Tour de France, col de la Bonette RestefondTour De France La Bonette Restefond Ad04 Théo Giacometti
©Tour de France, col de la Bonette Restefond | AD04 / Théo Giacometti

Tour de France anecdotes

Whether you’re in front of your TV on summer afternoons, with your neighbour or a good fan at the roadside to acclaim the cyclists, the Tour de France and its mythical cols leave no-one indifferent. Heroic breakaways, a remontada a few kilometres from the finish and even the final sprint… Let’s take a look back at some memories of the Tour de France in the Alps!

The Alps and their cols, a cycler’s paradise

A rendez-vous for the stars of cycling

Since its creation in 1903, the cycling tour is characterised by its mountain stages and the epic exploits of racers who have become legends of the Tour de France. Among the mythical cols in the Alpine ranges, the Col de la Bonette, the highest col in Europe, and the Col de Turini are the most impressive. Both have been used 4 times in the history of this race. The Col de Turini was on the programme of the 2020 edition of the Tour de France. During stage 2, from Nice, the racing cyclists tackled the Col de la Colmiane and the Col de Turini, a total elevation of 3,700 metres. For the record, the 2020 edition which had to be rescheduled in August due to the Covid-19 epidemic, is the only one not to have taken place in July.

The battle of the final kilometres

There have been some unforgettable moments in the history of the Tour de France. During the 1975 Tour de France, the competition really heated up on stage 15 between Nice and Pra-Loup. A ruthless battle between the yellow jersey Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi and Bernard Thevenet over the last four kilometres. Gimondi took the lead but was overtaken in the last kilometre by Thevenet who won the stage and the yellow jersey that he kept until the final finish. Five years later, the tumultuous 208-kilometre stage 16 of the 1980 Tour de France between Trets and et Pra-Loup was marked by the impressive fall of the Dutch racer Johan Van De Velde who lost his balance when his bike chain jumped, taken with him in his fall the yellow jersey Joop Zoetemelk who injured his elbow. Joseph De Schoenmaecker and Alberto Fernandez finally came out on top after a memorable sprint won by the Dutchman. Despite his injury, Zoetemelk managed to catch up and keep his yellow jersey.

The mountains put the champions to the challenge

Stage 16 of the Tour de France 1971 from Orcières Merlette to Grenoble was a great challenge! Luis Ocana defied Eddy Mercx, who had earned himself the nickname “The Cannibal”. Ocana attacked, and in a fantastic ride up to Orcières, won the stage and the yellow jersey. It looked like the final victory was decided, but a few days after this achievement, Luis Ocana suffered a heavy fall in the Col de Menté and was obliged to abandon. This dramatic end for the racer who had managed to beat the master marked the history of cycling. In another decisive episode, snow started falling on stage 9 of the 1996 Tour de France to the top of the Col de l’Iseran. The weather even had race officials changing the itinerary because of heavy snowfall and extremely low temperatures – as low as -5°C. The Col de l’Iseran and the mythical Col du Galibier were neutralized by the organisers who decided to shorten the stage which only reached a length of 46 km.