Unknown Col de la Loze the leg breaker of the Tour?

When Bernard Hinault gets excited about something in cycling, youd better listen to the Breton who is still the last French winner of the Tour de France (1985). Tour director Christian Prudhomme followed suit and today the peloton meets Col de la Loze. In other words: the Hell of the Alps.

It is a mountain pasture on which they just laid a path, says Daan Hoole, the 21-year-old promise of SEG Racing Academy. Only for goats and nothing wider than an average cycle path in the Netherlands, adds Lars van de Berg, a 22 year old Dutch rider who rides with the Groupama-FDJ continental team. Ide Schelling, first year pro and team mate of Peter Sagan at BORA, calls him but not special. And the tall Nils Eekhoff, now mainly known as the boy who was unjustly robbed of the world title in the promising category in 2019, will see Col de la Loze get a place among the legendary climbs of the Tour de France in the future. “That may take some time. Alpe dHuez wasnt immediately world famous either,” he notes.

The four compatriots had the privilege of unintentionally serving as guinea pigs a year ago (on 23 August). In the Tour of the Future that day the eighth stage was planned, a stage in line with part of a climb in it that actually did not yet exist in cycling circles. Two months earlier, a road builder had laid a line of asphalt there, marking the start of a new tourist route for electric mountain bikes. On that route to the summit at 2304 metres, the pros of tomorrow were allowed to indulge themselves.

What does the aforementioned Bernard Hinault have to do with it now? The Das followed the Tour de lAvenir as a special guest. He looked out of his eyes that afternoon, when the drivers passed him like almost hyperventilating post-horses in a snails pace. Some had faces as grey as ash, others crawled up with the gaze of a dying man. Hinault grabbed his mobile phone, a few seconds later he got Prudhomme on the line. You have to see this. The Col de la Loze is something incredible, was the message. “Bernard never talks to me about the sport”, the Tour boss said afterwards. “I took a look myself then, and I have to admit: what I saw exceeded my expectations”

The final hurdle of the seventeenth stage can be compared to a completely unknown song that enters the top-40 with a dot. Well considered, that seems a bit out of place, because hardly anyone in the Tour peloton knows if the spectacle is as dazzling as the announcement Col of the 21st century. Only the Colombian Harald Tejada (Astana) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (Total Direct) were there last season in the Tour of the Future.

Due to gradients of 20 percent and more on some of the strips in the second part of the mountain, which counts more than 21 kilometres, the legs will sour. In the meantime, they will crave oxygen, especially when the two thousand meter limit is exceeded. As the highest point of the 3484-kilometre cycle pendulum through the southern part of France, the Col de la Loze is called the roof of the Tour.

Back to the Dutch youngsters, the only ones who have felt how the Col can torture a rider. “I hope I wont encounter something like that often in a race”, replies Daan Hoole. He finished the race in 62nd place, 9.53 minutes behind the Australian Alexander Evans who covered the distance in an hour and over five minutes. “Real misery, once you get through Méribel. This really is the Hell of the Alps, I think, one of the toughest cols there should be in this area anyway. Im convinced that the drivers will still suffer from the efforts the day after,” says Hoole, who tipped Richie Porte as stage winner.

Lars van de Berg reported upstairs as 25th, giving in for five minutes to Evans. He was the best of the national selection. “The tricky parts are of course the very steep parts, but the irregular course of the last seven or eight kilometres makes it annoying to dosage your strength”, said the Utrechter who was already exploring with his brother before the Tour de lAvenir. “I knew what was coming, but that didnt help to finish any shorter. I didnt manage to ride up with the best of them, and in the end I came to a complete standstill. I think it is impossible to control the race on that steep final stretch. There is an opportunity for Pogacar to drive away from Roglic with his greater explosiveness”