After a flat stage on Sunday and a rest day on Monday, the Tour de France has finally started climbing the mountains.
On Thursday, the peloton will tackle the high mountain passes of the Agnel before battling it out on the summits of the Galibier as the town celebrates its 100th anniversary of being part of the race.
Bernard Thévenet: ‘‘Le Galibier is a legendary mountain pass which all the riders fear because it’s so long and strenuous’‘.
To mark a century of riding through the Alps, organisers have set this year’s deciding stages among some of its most iconic peaks.
The Col du Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911. The first cyclist over the summit was France’s Emile Georget, who, with fellow countrymen Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou were the only riders not to dismount and walk.
Bernard Thévenet: ‘‘For the first race, in 1911 to be more precise, it was absolutely awful. It was a footpath rather than a road. People used to use it to go to work in the fields. It was just stones and mud at the time. Most of the riders had to dismount and climb a good part of it on foot.’‘
On Friday, the teams will tackle the Galibier yet again before climbing a gruelling 14 kilometres to the summit of Alpe d’Huez at an altitude of 1,850 metres.
Bernard Thévenet: “I don’t think that anyone who doesn’t do well on the first climb will be able to make up ground the next day. The Galibier is very difficult and very long so you have to be able to pace yourself. You really have to manage your efforts because the last kilometres are very difficult, both at the arrival on Thursday as well as the stage on Friday.”
Some of the highest peaks in the Alps have been subject to snow in recent days, prompting fears that some stages may have to be changed.
With the race set to be decided in the next few days, organisers told journalists they would be keeping a close watch on weather conditions.