The second week of the 2019 Tour de France sees the battle for the yellow jersey ramp up, quite literally, as the peloton prepares to enter the high mountains. We’ve picked out five of the key climbs from this year’s race.
Although the general classification contenders have already tested their mettle in the Vosges, the Pyrenees and the Alps remain the most-anticipated mountain challenges of the Tour de France.
Both are littered with some of the Tour’s best climbs – bucket-list ascents on which some of the most memorable moments in the race’s history have played out.
The iconic Tourmalet, Izoard and Galibier are all to be conquered, with the fabled yellow jersey very much still up for grabs, while lesser-known ascents such as Prat d’Albis and Val Thorens are also likely to have a significant bearing on who becomes the 2019 champion.
Where will the general classification be decided? Which climbs will sort the haves from the have nots? BikeRadar has picked out five decisive climbs from the final two weeks of the race.
One of the Tour’s headline climbs, the Col du Tourmalet has featured in the race more than any other mountain pass.
And yet, this year’s race – the 87th time it has featured – will be only the third occasion a stage has finished at the summit.
Last time, back in 2010, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador’s thrilling battle for the yellow jersey played out on its slopes – the Luxembourg rider winning the stage, but El Pistolero retaining the yellow jersey.
Julian Alaphilippe will have good memories of the climb, too, having been the first rider over the top in last year’s race.
Can Geraint Thomas climb into the yellow jersey once again?Russell Ellis/SWPix.com
The peloton will tackle the Tourmalet’s western ascent – a 19km drag from Luz-Saint-Sauveur – which climbs more than 1,400m at an average gradient of 7.4 percent.
The climb, which peaks at 2,115m, gets steeper toward the summit and is a popular must-ride Pyrenean ascent; more than 25,000 Strava users have tackled it to date (more than any other 2019 Tour climb).
None have been faster than current KOM holder Thibaut Pinot, however – he set an average speed of 20.7km/h during the 2016 Tour.
Often the highest point in the Tour de France (though that will not be the case this year), the first major Alpine test of this year’s race includes the Col du Galibier on stage 18.
Climbing to a breathtaking 2,642m, the 2019 Tour will take on the southern ascent. The race road book has the climb down as 23km in total, starting from Le Monêtier-les-Bains at 1,454m, but that also includes the Col du Lautaret.
From the Lautaret turn-off, there’s 8.5km left to climb at an average gradient of 6.9 percent, but the yellow jersey contenders will need to leave something in reserve. The steepest section is towards the summit – a draining 12 percent kick to the top.
The Col du Galibier is one of the Tour’s most iconic climbs.SWPix.com
Like the Tourmalet, the Galibier’s prestige is evident from its popularity on Strava – where more than 23,000 users have registered attempts to climb it.
The average user takes 51 minutes to ascend the final 8.5km of the southern ascent, at an average speed of 10.7km/h, but the Tour pros will be looking nearer to Daan Olivier’s 25:08 KOM mark.
Former Team Jumbo-Visma rider Olivier used a power meter for his ride, putting out an average of 334 watts and recording a Strava VAM (Vertical Ascent in Meters) score of 1,380.
The highest point of the 2019 Tour de France is the Col de l’Iseran, which peaks at 2,770m after 89km of stage 19.
This will be the climb’s first Tour appearance since 2007 and only the eighth time it has been passed in total.
Felicien Vervaecke and Gino Bartali did battle on the ascent when it first appeared in 1938, and its appearance late-on in this year’s race should make it a key GC battleground again.
The Col de l’Iseran is the fourth categorised ascent of stage 19 and officially starts at Bonneval-sur-Arc. From there, it’s a 977m rise, with the 12.9km ascent featuring an average gradient of 7.5 percent.
Romain Bardet, pictured attacking at the 2018 Criterium du Dauphine, holds the current KOM for the Col de l’Iseran.Alex Broadway/ASO
That gradient is inconsistent, however, with the disruptive pattern of the climb making it hard to find rhythm – several sections are more than 10 percent.
Romain Bardet currently holds the Strava KOM for the segment, with the Ag2r-La Mondiale team leader’s mark of 43:46 minutes standing unconquered for the last five years.
The average Strava user takes double that – with the average speed of 9.88km/h reflecting the disruptive, leg-sapping nature of the Col de l’Iseran.
More famous for being Europe’s highest ski resort, Val Thorens is also the final climb of this year’s Tour de France. Whoever leads the general classification at the summit will ride into Paris in yellow.
It’s 25 years since Val Thorens’ last (and only other) Tour de France appearance, when Colombian mountain goat Nelson Rodriguez won at the summit.
The full climb to the summit covers 33km, which can be split into clearly-defined sections of its own.
It ramps up sharply early on; undulates a little in the middle, with even a small downhill section; before a consistent 6km drag of around 7 percent. One more small downhill section then makes way for an 8 percent kick to the finish at 2,365m up.
Just over 400 people have tackled the full segment on Strava, with the most recent KOM time set at 1:36:54 hours – propelled by a recorded average power output of 276 watts.
Colin is a freelance sports journalist who first started reporting on cycling during the 2013 Tour de France on a month-long internship with RoadCyclingUK. The cycling bug bit so hard he was still there when Geraint Thomas rode to victory five years later. Much more comfortable writing about other people riding bikes than doing so himself, he remains unconvinced of the merits of shaving his legs and his Cube Peloton Race still bears the scars of his first battles with clipless pedals. While he counts the (lower slopes of the) Alps and Pyrenees among the places he has ridden, family life means his body is best suited to dragging a children’s trailer along a coastal path than conquering mountains…