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Roads to Ride — Tour 2017

Mirko Meerwaldt Tekst Mirko Meerwaldt Gepubliceerd 29 June 2017

Presented by Maserati

Cycling has bestowed certain roads with iconic status. Be they the mythical mountain passes of the Alps or the Pyrenees, the majestic forest roads of the Vosges or the cobbled straights of the Champs-Élysées. The crafty engineers of France have provided cyclists with a wealth of stunning roads to ride (although they might not have meant them as such), and the Tour is their time to shine. This years Grand Boucle will lead the peloton – and us in its wake – once more over a number of these iconic roads, but also introduce to us new ones, or ones that as of yet lack the status of the great roads. Maserati and Soigneur present Roads to Ride, Tour de France 2017 edition.

The legend of the colorful name – board of the pretty girls – dates back to the 1630s, when Swedish mercenaries invaded the Jura during the 30-years war. The girls of the hillside village Plancher-les-Mines, fearing these occupiers, took refuge on the plateau of the mountain. However, they were betrayed, and rather than fall in the hands of the brutal Swedes, they threw themselves off the precipice into the cold black lake below.

During the 2017 Tour, the Planche takes the stage as the first uphill finish and a genuine climbing challenge. We wonder how many battles it will witness this summer.
Distance  5.8 km
Altitude   453 m
Avg            8.4 %
Max           14 %

COL DE LA BICHE (stage 9)
Adjoining the infamous legacy of the Grand Colombier, the 2017 Tour will be the inaugural edition for the Col de la Biche, which translates as ‘female deer’. From the banks of the Rhône the tarmac slings itself upward though a succession of switchbacks, offering increasingly spectacular views over the valley below with every hairpin overcome. The majesty of the Alps will stretch away in the void behind as one climbs through quiet forests to the ridge ahead. Do not be fooled by its under-par average gradient, just below the summit the road runs downhill for a bit, before a final ascent to the crest.
Distance  13.8 km
Altitude   958 m
Avg            6.8 %
Max           12 %

MONT DU CHAT (stage 9)
Known as one of the toughest climbs of France, the Mont du Chat will serve as a test for the true grimpeurs. The last time the Tour passed its summit in 1974, Poulidor attacked and rode away from Merckx on the climb. Eddy being Eddy though, he would later catch up with Pou-Pou on the descent and go on to win the Tour. Recently, another Tour-winner used this descent for tactical gains during the Dauphiné. His name was Chris Froome, and rather then catching his breath at the top of the climb to enjoy the grandstand view of Mont Blanc, he cranked up the pressure on his opponents in a descent that has indeed proven to be as tricky as the climb. The hill of the cat holds a promise of fireworks.
Distance  13.3 km
Altitude   1251 m
Avg            9.4 %
Max           12.3 %

PORT DE BALÈS (stage 12)
Up until the 1980s the path connecting the hamlets of Ferrère and Bourg-d’Oueil was not much more than a muddy lane, fit for the passing of goats, sheep and the occasional woodsman, but surely not for a peloton of cyclists. Widened in the 90s for use of logger-trucks, the lane quickly deteriorated to its former state. It was not until 2006 that the A.S.O., looking for new routes, requested it be relaid in tarmac. Since then, this arduous climb has seen its fair share of drama unfold upon the slopes. The first rider to win a stage in which the pass featured, a certain Kazach of equivocal reputation, was to be disqualified for dopage. And it was here on the Port de Balès that Andy Schleck placed his famous attack, and subsequently lost his chain and his yellow jersey to El Pistolero.
Distance  18.4 km
Altitude   1175 m
Avg            6.5 %
Max           11 %

COL D’AGNES (stage 13)
The Col d’Agnes is no stranger to the Tour-caravan. In 2017 this col features in stage 13, a 101 kilometre jaunt over no less than three cat. 1 cols. Previous leaders on the col include Robert Millar, Marco Pantani and one of France’s favourites, the ever-attacking, Sylvain Chavanel. The road winds gorgeously through leafy trees towards the rocky outcrops which mark the summit. The beginning and end of the climb mark some of the steepest parts, but to be fair, it remains quite consistently hard all the way up these picture-perfect verdant meadows.
Distance  10.2 km
Altitude   826 m
Avg            8.1 %
Max           10.6 %

MUR DE PÉGUÈRE (stage 13)
A Mur – wall – in every sense of the word, the peloton will scale these slopes right after having ridden up the Agnes. Upon the narrow strip of tarmac riders will not have much time or energy left to take in the pastoral beauty of surrounding countryside. Once a chemin for local livestock, the first part of the climb ascends quite gradually, but halfway up the gradients start pushing the double digits, with excesses up to 18%, and not dropping below 10% before the top… All will be focused on survival. In 1973, the climb up the Mur was cancelled after a protest from riders against the dangerous descent. More recently, the pass was crossed in the 2012 Tour, with Sandy Casar reaching the summit first. As a befitting note in the margins, the stage was marred by tacks thrown onto the road, causing as many as thirty riders to puncture. As if this wall wasn’t hard enough already…
Distance  9.4 km
Altitude   745 m
Avg            7.9 %
Max           18 %

COL D’IZOARD (stage 18)
In cafés and bars, in stores and workshops, everywhere cyclists gather and regale their mates with tales of their conquests, the mythical name of the Col d’Izoard will be whispered, and those in the know will nod admiringly. Destroyer of dreams, maker of heroes. The first road over the pass was constructed in 1710, and the current one was built between 1893 and 1897 by General Henry Berge, to protect France’s border with Italy. Since 1922 the majestic Izoard features in the Tour, and has seen a host of iconic names clash on its slopes. From the verdant mountain faces above Briançon, to the eroded crags above the Casse Deserte, the Izoard will continue to capture our imagination and, regardless of what will happen this Tour, ratify its place in the annals of cycling history.
Distance  15 km
Altitude   1023 m
Avg            7.3 %
Max           10 %

The second–to–last day of the 2017 Tour sees the peloton clad in skinsuits and aero helmets for the final TT. The Mediteranée will provide a fitting dramatical backdrop for the events to unfold on the winding, mostly flat, coastal roads of Marseille. Time Trial specialists will need to bring their puncheur skills though, for conquering this short but steep road up to the Basilica. Dubbed la bonne mère – the good mother— by the locals, the shrine is dedicated to Mary, who traditionally guarded all seafarers across the blue expansion before the city. But on this day, there will be a bunch of skinny, lycra-clad men offering up their prayers to her as well.
Distance  1.2 km
Altitude   114 m
Avg            9.1 %
Max           10 %