Thursday 20 July 2017 Briançon – Col de l’Izoard Stage (Arvieux – Queyras)
The key stage. A departure from a Tour de France top spot (Briançon), and an unprecedented arrival at the summit of the Col d’Izoard (2,360 m), 95 years after the Belgian Philippe Thys. The ultimate battle among the climbers in the heart of the most sumptuous and the most amazing sports arena that ever was. Something to inspire those who have the temperament to attack. From Briançon to the Izoard, via the banks of Serre-Ponçon, Barcelonnette and the Col de Vars, the rider’s minds and legs will be worked up prior to the final thrill. 15 kilometres with an average gradient of 6.9% and a solemn encounter with the Casse Déserte..
‘A great champion crosses the Casse Déserte and the Izoard summit up front, on his own, wearing the yellow jersey.’ Bernard Thienes, two-time winner of the Tour, might well confirm this as he won there in 1975 on the Serre Chevalier road. In 1972, the great Merckx, with a touch of humour, preferred to say: ‘I’d heard of the Casse Déserte and Fausto Coppi’s stele set on a rock. I never saw any of it. I regret it, but I was too busy!’
When talking of this giant in 1923, a year after the first passage of the Izoard, Henri Desgrange, creator of the Tour exclaimed, ‘L’Izoard is troubling, like a long-winded, never-ending story. Because it seems to go on forever, l’Izoard is endless. It is dreamlike and makes you feel like you’re in charge and then, not at all, around a bend, at that precise moment when you’re about to heave a sigh of relief, it hits you with a climb that would bring a mule to its knees.’ It’s quite something!
Between 1922 to 2014, riders have crossed the Izoard 34 times, making it one of the most visited passes in the history of the Tour de France. A pass with a mythical tinge like the Hautes-Alpes’ other giant, the Galibier.