He­roes of the Rose­lend

Blood and guts on the un­sung col

Cyclist - - The Big Ride France -

While the Cormet de Rose­lend isn’t a house­hold name, it’s not with­out Tour de France his­tory. It was first used in 1979, with non­de­script ap­pear­ances fol­low­ing in 1984 and 1987, but it was 1992 when it saw its first big ac­tion. Ital­ian Clau­dio Chi­ap­pucci led over the top on Stage 13, then at­tacked again up the Is­eran be­fore solo­ing to an al­most im­pos­si­ble vic­tory nearly 150km later, hav­ing notched up 6,400m as­cent over the 255km. There has ar­guably never been a more bru­tal Tour stage.

Yet the Cormet de Rose­lend played its most mem­o­rable and frankly hor­ri­fy­ing role in 1996. In ter­ri­ble con­di­tions Jo­han Bruyneel hit a low stone wall on the descent to Bourg-saint-mau­rice. Do­ing a full som­er­sault he dis­ap­peared into the ravine to the com­men­ta­tors’ gasps.

‘I flew off the edge of the cliff, and I hung in the air, feel­ing mo­tion­less, weight­less, stopped in time, a hun­dred feet above the trees and bushes that clung to the steep jagged in­cline. I had a lot of time to think. I thought: I rode off a cliff! I thought: Well, this is go­ing to be very bad. I thought: I’m dead,’ Bruyneel re­counts in his book We Might As Well Win. But he wasn’t. Some­how he sur­vived, and even clawed him­self back up the ravine, cov­ered in mud and blood, to re­mount his bike and fin­ish the stage.

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