Note: For a preview of Stage 9 – see here.
Stage 8 will be the first Alpine stage in the 2010 Tour de France. With two big climbs at the end, including a mountain top finish at Avoriaz, this is one of the must-see stages of the Tour.
Me and my Belgian domestique decided to recon the route and prepared this video:
Map by @ednl thanks
The early part of the route weaves through the Jura mountains, avoiding any of the numerous steep climbs there.
The long downhill section (see map profile above) near the beginning goes through the beautiful Vallée de la Valserine. Not too steep but very straight. This will be a fast start to the race.
The route will then exit the Juras and skirt the Swiss (Geneva) border as they race towards the Alps. This is my backyard, the route will pass just a couple of kms from home.
The fun begins at the village of Mieussy as the route climbs Col de la Ramaz. 14 kilometres averaging almost 7%, with some steeper stretches nearing the top. The road has been closed for the past two years due to problems with the cliff road near the top. A brand new tunnel now bypasses this dangerous – but fun stretch.
And yes, the steepest part of the climb is the last stretch in the tunnel.
The top is the ski station of Praz-de-Lys – and probably where I’ll be watching the stage with friends. The descent from Praz-de-Lys is extreme. 8 steep kilometres, often much more than 10%, with sharp 180 degree hairpins. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain.
Col de la Ramaz has only appeared once before in the Tour. In 2003, Richard Virenque crossed Ramaz first winning the stage in Morzine and temporarily taking the yellow Jersey.
The 3rd category climb to Col des Gets is 4 kms at less than 5% through a scenic gorge – this won’t cause anyone any problems. From Col des Gets it’s a fast descent to Morzine and the beginning of the climb to Avoriaz.
Avoriaz (along with Morzine) is part of the Portes du Soleil ski domain – one of the largest connected domains in the world – with 13 stations including some in Switzerland.
The climb to Avoriaz is 14 kilometres averaging just a little more than 6%. It’s not the hardest climb in the world – and definitely easier than Ramaz – but this open, south-west facing route can often be very hot in July.
This will be the 7th time that Avoriaz appears in the Tour de France since its first appearance in 1975. It last appeared in 1994 when Piotr Ugrumov won a time trial there. Other former winners include The Badger himself, Bernard Hinault and Lucien Van Impe.
There is lots of route maintenance going on on Ramaz and up Avoriaz. And I can personally attest that the last kilometre of the route is brand new and may be the smoothest stretch of road in France at the moment.
PS – Thanks again to Eric for helping prepare the video.