A brief history of the Alps in the Tour
The Alps have long been a major part of the Tour de France, with the first alpine crossing in 1911 (its ninth edition). That was when the mighty Col du Galibier made its first appearance, along with the Col des Aravis, which features in our test ride (see page 120). On that day, just a single rider, Émile Georget, was able to keep pedalling to the top, a feat that seems unimaginable given the bikes ridden at the time and the unpaved road surfaces. That 1911 edition has been recognised as the first ‘modern’ Tour, with a loose format of alternating direction, a mixed style of stages and the inclusion of both the Pyrenees and the Alps, that still exists today. The Alps are to many the heart of the Tour, something that Henri Desgrange, the event’s founder, certainly felt, and a statue of him stands near the summit of his favourite climb, the Col du Galibier.
HIGHEST ALPINE COLS FEATURED IN THE TOUR DE FRANCE
■ Col de la Bonnette 2,715m
■ Col de l’iseran 2,764m
■ Col du Galibier 2,646m