Stage 17: Grenoble - Méribel Col de la Loze
Date: September 16, 2020
Stage start: 12:15 p.m. CEST
Stage type: Mountain
Stage 17 is a midweek matinee for the Queen Stage, and the hardest summit finish of the race. The intense stage from Grenoble to Méribel includes a finish on the newly built cyclist's road to the 2,304m high Col de la Loze, becoming the seventh highest pass in France.
A lot of the focus is on the spectacular Col de la Madeleine, which rises to 2000m, even though the Michelin map shows it topping out at 1,993m. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the second climb of stage 17 is a bona fide 2,000er. The Col de la Loze is a brand new addition for the race in 2020, and has only recently been tarmacked at all. It’s long, at 21.5km, and the average gradient is 7.8 per cent. That average of elevation gain disguises the true nature of the climb. The first 17km mainly stay at a steady six-to-eight per cent from Brides-les-Bains to the ski station at Méribel and a little beyond. But the final 4km rear up with sections of 20 per cent above 2,000m altitude.
For all that the opening two weeks of the 2020 Tour are full of small pitfalls and traps, this climb will be nothing other than a test of physical grunt. There’ll be little tactical nuance - any rider that doesn’t just ride as hard as possible to the top is doing it wrong.
This is an Egan Bernal climb. The Colombian was good, but not great, through the first two weeks of the 2019 Tour. But that might partially have been a function of the terrain. He said he’d tried to follow Julian Alaphilippe when he attacked at Épernay on stage 3, but that he simply couldn’t. A 60-second burst of high power is more Alaphilippe’s thing than Bernal’s. But on the 40-minute-plus climbs at high altitude in the Alps, Bernal came into his own.
It’s going to be easy for riders to get excited at the first 16 stages in 2020. The Col de la Loze stands like a 2,304m-tall warning on stage 17 that the Tour is first and foremost a test of strength, endurance and patience.
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