The 2012 Tour de France route has been announced and ASO calls it a balanced route. Before I get to why I think that’s hogwash, I need to explain why RKP has been silent the last few days. Just this morning I finished what is easily the most ambitious assignment I’ve ever had the challenge to meet. For its eighth issue, peloton magazine is doing something quite outside the norm. My role was to compose a single, sweeping feature that will (hopefully) tie together the issue’s many elements. What I turned in this morning was nearly 15,000 words; writing it took everything I had. I meant to do a mini-post to let everyone know what was up, but I rarely looked at anything other than that MS Word document.
If ever you’ve wanted to see a bike magazine step outside the norm and do something surprising and give you a fresh take on what a bike magazine can be, this is it. They’ve assembled an incredible range of work and I’m hoping that my contribution plays its part. Nevermind the opportunity they’ve given me, they are doing something brave and I hope that if you’re not already reading the magazine, you at least check out this issue, if not purchase a subscription.
Now, about that Tour: This is the heart-healthy diet version of the Tour. The ASO suggests this Tour will reward a more well-rounded rider, but to my eye, there’s just less racing. The prologue is typically brief at only 6km. No biggie, right? However, there won’t be a team time trial and the two individual time trials measure 38 and 52km, respectively. That’s less than 100km total of time trials. During the age of Anquetil and Merckx, there were often ITTs that measured 100km. What is interesting is that the first ITT comes the day before the first rest day. That has often been a mountain stage; we should expect to see incredibly high average speeds due to the short distance followed by a rest day.
For 2012 there will only be five mountain stages with two mountain top finishes. There will be four medium mountain stages and one of those, stage 7, gets a mountain top finish. It will be the first of the mountain top finishes and, unfortunately, La Planche des Belles Filles tops out at only 3788 feet, barely enough to make Category 2.
The other two mountain top finishes are split between the Alps and the Pyrenees. Stage 11 leaves Albertville and heads for La Toussuire, taking in the north side of the Col de la Madeleine, the Col de la Croix de Fer before dropping back down (likely via the Glandon) into the valley for the assault on La Toussuire. This stage’s twin in the Pyrenees comes on stage 16, the day after the second rest day. Riders will tackle the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde and finish with the downhill run into Bagneres-de-Luchon. The final mountain finish won’t come until the next day on the climb to Peyragudes. It’s a relatively unknown climb, but it has few secrets. The climb is 20k and averages just 4.3 percent. The trick is that the first 10k is almost entirely less than 4 percent but then the next 6k gets quite steep, averaging between 7 and 10 percent. The final 3k is between 4 and 7 percent.
While this edition leaves out a number of historic and seeming must-have climbs such as l’Alpe d’Huez and the Col du Galibier, the organizers did choose to include the Col du Grand Colombier. This is a ferocious climb and should be the site of some detonations. Unfortunately, it comes some 40km from the finish, which means it seems unlikely the gaps at the top will be held to the finish.
It’s the Tour de France, so the race will be exciting no matter what. However, I think with this course the ASO have made several statements:
- They liked Cadel Evans as a victor and they wouldn’t mind him winning again.
- They don’t mind Andy Schleck getting beat.
- They aren’t fans of the all-day, slo-mo attack; they’d rather have fireworks on the last climb.
- If Alberto Contador wants to win, he’ll need to spend some time on his TT bike.