Well, after slowly building this map up, I have to say that this stage is absolute, pure, unadulterated insanity. It is either going up, or going down, there is no flat. When it's going up, it goes up like a Seraph, if it's going down, it's descending into chaos. There is no part of this stage that doesn't beg hyperbole... mad, crazy, leg breaking, soul crushing, horrifying, mortifying, you name your poison.
(All Videos Added.)
In this instance, the peloton is Mothra and the Alps are Godzilla. They will be locked in furious battle with all of us standing in magnificent awe of the struggle of the Unstoppable Force against the Immovable object; the Alps rising before the pack with a jagged spine and a maw of electric menace, the pack flying up the climbs as though divine. Enough with creative writing 101, let's get it on...
For reference, purple lines are flat or rolling, red is an ascent, green is a descent.We start in the familiar city of Embrun, the very same city that we started stage 15 in, however now we will continue north to the Col du Galibier, instead of bending east to head to Col Agnel and Italy beyond.
Rolling out of Embrun up a nice wide valley to Saint-Clément-sur-Durance and then Saint-Crépin (which I continually misread as "Saint Cretin").
Mind you, all this terrain is a false flat, undulating at best and you can already see, in the not so distant distance, the red marking the beginning of our first climb, the Cat.3 Côte de Sainte Marguerite.
Once over the Côte de Sainte Marguerite, the road will take them to Queyrières and then to Briançon where we dispense with this piddly Cat.3 crap and take a mainline quintuple espresso shot of HC categorization... the Col du Galibier. Tale of the tape tells us that the Galibier is 20.9 km long with an average gradient of 5.6%.
"We wouldn't want to leave Thor and Oscar with nothing to do today", thought Christiane Prudhomme, so in a fit of insanity suitable for Dr. Weird, he put an intermediate sprint right smack dab in the middle of the ascent.
You're up to your almonds in it now boy, because the Col du Galibier is in sight.
Well, that's one Cat.HC climb done for the day... two more to go. Let's see if we can get the entire peloton there in one piece without someone Perieroing across a switchback. Only Lance can do that successfully.
Down the green line into Valloire, where, the pack will ascend again briefly to an old friend, the Col du Télégraphe, unrated in this direction... can you imagine climbing up from Sain Martin d'Arc though?
Now it's time do the Txurruka Two Step: grab your musette, eat your food, and avoid getting the dude's musette in front of you in your wheel. Suck that gel down fast though (or banana if you're feeling Contadorish)... I see a red line in your future...
It's time for Round 2 of this Alpine slugfest with the Croix de la Fer (Foux de Fa Fa)
This Cat.HC climb is 29.0 km in length with an average gradient of 5.2 %. It likes Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
Don't be fooled by that purple line. The only flat section between here and L'Alpe d'Huez is 11km long. That's all.
Looks like someone dropped a bunch of pavement spaghetti on a hanging valley in the alps and then decided "what the hell, let's make some dumb poor bastard ride a bike up it... better yet... let's make 200 dumb poor bastards ride up it". Personally, I blame Christo.
L'Alpe d'Huez... no words necessary beyond 13.8km 7.9% average.
And that's it baby... one Cat.3 and 3 x Cat.HC. After the way this tour has gone, I'd say we still have a good chance of not having any sort of definite clue as to who is gonna put this thing in the bag in Paris.
Behold... the video for L'Alpe d'Huez. Here is a link to the page on YouTube where, in a few hours, the high quality version should be on offer. Trust me, it was worth the wait!
The video for both Col du Galibier and the Col de la Foux de Fa Fa. Here is the direct link to the page for High Quality when that becomes available. It's still processing at YouTube, but I wanna go to bed so I can actually survive tomorrow's 3:30AM start. If it isn't working, check back in around 10PM PST and it'll probably be working by then.