Stage 10: Mâcon-Bellegarde sur Valserine

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Mâcon is a city on the River Saône, in Chardonnay country, where yellow jerseys Miguel Indurain and Armstrong extended their Tour-winning margins with long time-trial wins in 1991 and 2002. After a day in the Ain, the Jura valley town of Bellegarde sur Valserine is as pretty and tranquil as it sounds.

Aux montagnes, le Tour. The Côte de Corlier serves as a taster before the Tour hits its first hors-catégorie climb, the never-before-used Col du Grand Colombier.

It is the giant of the Jura, juddering from the valley floor for 17, near-unrelentingly steep kilometres with a couple of double-figure gradients and repeated hairpin sections thrown in. In terms of race action, it’s like going from a gentle jog to accidentally pressing the maximum speed button on the treadmill. French hopeful Thibaut Pinot won when the Tour de l’Ain finished up here last year. After a twisty and narrow descent, it’s up and over the less toothy Col de Richemond and a plunge to the finish on the edge of the Jurassic park. No dinosaurs here, mind, though Chris Horner and Jens Voigt are getting on a bit.

The top of the Grand Colombier comes 45 kilometres from the finish. Too far? No way. This is a prime chance for a gangly climber, smarting from time-trial losses, to take the race by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake. The race’s first high mountain stage rewards attacking over attentiveness.

Rivals may be reluctant to chase given tomorrow’s summit finish and there’s little valley road to organise a concerted chasing effort. Historically, the favourites have taken easier Jura stages on offer passively, but this ought to be different, on the kind of day where a wannabe Tour winner can easily throw away his chances of winning.

Stop-the-car-and-gaze-open-jawed pretty, with views over Lac Bourget and the Jura national park.

We won’t leave Macon without a few cases of white Pouilly-Fuissé. Lunch will be Bourg-en-Bresse chicken, the finest in the world.

The grand fight up and down the Grand Colombier.


– Bellegarde sur Valserine makes its first appearance in the Tour de France, as does the Col de la Grand Colombier.
– The Tour has been to Mâcon three times before. In 1991, two stage finishes took place here – a road stage, won by Viatcheslav Ekimov, and a time trial, won by Miguel Indurain. In 2002, a time trial starting in the Beaujolais village of Regnié-Durette and finishing in Mâcon, was won by Lance Armstrong. Matteo Tosatto won a road stage here in 2006.
– At 123 kilometres into the stage, at the village of Don, the Tour will reach its exact halfway point.
– The Grand Colombier is the first of six HC climbs used in the Tour. It’s the fifth-longest climb of the race, at 17.4 kilometres. The longest is the Col de la Madeleine, at 25.3 kilometres.

Col du Grand Colombier
Category HC
Start Culoz
Length 17.4km
Height 1,501m
Altitude gain 1,245m
Average gradient 7.1%

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Maps courtesy of Amaury Sports Organisation