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How the High Mountain arrived at the Tour de France: from the Ball of Alsace to the Pyrenean lie of Steinès

How the High Mountain arrived at the Tour de France: from the Ball of Alsace to the Pyrenean lie of Steinès

The history of mountain ports in the Tour de France It began to be written in the first edition of 1903, when the pioneer squad of sixty cyclists made an incursion into the central massif to climb the Col de la République, a tachuela compared to what would come later, because those first tours went on challenge in challenge. So it was that, two years later, something more demanding was sought: the Alsacia ball, the first port of a certain size, in the Vosgos territory. Until in 1910 the bet was bent with the first Pyrenean crossing, thanks to the ‘telegraph lie’ of a editor of L’Alnó, Alphonse Steinès. That man told the patron, Henri Desgrange, that the Pyrenees were accessible, when in reality he had been about to lose his life due to hypothermia recognizing the terrain on the heights of the Tourmalet. That pious lie led the tour to another dimension: that of the deeds of the champions, that of the mythical colossi scalar that for more than a century have been acquiring their own identity ... The American historian and archivist Alexander Robertson is attributed a very memorable phrase: "The dolomites are to the mountains that Venice for the cities". That beautiful mountain range, an appendix of the Alps on its Italian side, is not a thing of the Tour of France, but of the turn, but the analogy serves to understand part of the magical world that surrounds a cycling race every time it enters the mountain, That mystique of the beauty of the landscape wrapping the heroes of the bicycle, that perfect pairing between the great ports and the vintage champions, with their deeds and with their faintness ... and in not a few cases, with those legendary escapes that end associating the cycling hero with a certain port. The Cordilleras y Massizos del Tour de France They are the paradigm of this and, of course, they could also be beautiful cities, according to Robertson's parallelism. And so it has been almost since the tour is the tour, because the history of the mountain as a key element of the Great Boucle He began in the first edition of 1903. Then there was a escalation challenge to the sixty cyclists who left Montgeron: up the Col de la République In the second stage, 374 kilometers between Lyon and Marseille. That first port, located in the Pilat massif, an annex of the central massif, was the first to take cyclists more than a thousand meters of altitude, but through an altimetry that, seen with the eyes of today, would condemn him Almost to irrelevance, with its average earrings of between 3.8% and 5.2%, depending on what slope. But, of course, let's put that in the context of 1903, with bicycles of more than twenty kilos plus the load of the tools, without brakes, such as the winner's mount, Maurice Garin, with that fixed development of 54x17 and those clothing with jerseys with jerseys of Wool and cotton shirts, with corduroy pants, the leather armchair without padding ...

The Ball of Alsace and the Tragic History of René Pottier

Up to the tourmalet That climb to the Republique, crowned first by the Frenchman Hippolyte Aucouturier, in the two -stage winning last in that 1903 tour, opened the path that progressively brought to the Tour to the great mountains. The next step took place in 1905, when Henri Desigrange wanted the race to rise a little more, also following his desire to cross the French borders, and schedu according to the new territorial reality that emerged after the defeat of Napoleon III in 1871 in the Franco - Prussian war. For the pride of the French of the conquered lands of Alsacia, a compatriot, René Pottier, was the first to crown a port that was considered as insurmountable by bicycle, with its 1,247 meters of altitude, after exceeding more than 700 slope to what Length of sixteen kilometers of ascension. Pottier was declared a national hero and first king of the mountain, even without classifications or maillots, but had to leave that 1905 tour because of tendonitis. His year was the following, when he won five stages and the general pointed out by points that then crowned the absolute champion, dethroning Louis Toussellier and beating another myth, like Lucien Le Petit-Breton. Unfortunately, that great success was only one more seasoning in its status as the first tragic hero of the Tour, because the following year René Pottier used the hook in which he hung his bicycle to commit suicide, because of the cause, says the legend, of a loving disappointment . Henri Desigrange, as impacted as all of France, ordered to lift a monolith in his honor at the top of the Alsacia ball, next to the Monument to Juana de Arco and the statue of the Virgin of the Alsacian region.

Alphense Steinès and his ‘Pyrenean Lie

Tour de France at the Tourmalet But we talked about challenges, those who were forced to face Henri Desigrange and his team of collaborators so that the interest in the Tour of France did not remain stagnant and continue to grow. That evolution, that permanent search for new challenges, not only brought tours with more stages, but also a progressive increase in hardness that ended up leading to the race towards large mountain ranges. The key year was 1910, when another editor of L’Alnó, Alphense Steinès, insisted on convincing Henri to imper that the tour had to cross the Pyrenees: - You are crazy, Steinès! How are the Pyrenees going to cross the cyclists if there are no paths?-, replied the great patron of the tour. Despite being accentuated by the stagnation of a tour in need of revulsions in that eighth edition, Desgrange continued to brake his young interlocutor, increasingly with more pilgrim arguments, in an argument that, in broad strokes, occurred in these terms: - It is crazy. There are no roads. There are paths, goat roads, avalanches, snow, tons of mud. But there are no roads ... Oh, and there are also bears! -Oh! Yes there are roads!, Steinès replied, who then took a night railway to Pau, one of the Pyrenean capitals. It was there that he had to continue arguing with an area leader, road engineer in the town of Eaux-Bonnes, that it was possible to cross the Col d’Aubisque. "Have they gone crazy in Paris?”, It was the answer obtained. But Steinès did not regret and followed his, clinging to the idea that his Pyrenean madness was possible. He rented a car with a driver and went to climb the Tourmalet. When the snow cut the access to four kilometers from the top, and the night, Steinès fired the driver and both remained in seeing no less than in Barèges, 11kilometers from the top of the colossus of 2,115 meters of altitude, but in The opposite slope, that of Luz-Saint-Sauveur! Steinès wore street shoes and snow covered him over his knees. He wanted to rest on the summit, but he immediately understood that he could not stand. He undertook a painful night decline in snow, while a search device was organized in the civilization. A companion of L'Antó, Lanne-Camy, finally saw Steinès at the entrance of Barèges, a terrified of cold and disoriented, and accompanied him to a inn, where a good dinner and a good hot water bath returned to the intrepid editor to its state of stubbornness. And Steinès telegraphed the pious lie that changed the course of the Tour of France: “Tourmalet crossed. Stop Very good road. Stop Perfectly practicable. Stop Steinès”. The phrase bent the reluctance of the great pattern and that same year, in July, without snow and without bears, the Pyrenees appeared on the route with a brutal first stage between Perpignan and Luchon, 289 kilometers with the climbs to the Port cols, Portet, Portet d'Asht and Ares, a kind of great appetizer of what would come two days later, on July 21, 1910, where the four colossi came into play that make up the Pyrenean tetralogy: the peyresolde, the aspin, the aubisque and the scenario of that adventure under the snow: the Tourmalet. Octave Lapize, the 23 -year -old Frenchman who had won the first assault on the Pyrenees, was also the first to crown him, after climbing the last kilometers and having scaled the Pyresardode and the Aspin on foot alone. Beyond, in the Aubisque, the fourth colossus of that bestial pyrenea prayer of 326 kilometers between Luchon and Bayona, laps crown the top absolutely furred, and cries out voice in shouting against the organizers in the passage control: “Killer! Killer! Designage, Steinès! You are all murderers!” Lapize won that 1910 tour and ended up being another tragic hero, although his death was not as romantic as René Pottier's, the pioneer of Alsace's ball: he was killed in an air fight in 1917, during the First World War, and died Two weeks later because of the serious wounds. The French champion was one of the many cyclists whose record was harmed by the great war conflicts, where appropriate with a tragic outcome as an involved part, having a graduation of sergeant. Lapize opened a route on which there was no reversal: the Tourmalet has climbed another 84 times, with Federico Martín Bahamontes leading the palmarés with four steps in first position, one of the milestones that explain his choice as the best climber in history of the Tour de France. The list of champions who have crowned the port through the highest road of the Pyrenees would be worthwhile to write the history of cycling, with names such as Philippe Thys, Ottavio Bottecchia, Vicente Trueba, Julián Berrendero, Gino Bartali, Jean Robic, Fausto Coppi, Julio Jiménez, Eddy Merckx, Lucien Van Impe, Claudio Chiappucci or Julien Alaphilippe. And none were ate the bears, as was the fear of Desgrange.

1911: The Tour reaches the Alps

Tour de France Broken the ice in that 1910, to the Tourmalet, to Aubisque, al Pyresourde or the Aspin were added more and more Pyrenean ports, on either side of the Franco-Spanish border. But the Tour de France lacked the great mountain range, that of the great valleys, that of the highest summits in Europe: the Alps. Only one year after Henri Desgrange encaled that Pyrenean Lie of Steinès, the Tour went to his particular Alpine conquest, raising the challenge of the mountain 400 meters above the Tourmalet. That first colossus of the Alps was the Galibier, nothing less than for its northern aspect, to which another myth is accessed: the Col du télégraphe. In total, 33 kilometers of ascension and ramps of up to 14% to assault the heavens, at 2,550 meters. There were 95 less than their current altitude, because then the last kilometer had not been built, but what else did. The climb was brutal and at the summit, under an ice cream air, first a 30 -year -old Frenchman named Emile George, who had faced the ascent from Saint Michel de Maurienne with Paul Duboc, an illustrious adventure partner who would be runner -up in Paris , and that fell ill to drink from a contaminated bottle. Georget took Duboc out of Rued and faced the most terrible kilometers of the climb, even swimming a torrent, to end up registering his name with gold letters at the top of the Galibier. It took two hours and thirty -eight minutes to go up. Just a century later, in 2011, the Tour of France commemorated its 100 years of Galibier designing a double climb to the Alpine colossus, as he had done the year before with the Tourmalet. Luxembourgs Andy Schleck crowned first twice, closing the first century of a cycling history in the Alps that has been written in mythical ports such as the Izoard, the Croix de Fer, the Madeleine, the Iseran, the Glandon, the Colombiere, Alpe d'Huez ... Until the Tour touched ceiling in 1962 climbing along the highest road in Europe, that of the Col de la Bonette-Restefond, at 2,802 meters, and then that telegram by Alphonse Steinés from Barèges ended up collecting all its meaning: the mountain is the Tour, and the tour is its mountains. It doesn't matter if there are bears, no matter what the challenge.
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