozate? Same size, maybe even narrower than the ascent...
Another comparison:
1371311622-pramartino-errozate.png

The Pramartino descent was deemed as a dangerous descent. Just imagine what riders would say if they had to face a descent like this at 60 mph. And the Errozate descent is at 10-12 % average gradient on 2 km. Some complained about Pramartino and Sarenne being too dangerous... What about Errozate, then.

That's the main problem with the Pays Basque: roads that are way too narrow. And that maybe explains why the Tour de France nearly never goes there...
 
There's no sense in going down roads like this. Plus there are no towns of any size to finance a Tour finish there in the middle of nowhere. So stages in the French Basque country tend to end in Bayonne or somewhere along the coastline anyway. No need to add these stupid descent if you have the likes of Aubisque etc. just a few hours away.

No one cares about Errozate, Iparralde, Etxetruquitzbewhatever in the Tour. Remember, this is not the Giro. The Tour is grand enough and doesn't have to add questionable spectacles like this to the route to gain attention. It is already the biggest cycling event in the world. ;)
They have nothing to win in adding these climbs and all to lose (crashes, discussions etc.).

Not that anyone here in this thread would agree, but hey...
 
Bye Bye Bicycle said:
There's no sense in going down roads like this. Plus there are no towns of any size to finance a Tour finish there in the middle of nowhere. So stages in the French Basque country tend to end in Bayonne or somewhere along the coastline anyway. No need to add these stupid descent if you have the likes of Aubisque etc. just a few hours away.
huh, isn't the Tour the GT going down the most stupid descent of this year?
 
Sep 21, 2009
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Bye Bye Bicycle said:
There's no sense in going down roads like this. Plus there are no towns of any size to finance a Tour finish there in the middle of nowhere. So stages in the French Basque country tend to end in Bayonne or somewhere along the coastline anyway. No need to add these stupid descent if you have the likes of Aubisque etc. just a few hours away.

No one cares about Errozate, Iparralde, Etxetruquitzbewhatever in the Tour. Remember, this is not the Giro. The Tour is grand enough and doesn't have to add questionable spectacles like this to the route to gain attention. It is already the biggest cycling event in the world. ;)
They have nothing to win in adding these climbs and all to lose (crashes, discussions etc.).

Not that anyone here in this thread would agree, but hey...

Those climbs connect with the west side of Soudet and those roads are no worse than the connection between Soulor and Aubisque. Then for those willing to see always the same roads ASO will serve them this July with a descent which is no better than those being criticised here.

Anyway, if Errozate is too narrow, go through Burdinkurutzeta+Bagargi. Then you can finish at the ski station of Pierre St Martin or add Marie Blanque after Soudet and get to Pau or to Gourette-Aubisque. What are the chances of these places hosting a Tour stage finish? :rolleyes:

Burdinkurutzeta+Bagargi were used in 2003 from East to West, but have not been used since the 80s from West to East.

Something that has never been used in the Tour is Issarbe+Soudet+Pierre St Martin.
 
Bye Bye Bicycle said:
There's no sense in going down roads like this. Plus there are no towns of any size to finance a Tour finish there in the middle of nowhere. So stages in the French Basque country tend to end in Bayonne or somewhere along the coastline anyway. No need to add these stupid descent if you have the likes of Aubisque etc. just a few hours away.

No one cares about Errozate, Iparralde, Etxetruquitzbewhatever in the Tour. Remember, this is not the Giro. The Tour is grand enough and doesn't have to add questionable spectacles like this to the route to gain attention. It is already the biggest cycling event in the world. ;)
They have nothing to win in adding these climbs and all to lose (crashes, discussions etc.).

Not that anyone here in this thread would agree, but hey...

Arnostegi has a few sides that would mean you could find a side wide enough to descend. The Pra Martino descent isn't that dangerous, as long as the stage beforehand is tough enough so you don't have the bunch all there together. Errozate is a climb hard enough that that is obviously not going to be the case. There are plenty of other climbs in the Pays-Basque that can be used that would make things interesting without the need for "gimmickry". I was just responding to a statement about 10% gradient climbs in France, of which there are few feasible for use in Le Tour - Errozate's probably the closest.

You don't have to do something as extreme as Errozate to have a good Pays-Basque stage that would be better than any of the crappy Pyrenées stages the Tour has been putting out the last few years. But I know, the Tour is already the biggest race in the world so it's not a problem that they ignore areas with enormous potential and instead do the same climbs over and over again. But if that's the case, then why did you even open this thread, given it's entire raison d'être is to draw attention to great climbs that the Tour isn't using? Using Pierre Carrée or the Granon will not make the Tour a bigger spectacle. What they can do is make it a more interesting, and less stale and repetitive (this is the first year since god knows when that we've got away with not having to see the f**king Tourmalet) spectacle. You point out that the Tour is not the Giro, and you are right. The Tour typically features racing more controlled than at the Giro, as the worldwide profile of the Tour makes good performance at that race extremely important, so teams can't afford to allow much to go to chance. At the Giro, if Horner and Plaza's break is threatening Hesjedal's 10th place, Garmin don't get on the front, because 10th isn't really relevant. At the Tour, it is. But most fans seem to find the races where the level of control has been at its least or the race has broken up early on meaning the team leaders have to ride on their own or forge small and shaky alliances as the race develops, have been the most exciting and interesting. The Tour doesn't often offer that. It's the most important race, which sucks viewers in that way, but the spectacle often derives not from how exciting the event is, in a vacuum, but rather how each and every move (however few they may be, especially in a year like 2009 or 2012) is important because of how much is at stake.

Of course the climbs of Iparralde won't make the Tour de France a bigger race. But they might make it a less boring one.
 
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Here's the hint of the day! :) (Yeah it's midnight for me ^^)
998989_pelote2-1000_460x306.jpg

Anyway, thanks Libertine for your comments. We mainly share the same thoughts, and even if I'm not ultra-fond of cycling, I like numbers, statistics, and all this kind of fictional Tours and climbs hidden from the world. :)
 
Could be many Basque climbs since the only clue is that it's Basque. I'd say most of them would only be cat.1, though. If we've already established that it's unlikely to be Errozate or Arnostegi, then how about Bagargui/Les Chalets d'Irati? Pierre St-Martin? Station d'Issarbe? Bostmendieta?
 
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#9: Col de la Pierre-Saint-Martin (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)
The gate of Pays Basque

800px-Col_de_la_Pierre_Saint-Martin7.jpg

(like Grand Ballon, the altitude on the sign is wrong: its 1760 m)

Recently on this thread, there were some lively discussions about the climbs in the Pays Basque. They definitely have something unique that the Tour de France should really benefit: a wonderful scenery and steep slopes that can never be found anywhere else in France. Arnostéguy and Errozaté, for example, are two passes that have an extreme difficulty, with an average gradient of 10 % and more on several kilometers. These could be the french Anglirus. But these climbs have a serious problem and it won't be fixed anytime soon: they're just very narrow. Both in ascent and descent. Which would definitely be an issue both for the organizers, who need room for the caravane and the technical vehicles, and for the riders, who don't want to risk their lives on steep and tight descents.

And that probably explains why the Tour just never went into these monsters of Iparralde: the Tour might be too big for them, even if Christian Prudhomme stated "the caravane shouldn't dictate its law over the course, it has to adapt to the way we are taking". It's a bit of a shame, but they were worthing a mention in this post, and probably some day in the future, ASO will try to adapt to these incredible climbs, and ask the authorities to make some adjustments to the road. They already did it in the past (even if some people are against these pratics).

So that's why we're going toward Hegoalde, or "south Pays Basque". And there's one climb in there that would be worthy to join the HC list. It was climbed only once in 2007, and from its spanish side (the easiest). That's right, it's a border pass. It's also an hard one on its french side. The col de la Pierre-Saint-Martin would be another welcomed addition to the Hors Catégorie climbs, and best of all, there's a ski resort not far from the pass, simply called La Pierre-Saint-Martin. And what's known is they really want to host a stage finish for the Tour de France.

By seeing the climb (from two sides), we know why.

Top: 1760 m
West side (from La Caserne, 16 km after Tardets)
Length: 18 km
Ascent: 1320 m
Average gradient: 7.3 %
Climbbybike Difficulty score: 137
North side (from La Mouline, 7 km after Arette)
Length: 18.5 km
Ascent: 1305 m
Average gradient: 7.1 %
Climbbybike Difficulty score: 132
1371387853-profils.png

There's something that should be notified beforehand: most part of these climbs are actually the same as the Col du Soudet, topping at 1540 m, already rated HC by the Tour twice (in 1987 and 2006). Both sides join at this pass, so you can consider the col de la Pierre-Saint-Martin as a bonus, an 3.5 km extension to this already demanding climb. To arrive into the ski resort of la Pierre Saint-Martin, it's 1.5 km after the Col du Soudet.

The west side goes like a crescendo, starting slow with 4-5 % slopes after a quite long false flat part, then starts to get really hard after Sainte-Engrace, on a road that doesn't give back all of the effort. There's also 2 kilometers at over 10 %, in between two easier parts. Then the climb becomes again really harsh up to the Col du Soudet, only to become easier after the ski resort. It's the hardest side to come up to the top.

The north side isn't that easier though. Its hard part starts 2 kilometers after La Mouline, with no less than 8 km at 9.4 % average with a kilometer at 11 %, that lead to the col de Labays (which links to the east, and could make another climb up to La Pierre-Saint-Martin). Then, the climb is much easier, the only really steep part being after passing the Soudet up to the ski resort.

The col de la Pierre-Saint-Martin has also other sides, that go through surrounding passes (Hourcère, Labays, Bouesou), but they are no harder has the two sides presented here. This is definitely as hard as the two great climbs of the Pyrénées, namely Aubisque and Tourmalet, and it also goes quite high. It's only a matter of time until the Tour stops in la Pierre-Saint-Martin, and offering to the Pyrénées another HC climb. In 2012, there were rumors for a MTF in the ski resort, but it was ultimately cancelled some time before the official announcement of the route. They might be on the spot for 2014... Time will tell.

zurisa011.jpg

800px-La_Pierre_St_Martin_station.JPG


To be perfectly honest, I initially planned Arnostéguy as being #9 on the list. But on second thought, I took Pierre-Saint-Martin as the logistic problems would be too high on Arnostéguy (and Errozate). So I decided to give them a mention anyway.