TOUR’15 St.18: Montvernier Roadside!
Roadside Stage 18: Two days in the Alps down and two to go and, as can be expected, Ed and Callum had to go against the power of the law to sneak onto the Lacets de Montvernier climb to bring you exclusive photos. A crazy climb on a crazy day at the Tour de France. PEZ Roadside:
‘Non!’ says the gendarme; we’ve overshot the Lacets de Montvernier exit and ended up en route to the stage finish in Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne – but we have to get back to the Lacets; it’s what the day is all about, the first time the wonderful hairpins have featured in Le Tour and we’re trying to navigate back to the turn off.
We plead with the cop but it falls on deaf ears; ‘non !’
‘Okay! Okay!’ we have to go all the way through the finish line evacuation, through the car park, get free of the race caravan parking – and by persistence and luck we get back to where we need to be. We already know that only team and official Tour de France cars are allowed up and we’ll have to forced march in – but what we didn’t know is that it’s closed to the public. The police have it locked down tight, there’s just us, one other photog. and three or four dudes who have holed up in the woods, Special Forces style – maybe they’ve been there since the route was announced last November ?
It’s strange with no crowd but we’re not complaining. We can hear the fans at the base of the climb and see the cars, tiny in the valley below.
And there he is!
Bardet, ‘en seule,’ we’d heard he’d attacked the big break of the Glandon and dropped off the summit like a depth charge a la his Dauphine stage win.
He still looks full of riding and his lines are good. It’s 40 seconds before the chasers appear; Jungels, a Europcar, Rolland and a Movistar. Then, to use a Robert Millar-ism, ‘the animals come in two by two’ – survivors of the big break.
Ryder Hesjedal is there, again, Daniel Oss and Tommy Voeckler – there was a time when days like this were made for him.
Then it’s ‘Froome time,’ not too far off the leaders and as ASO would say later, in the press release; ‘Chris Froome was never put in difficulty and kept the yellow jersey with two Alpine stages left.’
Quintana was there, Valverde, Contador and all the top ten guys.
More dribs and drabs, then the peloton, we see them ride into the bottom of the climb then amble into the second hairpin, lots of chat and zero sense of urgency.
There’s more ones and twos, then much later that same afternoon, the gruppo – huge, bigger than the peloton. No chat, just strained, worried faces tapping out the best rhythm they can through the hair pins.
Cav and his Legionnaires are well to the fore and stone last is F des J fast man. Race radio tells us Bardet has 28 seconds at the red kite – he wins. We always like a French winner. But there was more to Thursday than the Lacets . . . “After the abandonment of van Garderen and the crash of Contador, Froome doesn’t have more than one opponent: Quintana.” So says L’Equipe today and they’ve summed it up in one.
And if you were Movistar, with second and third podium spots, would you risk them? Me neither.
If Quintana comes out of this Tour with a podium and the white jersey – and team mate Valverde in third spot, it’s no shame to him or his team. The Colombian is still young and has plenty of time to win Le Tour to add to his Giro success.
We’re en route Gap and the stage start; we’re going to drive the parcours and check out the Lacets be Montvernier hairpins?
The depart is as crazy as usual; there’s free bread and coffee on offer and plenty of stars to spot.
Thibaut Pinot is a favourite, tall, handsome, dashing and whilst he was unlucky to crash yesterday he could yet win a stage and salvage his honour. Over at Europcar there are signs of low morale, instead of the bikes being lined up with a laser level and perfectly symmetrical they’re in, ‘only four days to go boys formation.’
We have a mission to take pictures of the American Classic wheels over at Bretagne Seche – Callum likes the new Looks with their stems flowing into the top tubes; I’m not so sure.
But their new ‘Star Wars’ chainset looks the biz. An innovative company and still the track bike of choice for so many of the world’s top ‘pistards.’ We spot Cav headed for the start; ‘all right Mark? Stupid question, really; three x cat. 3 climbs: three x cat. 2 climbs and an HC – that’s certainly not to Cav’s taste.
The start is Savage, climbing straight out the blocks; the riders have been up it before on Monday’s stage but then forked off to tackle the Manse, this one, the Col Bayard is a Cat. 2 and it’s a swine. The descent is fast, non technical and will see some desperate measures in play, no doubt – it’s long, it should come back together.
The views are spectacular; France is a beautiful country. The second climb of the day is a nippy little Cat. 3, the Ramp du Motty.
The sky is greying over – rain on the Glandon?
The roads roll into the third climb of the day, the Cat. 3 Cote de la Mure – it goes without saying that it’s horrible and cruelly, the GPM isn’t the top, it grinds on for another couple of K through the town. Then it’s the Col de Malissola, another Cat. 3 with a descent off it like dropping down a mine shaft then tricky through the village at the bottom. It’s certainly a day for the breakaway.
La Morte, Cat. 2 this is one tough old day . . .
The top but there’s no respite, straight into a fast, technical descent where you can’t take your eye of the ball for an instant – it drops for ever. The valley floor, at last, flat, fast, windy . . .
“21.7 K to the summit” says the sign at the foot of the Glandon, just what you want to see when you’re on the limit, have double vision and were just about hanging on along the valley . . .
It’s a scenic horror, steep from the off; if there’s a saving grace it’s that early it’s through the trees so there’s shade from the sun. Close to mid-climb it eases and even drops a little before kicking in, again.
The scenery becomes ever more stunning.
We love the Glandon, it’s such a happy climb – smiles, waves, shouts and even the ‘crazies’ are good fun.
After the lac it drops again before, with a K or two to go, it kicks for the top; there’s a strong cross wind as the Nissan balks again at the grade. The descent is endless and technical before the joy of some flat valley floor – until the Lacets. But you already know about them – oh! and we collected ten nice new team bidons on the way down.
The Croix Fer tomorrow, hope you can join us…
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.