Stage 4: arrival on mountain where Rooks won the climbing time trial in 1989

Already in the fourth stage of this Tour de France an uphill finish is planned. The stage will start in Sisteron, Monday’s finish place. The line was drawn 157 kilometers further up the Orcières-Merlettes, a mountain of the first category.

Julian Alaphilippe is starting his second day as a season rider. In 2019 the Frenchman wore the leader’s jersey for a fortnight and will want to keep the yellow as long as possible. But how long can Alaphilippe compete with the classification men?

The 160.5 kilometer long stage starts relatively quiet, with third and fourth category stages, but 7 kilometers before the finish the climb to Orcières-Merlettes looms up. It’s expected that this climb with regular gradients won’t cause too big time differences between the favourites.

Orcières-Merlettes has finished four times before in the Tour de France. The last winner was Steven Rooks. In 1989 he won a climbing time trial for the Spaniards Marino Lejarreta and Miguel Indurain.

That Rooks would win the time trial was unthinkable a few days earlier. In the transition stage from Toulouse to Montpellier he got involved in a crash. “I had a lot of pain in my hip the days after,” Rooks said.

“And so I phoned Co Maas, an osteopath from Hippolytushoef, who had helped me before. Maas then got on a plane to France. That was my salvation. He straightened things out and a day later I won the climbing time trial.”

In 1971 Luis Ocaña seemed to lay the foundation for a Tour victory in the stage to Orcières, by taking no less than nine minutes on Eddy Merckx. However, a fall in the Pyrenees four days later threw a spanner in the works. The Spaniard had to give up and the final victory went to Merckx.

Watch a video here in which Herman van der Zandt takes a closer look at Ocaña’s victory in 1971