Feared Pyrenean climb honoured with two ascents at 2010 Tour
Scaled twice in this year's Tour de France, the legendary Col du Tourmalet climb has been part of the race since 1910 when it was first introduced in stage 10 by race director Henri Desgrange as the capstone to what would be referred to as the "Circle of Death": the Pyrenean foursome of the Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and the Col d'Aubisque.
Fifty-nine brave souls set out that July 21st morning to tackle the monstrous stage and the Col du Tourmalet's mystique was born. Following are 30 facts about the iconic Col du Tourmalet's role in Tours past. Here's hoping another 100 years are in store for the mythical mountain.
1 The Col du Tourmalet made its first appearance in 1910 and celebrates its 100th anniversary as part of the Tour de France in 2010.
2 Octave Lapize was the first rider to cross the Col du Tourmalet in the 1910 Tour de France, having to walk much of the dirt road ascent. Lapize would win the stage and later the overall GC, the Frenchman's only Tour de France triumph.
3 Lapize is noted for calling Tour officials "assassins" during the stage after tackling the Tourmalet.
4 That first stage to use the Tourmalet, in 1910, was 326km long and also climbed the Peyresourde (1,569m), the Aspin (1,489m), the Aubisque (1,709m) and the Osquich (390m). Incredibly, that stage was not the longest of the Tour in 1910. The 14th stage from Brest to Caen stretched an unbelievable 424km and was also won by Lapize in 14 hours and 38 minutes.
It's man vs. the mountain on the Col du Tourmalet in the 1930 Tour de France. Photo: AFP
5 The 2010 Tour de France's stage 17 is only the second time in Tour history that the Col du Tourmalet hosts a summit finish.
6 La Mongie, situated 4.5km below the Col du Tourmalet summit on the east side, has hosted three stage finishes.
7 Two statues are situated at the Col du Tourmalet summit: a Jacques Goddet memorial and the Geant de Tourmalet.
8 At 2,115m, the Col du Tourmalet is the highest point of the 2010 Tour de France.
9 While the 2010 Tour de France utilizes the Col du Tourmalet on two separate stages, it's not the first time the Tourmalet has been used twice in a single Tour. The Col du Tourmalet was also used twice in both the 1970 and 1974 Tours.
10 The Col du Tourmalet is the most utilized of any peak in the Tour with 73 appearances thus far.
11 The last rider to crest the Col du Tourmalet first and win the Tour the same year was Eddy Merckx in 1969.
Eddy Merckx won the Tour in 1969. Photo: AFP
12 Lance Armstrong won at La Mongie in 2002 as part of his overall victory, but the race didn't go all the way to the Tourmalet summit.
13 Lance Armstrong won stage 15 in 2003, covering 159.5km from Bagneres de Bigorre to Luz Ardiden, which crossed the Col du Tourmalet. This stage was famous for Armstrong crashing on the finishing climb to Luz Ardiden when he was taken down by a spectator, but remounted to win the stage.
14 The Souvenir Jacques Goddet prime is awarded for the first rider to cross the Col du Tourmalet summit. This prime will be awarded on stage 16.
15 The Souvenir Henri Degranges prime is awarded for the first rider to cross the Tour de France's highest summit. This year the Tourmalet is the highest peak the peloton crosses and the prime will be issued on the second ascent for the summit finish of stage 17.
16 Stage 17 will approach the Col du Tourmalet from the western side. The ascent, from Luz-Saint-Sauveur, is 18.6km long, climbing 1,404m at an average of 7.4 percent with a maximum of 10.2 near the summit.
17 Stage 16 will approach the Col du Tourmalet summit from the eastern side. The ascent, from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, is 17.1 km, gaining 1,268m, an average 7.3 percent with a maximum of 10 percent.
18 In 1913, Eugène Christophe's best chance to win the TdF was dashed when he broke his fork on the descent of the Tourmalet. He was leading the race by approximately 18 minutes overall when the incident occurred, but lost several hours while he walked down the slope until he found a forge in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan where he had to fix his fork himself due to rules about not receiving assistance. Christophe eventually finished seventh overall that year.
19 The Col du Tourmalet's last appearance was in 2009 when Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) led breakaway companion Pierrick Fedrigo (BBOX Bouygues Telecom) over the summit. The duo would stay away through to the finish of the stage where Fedrigo would outsprint Pellizotti for the stage win.
Franco Pellizotti leads Pierrick Fedrigo up the Col du Tourmalet in the 2009 Tour de France. Photo: Sirotti
20 Spain's Federico Bahamontes, "The Eagle of Toledo", has crossed the Col du Tourmalet first during the Tour de France on four separate occasions, the most of any professional.
21 The Col du Tourmalet is the highest road in the central Pyrenees.
22 France's Jean-Pierre Danguillaume won the only previous Col du Tourmalet summit finish in 1974: the 119km, 17th stage starting in St Lary Soulan. He soloed to victory in 3:58:44, besting runner-up Raymond Poulidor by 2:26.
23 Jean-Pierre Danguillaume won back-to-back Tour stages in 1974, outsprinting three breakaway companions the next day. Stage 18 also crossed the Col du Tourmalet, although Spain's Gonzalo Aja crested the summit first. Aja finished the day in 18th, 4:49 down on Danguillaume, and the Spaniard finished in 5th overall, 11:24 behind Eddy Merckx.
24 The 2010 Tour de France's stage 16 is a tribute to Eddy Merckx's spectacular solo victory in 1969's stage 17, in which he soloed for approximately 120km to win the stage by nearly eight minutes. The 2010 route is nearly identical to the roads Merckx flattened 41 years ago and takes in the same four climbs in sequence: Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque.
25 The Col du Tourmalet was part of the 1922 Tour de France route, but snow prevented the peloton from utilizing the climb.
26 The last rider to crest the Col du Tourmalet first and win the stage was Frenchman Richard Virenque in the 15th stage of the 1995 Tour de France. While Virenque led over each of the stage's six categorised climbs on a dramatic solo victory, the stage will forever be remembered as the day Fabio Casartelli died from a crash on the descent of the Portet d'Aspet.
27 Robert Millar is the only British rider to reach the Col du Tourmalet first in a Tour de France stage, achieving the feat in stage 10 of the 1989 Tour de France. Millar went on to win the stage, outsprinting Spain's Pedro Delgado, to claim his third and final career Tour de France stage victory.
28 1989 was a case of déjà vu for Millar, who also bested Pedro Delgado in the 10th stage of the 1983 Tour de France, a 201km trek through the Pyrenees ascending the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde in which Millar won his first Tour stage. Millar was beaten to the Tourmalet summit by Colombia's Patrocino Jimenez, however, the only time a Colombian has reached the Col du Tourmalet summit first in a Tour stage.
29 In 1952, the legendary Fausto Coppi crested the Col du Tourmalet first in stage 18 of the Tour de France en route to victory in Pau and his second and final overall Tour de France win.
30 Italy's Ottavio Bottecchia wore the Tour's yellow jersey from start-to-finish in 1924, claiming overall victory by 35:36 over Luxembourg's Nicolas Frantz. A significant portion of Bottechia's overall lead was achieved on his amazing solo victory during the 326km long sixth stage. Bottecchia led over each of the day's climbs, the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde on his way to a massive 18:58 victory over stage runner-up Lucien Buysse.
The view from the top of the Col du Tourmalet. Photo: Jonathan Devich
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