Something tells me we’ve been here before … well, perhaps not here exactly, but these mountains are familiar!
After a proper rest day (one without a 6.5 hour coach journey) the saddle sores have been given a rest, the bikes are clean, colossal calories consumed and all is well once more with the world.
Today was a day of vineyards and lovely countryside once more – easing bodies back into gear having lulled them into a false sense of rest-day security. It’s all a warm up to the huge day we face tomorrow, followed by another big Alpine day on Thursday. But those who are riding to Paris are begining to dare to think of the end – secretly – because they all know there’s a hell of a long way to go yet and anything can happen.
Here’s what the next 2 days look like:
17 La Mure-Serre Chevalier, 183km
BAM! Alps. This stage is going to feel pretty epic. Not only is it one of the longer high mountain stages this year (topped in distance only by stage 12 in the Pyrénées) but it also contains over 4700m of height gain and has the longest climbs on the 2017 Tour. The Col de la Croix de Fer is 24km (along with a sneaky downhill section that cheats the average gradient figure down to 5.2%) and the Galibier is almost 18km in length. Both climbs are spectacular though with the Galibier sporting long sweeping views up to the summit from nearly 10 kms away. La Mure is a first time Tour Town and is on the Route de Napoleon: an historic stage in more ways than one. As for the pros, these next two stages are going to be the final decider of the Tour in the mountains. With only a short TT in Marseille, Nairo Quintana is going to have to make sure he as a buffer of at least a minute over Chris Froome and he might only have today and tomorrow to do it…
18 Briançon-Izoard, 178km
This is the étape du tour so you’ll see and hear plenty of information about it. It should be a very fast stage for the pros as the first half is not too tough. What you’re building up to though is the double-fun of the Col de Vars and the Col d’Izoard: The Vars isn’t long but it’s quite tough as it has stretches at 10%. It also has a cracking descent. We’re going up the Izoard from the harder side (obvs!), climbing through gorges, trying to not mind the fact that the second 7km is markedly steeper than the first 7km (with a couple of 11% pitches) and focusing instead on the fact that this is surely one of the prettiest places in the Alps. As an aside, the tour is organizing a women’s pro race with the same start and finish locations as the men’s tour but only 67km instead of 178. Seriously!
Ooof! Bon Chance tout le monde … Bon Chance!