The first week of the Tour de France and the roads of southern France: From the Alps to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques

This year more than ever, the Tour de France is looking for something new, a change from the memorable routes of Henry Desgrange and Jacques Goddet, or perhaps an opportunity to rediscover highlights of previous editions that offer something other than monumental climbs.

Orcières – Merlette, for example, was chosen by Jacques Goddet, and became famous for Luis Ocana’s incredible attack on Eddy Merckx in 1971. It has now been brought back into vogue as the first summit finish of the 2020 edition.

Gap is the starting point for the 1850-metre climb to the Orcières – Merlette ski resort. It is the gateway to cycling in the Écrins National Park, a hiking and cycling destination for mountain lovers. It is also famous for two nearby cities having great significance for cycling: Grenoble and Briançon.

Practically all of the legendary passes of the French Alps can be reached from these three cities, making them all essential destinations for cyclists wanting to explore France’s cycling roads that made cycling history.

One of the goals of the 2020 Tour de France is to introduce new routes to the race’s great history so that they can then become cycling destinations.

This is the case of Col de la Lusette which is the springboard to victory in the sixth stage on Mont Aigoual. This is the first time these climbs are being included in the Tour de France, and Col de la Lusette in the Cévennes National Park represents a real “jump” in altitude in the Massif Central.

The distance from Le Vigan to the summit is 20 kilometres ascending a departmental road that seems to have been designed especially for cyclists wanting to enjoy memorable views as they pedal.

And, for well-trained cyclists, Col de la Lusette and the nearby Mont Aigoual are not all that hard to reach from the small Roman-Provençal masterpiece that is Nîmes.

A little further south, the legend of the great Pyrénées is entrusted to Port de Balès in 2020, replacing the great names of Col d’Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet.


Although this pass was discovered by the Tour de France only relatively recently, its magnificent landscape already puts it on par with its illustrious predecessors, with long straightaways cutting through emerald green pastures and the peaks of the Pyrénées rising to the sky before the riders as they arrive from the north.

While Port de Balès has certainly become famous for the great challenge of 2010 between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, everyone knows that the real pleasure of cycling is more than simply competition.

It is profound and inextinguishable beauty.

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