The first category Cote de le Saleve is the only major climb in today’s stage four of the Dauphiné Libéré ? but it will cause major gaps in the peloton.
Situated just before the finish at Annemasse, Le Saleve starts deceptively easily in the tiny village of Archamps. But with seven kilometres to go to the summit, the road narrows, the woods close in on either side and the gradient suddenly steepens.
For the next five kilometres there is simply no let-up, just one hairpin bend after another followed by lungburstingly steep ramps rearing upwards through dense woodland.
The road surface is not bad, but there is nowhere to hide, no chance to recover.
?Michael Barry [the Canadian climber] used to live round here and he rates it at around 15 per cent.? High Road?s manager Allan Peiper told Cycling Weekly on Thursday morning.
?Others put the gradient at 13, but whatever, it?s very very tough.?
?I remember going over it when I was a rider in the 1984 Dauphiné? ? the last time the race tackled the climb – ?and it was a really hard challenge.?
Two kilometres from the summit, the gradient eases notably as it passes through La Croisette. The road loops and dips along the top of the ridge – the road?s climbed 800 metres in a mere nine kilometres ? before diving down to Annemasse.
But the challenges don?t end there.
The last descent is extremely technical, with constant curves, particularly in the first part. To make matters more interesting, it?s not very well indicated, so unless you?re following a wheel, you could easily go off course.
Then after a sharp right hand bend with about three kilometres to go ? again, poorly indicated ?you?re into Annemasse, a grimy dormitory town for nearby Geneva, and the finish.
?There?ll be a lot of fighting to get on the front before the climb because it?s so narrow,” Peiper predicts. ?Plus if anybody gets 200 metres at the top, they won?t be able to be caught on the descent.?
DAUPHINE LIBERE 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage three: Valverde takes control of Dauphine
Stage two: Hincapie outclasses bunch in Dauphine
Stage one: Valverde takes classy win
Prologue: Leipheimer soars to Dauphine prologue win
NEWS & FEATURES
Analysis: Is Valverde suddenly brilliant against the clock
Evans says Tour within his power
War weary Wegelius battles on in Dauphine
Hushovd: Boonen affair “not good for cycling”
Flat start for Dauphine Libere
Dauphine Libere 2008 preview