L’étape colossale

One hundred years after the Tour de France first ventured into the Pyrenees, the 2010 parcours will pay homage to the 1910 Tour’s queen stage, l’étape colossale, as L’Auto called it at the time.

The media are billing next year as the showdown between the returning champion, Alberto Contador, and the former seven-time winner on the second year of his comeback, Lance Armstrong.

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L’Equipe’s take on next year’s race.

Gone, it would seem, from the pages of L’Equipe, is the old mistrust of Armstrong – Le Mensonge Armstrong – in favour of the Tour as ‘a battlefield’ between the old champion and his former teammate on his ascendency.

We now have some eight months to wait before the war is started. The edition of the Tour that next year’s is celebrating was announced just a few months before the race started, in April of 1910. Regular readers of this blog will recall that the Tour’s original grimpeurs and the 1910 foray into the Pyrenees was covered extensively in an earlier post.

In 2010, the queen stage in the mountains will cover four of the five peaks that the stage in 1910 covered: Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet, and the Aubisque, for a total of 196 kilometres between Bagnères-de-Luchon and Pau.

The 1910 edition added the relatively minor climb of the Osquich, but the stage was 326 kilometres into Bayonne. It took the winner, Octave Lapize, 14 hours and 10 minutes. It was not even the longest stage of that year’s Tour, which was 424 kilometres from Brest to Caen, the penultimate stage. Even the final run into Paris was 262 kilometres, but the Tour was indeed very different one-hundred years ago!

The Tourmalet will be climbed twice in 2010 as the race will return there for a stage finish. It will be a grand affair, even if not the battlefield that L’Equipe is hoping for, and a fitting tribute to the legacy of Alphonse Steines.

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L’Auto’s original race announcement.