" If I had to choose ONE stage"
An impossible choice really, but if I only had one day to ride on each event.....
Short explanations of a difficult choice
Appennini : Stage 5 Sarnano - Popoli 236 km / 4600m
The longest stage, the longest climb, the most spectacular scenery. When I first discovered this region, every day was full of surprises and smiles. But it was only when I drove this stage that I realised the full potential of this area to astound and impress it’s visitors. The Gran Sasso massif is one of Italy’s true gems. I shouldn’t say any more. But I do have to mention that this was the stage,in 2017, when one rider thought he has actually died and had seen paradise : now that really is all about Pain & Glory. He cried with emotion that evening. Another rider refused to take a possible short-cut near the end : he wanted that day on the bike to go on forever !
Northern Alps Stage 8 : The Alpe d’Huez Loop 207km / 6,100m
Despite an attraction to the ‘roads less ridden’, this loop stage ( a CCC version of “La Marmotte”), is a real treat every time I ride it. So many of these climbs were part of how I “discovered” the mountains on a bike : the scale and the beauty of climbs like the Glandon (and the Croix de Fer), the Mighty Galibier, the Mollard, and even the Alpe d’Huez, espceially when climbed via the Col de Sarennne, can never loose any of their eternal diginity and power. I had to include something different for a CCC-style stage, and the loop north of St Michel de Maurienne, with it’s views across to the more popular side of this busy, ugly valley hits the spot perfectly. There are so many stages in this event that I could have chosen, but for once I wanted to pay hommage to the Real Giants!
Dolomites Stage 4 :Tolmezzo - Misurina 174km/5700m
This, the “Zoncolan stage” has evolved quite a bit since I first designed it, initially due to road closures. When part of our original route was closed, meaning that we ‘lost’ a col and quite a few kms, a mean flash of inspiration crossed my mind : we could squeeze the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in at the end of the stage, just before descending down to Cortina d’Ampezzo! Some riders in the group knew what this legend was like….they sighed. But at the end of the stage, many agreed that they would rarely have a day like that on the bike. And so the “Bookend Stage” was ‘approved for future use’. The Monte Zoncolan is, of course, as hard as you read about it. It’s probably a good thing that it comes early in the stage though. In between these two giants, we enjoy steadier climbs and are treated to many truly wonderful vistas of this exceptional region. A new hotel for us this year right by the Lago Misurina should be the ultimate way to end such a special day for us!
West Pyrenees Stage 9 : Jaca - Borguete
202 KM / 5,350 M
An interesting journey, starting and ending in Spain, and passing through such a contrast of scenery : from the almost Alpine grandeur of the Col de Somport, which brings us back into France, we are soon lost in a maze of narrow, wooded roads that will eventually take us up to the Col de Soudet. This climb, and it’s ‘bigger brother’, the Pierre St. Martin perched a little higher, define so well what is so special about the Pyrenees. On a good day the views are incredible. After a short respite through a narrow valley, we then have to tackle the infamous Bagargui. Yes, it’s tough but it’s also so beautiful if you can find the right mindset to see that ! The ‘Chalets d’Iraty’ plateau follows before we head back into pure Basque country with more of that open, high pastureland which makes for such good riding, unless the wind is having a bad day! After the steepest descent of the whole event we are treated to a much steadier Spanish climb to finish the stage, following one of the most popular passages for pilgrims on the St Jacques de Compostelle route.