A brief his­tory of the Alps in the Tour

Bikes Etc - - FIRST RIDE -

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

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