The Pyrenees

Do you remember the Tour of 2009?
You remember the 9th stage?
The stage with the Tourmalet and the Aspin.
Didn’t that stage almost end up in a sprint?
Almost.
What a failure it would have been if it did.
So the Tour of 2009 through the Pyrenees wasn’t that exciting.
You can say it was quite boring.
In the Tour de France of 2010 it’s a lot different.
As if the organisation thought in 2009:
Be glad the Pyrenees aren’t that hard, ‘cause next year…
Next year is now.
It’s exactly 100 years ago that the Pyrenees were introduced in the Tour.
Including the Col du Tourmalet and the Ausbisque.
Did the riders already curse the organisation then,
they certainly will now.
The 16th stage is an exact copy of a Pyrenees stage in 1910.
On 21 July 1910 the riders also had to climb the Peyresoude, the Aspin,
the Tourmalet and the Ausbisque (and three more mountains!).
The stage was 326 kilometres long.
The roads unpaved.
Octave Lapize, a French rider, won the stage.
At the top of the Aubisque he was 15 minutes behind the leader Lafourçade,
but in the descent he went down as a manic
and even won the stage and that year’s Tour de France.
However, most people remember Lapize as the man
who yelled at the organisation:
‘Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!’
He yelled that they were murderers.
Yes. Murderers.

Lapize on the climb of The Tourmalet in the Tour of 1910.

There are many more stories about the Pyrenees.
Eddy Merkcx did a solo through the Pyrenees
for about 140 kilometres in 1969.
And who hasn’t heard of the fall of Wim van Est
in 1951 on the Col d’Aubisque?
The day before he had won the stage and moved up to the first place overall.
Less then 24 hours later he fell in a 70 metres
deep ravine in the descent of the Aubisque.
Miraculously, he had no serious injuries.
Helped by a chain of tyres and several people he got back on the road.
As every rider after a crash, van Est wanted to continue the race.
He was forced to go to the hospital though, so his Tour was over.
That year he had the chance to win the Tour de France,
after that he never got close again.
The Pyrenees.
They can make you or break you.
You end up in a bus or you cross the finish with your arms in the air.
You give up in the Pyrenees or you can win the Tour in the Pyrenees.
The Pyrenees are mysterious, with small roads and deep ravines.
It’s simple: you either love them or hate them.

Wim van Est tries to climb out of the deep ravine.

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