The Tour de France enters history celebrating its 100th edition with two ascents of the Alpe d’Huez today. To do that, organiser ASO takes the race over the Col de Sarenne – which features a descent that worries some.
Rain showers moved in the Haute-Alpes this yesterday evening and made a potentially dangerous downhill worse. Rumours spread in the afternoon that the organiser would nix the Sarenne’s debut from the Tour and take the peloton up the Alpe d’Huez only once.
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“I think it would be sad not to do the planned parcours with two times up Alpe d’Huez, [it is] something special that goes with 100th edition of the Tour de France, but safety definitely comes first,” race leader, Chris Froome (Sky) said in a press conference yesterday.
“If it is raining I would hope the race organisers take a decision to only race [Alpe d’Huez] the first time. The safety of the riders has to come first.”
Froome sits first overall by 4-34 minutes over Alberto Contador and 4-51 over Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff team-mate, Roman Kreuziger.
His rivals, who showed willingness to risk their safety on the final descent in stage 16 on Tuesday, hope the organiser does not take away opportunities.
“He should use his brakes more if he’s afraid on the descents,” Saxo-Tinkoff manager, Bjarne Riis said of Froome.
“We are going to attack everywhere, whether it is going uphill or downhill.”
ASO resurfaced part of the road and asphalted the gravel sections of the Col de Sarenne earlier this year. The road climbs five kilometres and descends for about 26 before reaching rolling sections and the valley at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. Some sections feature long drops off the road’s shoulders with only rocks to act as a natural barrier.
In June, Froome, Contador and many others tested it in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Time trial world champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) criticised the road’s condition at the time.
“It’s a quite nasty and really dangerous descent,” Martin told Cycling Weekly this week.
He added that going slow would be hard. “You’ll always have some riders who don’t just make a race uphill, but also make it downhill.”
The decision to push the limits and race at full speed will remain in the riders’ hands. As of last night, the stage would continue as planned: 172.5 kilometres with the Alpe d’Huez twice and the Sarenne between.
“There’s a zero chance of us shortening the stage,” the Tour’s event director, Jean-François Pescheux said in the media mixed zone. “I don’t know where the rumours have come from.”
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