According to ASO, the last time the Tour de France used a gravel road was in 1991, on stage 11 from Pau to Jaca.
Following the current trend for gravel riding, and the popularity of races that use gravel sectors, such as the one-day Strade Bianche and the Tro Bro Léon, on the 10th stage between Annecy and Le Grand-Bornand on Tuesday, the Tour organisers take the peloton to a stretch of gravel road that leads to the Plateau des Glières, some 60 kilometres in to the day's 158.5km stage.
It's a place where 121 Résistance fighters died in March 1944 during a German assault, and a massive national monument commemorates the tragic event. But stage 10 is more of a tribute to those heroes of World War II than an exercise in trying to see a rider turn the Tour upside down, as Chris Froome did on the gravel roads of the Colle delle Finestre at this year's Giro d'Italia.
The dirt section is only 1.8km long, and the stage's climbs are nothing compared to what's still to come in this year's Tour. The peloton will, however, be warmed up before the gravel sector by the 11.3km-long Col de la Croix Fry, and then the Montée du Plateau des Glières is given HC status thanks to its gradient of over 11%, along with that tricky gravel section, despite the climb only being 6km long in total.
After Sunday's cobbled stage 9 to Roubaix, the main contenders will be more than aware of how important it is to have teammates by their side in case of a puncture on the gravel. But if they get through unscathed and unhindered, they still face almost 100km to the finish line in Le Grand-Bornand, which along the way includes the successive climbs of the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombière, which also formed the last part of stage 17 at the 2009 Tour, when brothers – and teammates – Frank and Andy Schleck were able to work over race leader Alberto Contador for the elder Frank to take the stage victory.