The Tour de France route was announced this morning and all those looking for an Etape route, your prayers have been answered. The 2017 Etape will be tackling the Col d’Isoard.
First immortalised in grainy black and white photographs from the early days of the Tour de France, the extraordinary scenery and mystique of the Col d’Izoard is many a cyclist’s dream. The Izoard is higher, wilder and more grandiose than Alpe d’Huez and for many, it’s more breath-taking than it’s neighbours such as Galibier and Telegraphe.
Here’s your snapshot guide to the iconic Col.
1. The summit is at 2360 meters making it the fifth highest pass in the French Alps. For the Etape, it will be climbed from Briancon. The climb is 15.9 km long and you will climb 1,095m at an average of 6.9%. However do not be deceived by these numbers as there are sustained parts of over 10%.
2. A former Tour Director once described the southern ascent as “A new version of hell”. Known as the Casse Deserte it is a tree-less, baron, moon like landscape similar to the summit of Ventoux and is littered with high-rising conical rocks that tower like cathedral spires over the riders.
3. The Izoard has been used 34 times in the Tour de France. First in 1922 and most recently in 2014 where Joaquim Rodriguez was first over, adding his name to a famous list of climbers. Great names who have reached Izoard’s summit first include Gino Bartali, Jean Robic, Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx and Louison Bobet who managed it 3 times!
4. The climb to the summit has hosted some of the most famous moments in Tour history. The 16th stage of the 1975 was one of these, when the king of all, Eddie Merckx was finally deposed by Bernard Thévenet after many years of outrageous domination. Thévenet attacked Merckx three times on the early slopes of the col and finally broke away from the group including Merckx, Van Impe, Gimondi and Romero crossing the summit with 2’25” in hand. Merckx never gave up on route to Paris, but Thévenet will always be remembered for winning the Tour on the Izoard.
5. At the summit there is a small cycling museum with a memorial to the greats of the 1950’s, Fausto Coppi and Louision Bobet.