18.07 - stage 11: Pau - La Mongie 158 km -
Mountain top finish
The first big day in the mountains comes with no chance for the riders
to find their mountain legs. The stage launches into the epic Col d’Aubisque
after just 60 kilometres. This legendary climb,
first featured in the
1910 edition of the race, is steeped in
Tour history. Certainly its
average rise of 7.1 % over 17 kilometres will shake the peloton into a
completely new order - on the descent
the riders face the short ascent of
The Col de Soulor before dropping down to Bagneres de Bigorre for a
before tackling la Moigne for a mountain top finish at 1715 metres.
Circle of Death:
In 1910, the Tour included mountain passes
Pyrenees for the first time
including the introduction of the classic
climbs of the Col du Aubisque and the Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees. At
the time, tour organizers were criticized for including mountain passes that
were thought to be too difficult and would lead to a deaths amongst the
competitors. The French Press named the route through the Pyrenees the
'Circle of Death' (a.k.a. 'Circle of the Dead Men'). Since then, the most
difficult stage used in the Tour through the Pyrenees has been called the
'Circle of Death'. To see a diagram of the Aubisque and Soulor
Ironically enough it was the 1910 tour which had its first fatality -
Adolphe Hélière was electrocuted by a
jellyfish while bathing in Nice on
the rest day there and died from drowning as a result.
today's stage may well be the “Death” of the hopes of one or two
of the challengers. The first
day's climbing is often the hardest for the
cyclists - and one or two of the mountain men may well find it difficult to
adjust to the severity of the climbs and the pace. For the stage profile
Daily Peloton’s Stage Prediction
Expect the Basque and Spanish fans to be out in their thousands to cheer
their heroes on.
Indeed with the absence of the Italian climbers and Team
Coast the Spanish teams are those who can put the race leader under most
pressure - and Kelme, Euskaltel, Once, and Banesto have all shown this
season that they have riders prepared to attack - and if they want to be in
yellow in Paris it is today they must make their first assault.
Euskaltel-Euskadi with David Etxebarria
Ikorta (Spa), Gorka
Arrizabalaga Aguirre (Spa), Unai Etxebarria Arana (Ven), Igor Flores
Galarza (Spa), Gorka González Larranaga (Spa), Roberto Laiseca Jaio (Spa), Iban Mayo Diez (Spa), Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa), Haimar Zubeldia
Aguirre (Spa) should have a big day in the mountains -Iban Mayo was a
sensation in the early stage races last season. He has not raced a great
deal this season - with the Euskaltel team stating illness and lack of form
- then again they may just be saving him for the Grand Boucle - certainly
going to be an interesting day in the mountains.
“Plateau” - no nothing to do with mountains - the Plateau is the front chain
ring. “Braquet” is a gear and “Pignon” is the rear gear sprocket.
The Tour passes by one of the most famous monuments to the race
forge in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan - where Eugène Christophe became a tour
thanks to Tom James here is the
The crucial stage was stage 6, Bayonne to Luchon in the
the race overall was the 1912 winner, Odile Defraye, but he was long dropped,
and the leader on the road was Eugène Christophe. At the top of the
Tourmalet, Christiophe led by five minutes from a group containing Philippe
Thys, Lucien Petit-Breton, Gustave Garrigou and Firmin Lambot - Tour winners
of the past or future all. On the descent of the Tourmalet, however,
Christophe crashed after his forks snapped: nothing for it but to collect
the pieces and find a forge. Half running, half stumbling, cutting through
the undergrowth on occasions to cut away a bend, eventually Christophe
reached the village of Ste. Marie de Campan. Finding a forge, he lit the
fire, shaped a piece of metal and repaired his bicycle - all under the
watchful eye of Henri Desgrange, there to see he didn't cheat. When
Christophe asked a small boy present to work the bellows, Desgrange fined
him 10 minutes - despite Christophe having, by this stage, already lost
about four hours.
With Christophe gone from the final reckoning - gallantly he carried on,
to finish seventh overall in Paris - the lead was taken by Philippe Thys of
Belgium. Going into the penultimate stage his lead of over an hour looked
secure, especially when second-placed rider Lucien Petit-Breton dropped out
after a crash. But Thys was not yet home and dry; a spectacular collapse on
the road to Dunkerque saw him lose 56 minutes, and with it, most of his
lead, to Gustave Garrigou. It was a somewhat relieved Thys who reached Paris
the next day to win his first Tour.
As for the forge, it still stands, with a commemorative inscription added
by the French state - the
building is now an official monument. After
descending the Tourmalet, it can be seen on the right of the road, as you
exit the village down the Adour valley.
Repeated with thanks from Tom James'
excellent site - please visit it
today to learn more of the history of cycle racing.
Our full Tour coverage can be found on the Tour de France Main Page