2013 Tour de France - A Quick Mountains Preview

Mont Ventoux - Will

No more dope talk - at least not today please. ASO has just unveiled the 2013 Tour de France route. And in keeping with the 100th Tour celebrations, there will be plenty of climbing.

Please use the comments to give your opinions on any aspect of the 2013 route. And don't forget to vote in the poll for the Queen stage.

Below I am going to quickly glance at the 6 mountain stages.

Ranking Methodolgy

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To rank the stages I will be using a difficulty index from www.climbbybike.com that we have used previously the questionable wisdom of my legs.

My Legs: "Let's get started!"

The Hardest Stage?

This is debatable (and please debate)! But the three Alps stages (18, 19, and 20) are all superb. Let's ask the legs:

Stage #18 - Alpe d'Huez

(Difficulty: 5 Legs)

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Will's Leg's: "Yawn, only twice?"

Will: For all those complaining about the Alpe being climbed twice, remember that for the fans on the side of the road it will be complete bedlam twice the fun. The mountain is already famous for being the largest toilet in France the night before over-run on Tour day.

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After an initial ascent of the famous route up Alpe d'Huez, there is some downhill and a couple of steepish kms to arrive at Col de Sarenne @ 1989 metres.

But the fun part is the jaw dropping descent down the other side of Sarenne. Steep, remote, hairpins. This will be hair-raising and tricky. It's roughly 27 kilometres of descent and then a second ride up.

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It is easy to be cynical about another Alpe d'Huez appearance -- there are better climbs in the immediate vicinity, but let's not go overboard. It will be a special stage.

Will's Legs: "Yeah, there are harder climbs in the Tour, but twice up the Alpe to end a stage?"

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Here's what you probably won't see on Tour day (bottom of sign):

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Stage #20 - Le Semnoz

(Difficulty: 4 Legs)

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Will's Legs: "Le Semnoz? Never liked this climb. It just keeps getting harder, through never-ending woods, called a boring grind by @friebos. And an uphill finish seems unfair, all that work and no chance to nap during the descent?"

Will: You don't like it because it's hard! Beers at the top!

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Le Semnoz is the biggest climb near beautiful Lake Annecy. Let's get the nomenclature correct: Le Semnoz is the big massif on the west side of the lake, Crêt de Châtillon is the name of the summit: cow pastures in summer and a small ski station in winter.

There are multiple routes up this great mountain. The Tour will take the hardest north side, starting on a little road from the west. Edit: I believe this is its 1st Tour appearance. Its only previous appearance in 1998 was neutralized due to a rider protest during the Festina affair.

For movie buffs, along with Ventoux and Izoard, Le Semnoz featured in my favourite cycling film "Le Velo de Ghislain Lambert." It is also on the list of big climbs completed by Podium Cafe's favourite son Jens:

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A very bumpy stage that will also be the Etape du Tour, it will also climb Mont Revard (4th appearance and probably a Cat 1), Col des Prés, and a scenic backroad to Col de Leschaux (Jens!):

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Stage #19 - Le Grand Bornand

Difficulty: 5 Legs

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Will's Legs: "Gasp. I don't even need to see the second half of the stage. Five hairy legs!"

Will: Yes, Madeleine, (and Ventoux) are the two toughest climbs in the 2013 Tour. And Col du Glandon isn't far behind.

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This may not be a summit finish, but this stage is awesome. Trust me. On TV, we'll probably miss the two Hors-categorie climbs at the start, missing the beautiful Lac de Grand Maison half way up to Glandon, and the brutal south side of Madeleine.

Note, the first climb is really the route to Col de la Croix de Fer, but 2.5 kms before the summit there is a left turn and a couple of hundred metres to Glandon.

Still, the final three climbs are also fun. Tamié passes the lovely Abbay de Tamié and its cheese. Epine I always call half of a beautiful huge climb, just a touch short.

The last time the Tour finished a stage to Le Grand Bornand via Col de la Croix Fry? In 2004, this was the famous stage where Lance, Jan, Floyd, and Klodie descended and HWMNBN tried to request the stage be gifted to Landis, but The Germans declined to play along. Armstrong would beat Kloden by inches to win.

Col de la Croix Fry is my favourite winter climb near me:

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Stage #15 - Ventoux

Difficulty: 4 Legs

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Will Legs: "I give Ventoux my hardest rating: 5 legs, ouch. But just four legs for the stage. I prefer to cycle Ventoux while unshaved to protect myself against the awful wind."

Will: Note, they are climbing the famous Bédoin side. This is the hardest climb in the 2013 Tour.

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Ventoux would have been a better choice for multiple ascents, given there are two fabulous sides (plus a third easier side) up the Géant en Provence. But this Bastille Day stage will be unmissable.

Cadel and Alberto climbed a Ventoux summit finish together during the 2009 Dauphiné (Valverde gifted the stage to a vomiting Szmyd).

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Don't let the average grade fool you, the first 6 kilometres are dead easy, but the moment the road turn up into the forest, it is nasty steep. With 6 kilometres to go, the route leaves the forest and enters the unique, barren, lunar slopes. It is less steep here, but the wind may make all the difference. It's often ferocious, especially coming over Col des Tempêtes (storm pass) near the summit.

The last half kilometre is steep:

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Near the summit is the Tom Simpson memorial. A poignant reminder that "doping" isn't just cheating, it is dangerous.

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Stage #9 - Bagnères-de-Bigorre

(Difficulty: 4 Legs)

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Will's Legs: "Oooooh. I like. Can we go at a slow pace and enjoy the views? Please?"

Will: This is the territory where we usually see Aspin-Tourmalet-Aubisque. But not this year. Shock. Frankly, it's refreshing to visit the Pyrenées and finally skip those (admittedly great) climbs.

This is a fantastic ride for a cyclotourist. Scenic, quiet roads. But this is also a HUGE stage. Possibly spoiled by the long downhill finish. But I think it may be hard enough for some excitement.

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Portet-dÂspet is steep and of course where Fabio Casartelli tragically was killed in a crash - photo of the monument. Col de Menté, and Peyresourde are both proper climbs. I am slightly bitter that Col d'Azet was renamed Col de Val Louron-Azet for ski-station marketing reasons, but the local residents are friendly (below), and Hourquette d'Ancizan is a wonderful alternate route to Col d'Aspin. Lovely .... and tough.

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Stage #8 AX-3 Domaine - Andorra

(Difficulty: 3 Legs)

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Will's Legs: "You never take me anywhere. Looks fun enough."

Will: Maybe we'll go for your birthday. Edit: Not in Andorra. AX-3 is a ski area near the Andorra/Spain border .... but it is fully in France. Sorry.

This seems the easiest of the six mountain stages, but the uphill finish gives it the potential for fireworks. Col de Pailhères is high on my list of hope-to-climb hills. Anyone have first hand experience? PS - Prudhomme misspoke when he said the 2013 tour was entirely in France. oops I am wrong

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Other Stuff:

The Tour is of course more than just mountain stages.

A few other highlights:

  1. Three stages in beautiful (and bumpy) Corsica to start the Race. Napoleon ftw.
  2. A Team Time Trial in Nice
  3. A visit to Mont St-Michel
  4. A bumpy ITT near Embrun
  5. A night time finish in Paris

Final Thoughts:

Will's Legs: I give the route four happy legs.

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This is not the brutal mountain-fest that some feared expected for the Tour's 100th edition. But it is harder than 2012 and certainly has the potential for some (dare I say) epic battles. Your thoughts?

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