The tour visits the Galibier today. it’s a staggeringly high mountain to ride up. approached from bourg d’oisans, it’s a steady 40km climb, taking in the col de lautaret before the final ascent. from the other side it’s possibly even more difficult. i went there two summers ago, and am returning in about 6 weeks time. the weather at the top can be capricious, even in the heat of summer, as marco pantani found out when he struggled to put on a rain jacket prior to descending. traditionally, riders would grab a newspaper and stick this down the front of the jersey to ward off the icy wind – it was great to see voeckler do this trick last week.

it’s one of the more famous excerpts of tour footage, stephen roche is positively aghast at pantani’s antics. i think, although i may be wrong, that pantani was using a 39:42 front double for nearly all of this tour. incidentally, his time on plateau de beille was a full three minutes faster than the peloton managed this year, which suggests either cyclists have got slower, despite technological gains, or something else may be occuring. ascent times for alpe d’huez are interesting in this respect, and it may be worth comparing pantani’s record with times tomorrow. i rode up it 57 minutes, which is 20 minutes slower for the 21 hairpins. i wasn’t going that deep though, the main thing was not to blow up and to make it to the top. cols like the galibier and the alp have a latent sense of menace and the capacity to destroy those who misjudge their efforts.

the route profile gives me the jitters. it’s terrifying.

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