Stage 15 in last year’s Tour de France made it plain and clear: you don’t have to go to the Alps or Pyrenees for captivating mountain stages. Jarlinson Pantano took the win ahead of Rafal Majka because he was the best descender and the finish was downhill after climbing a sheer endless series of Jura cols.
The Grand Colombier was in the roadbook twice in last year’s stage 15 and in stage 9 of the 2017 Tour de France the climb also pops up. The mountain is tackled from the toughest side, meaning grades at 22%. Col de la Biche and Mont du Chat are on the ‘Menu du Jour’, too.
The start is easy – or so it seems. Côte des Neyrolles is a 3.2 kilometres climb at 7.2%. Doable, one would argue. But after ‘cresting’ Neyrolles, at an elevation of 825 metres, there is no such thing as a descent as the climb goes on to Col de Bérentin, peaking at 1,144 metres. An average gradient of 4.25%. Still no descent but a false flat leading to the Col de Cuvery. And then, finally, the drop.
The race is 16.5 kilometres underway and that’s just the beginning. Col de la Biche makes its presence felt with around 50 kilometres done. The climb is 10.5 kilometres at 9% and comes with a surprise at the top. Following a short decent the road goes up again for 1 kilometre at 3.5%.
The Grand Colombier is tackled on the steep west side: 8.5 kilometres at 9.9% with almost halfway a steepest stretch at 22%. The first half of the climb is hardest, while the average grade biased by 1 kilometre at 3.4%.
After the Grand Colombier there should be time for a breather – yet, you’ll never know how the race unfolds. One thing is certain, the Colombier is crested after 92 kilometres of racing and 50 kilometres the riders arrive at the foot of the Mont du Chat, a super-steep monster not on the Tour map since 1974 when Raymond Poulidor dropped Eddy Merckx on the slopes.
Mont du Chat is synonymous with 8.7 kilometres of suffering. The average gradient is 10.3%, while kilometres 5 to 8 are steepest. The last kilometre is going up at 9.5%.
The summit lies at an elevation of 1,504 metres and then the riders dive down the slopes. In the valley they fly over a small hill to the final (flat) kilometres.
The first three riders on the line take time bonuses at 10, 6 and 4 seconds.
Tour de France 2017 stage 9: Route maps and more
Click on the images to zoom.
Virieu le Petit – Grand Colombier at Strava
Tour de France Tweets