Stage 17: Pau – Col du Tourmalet


© Janet Pearch Photography

A beastly final mountain stage today, culminating with the legendary Col du Tourmalet. The mountain has inspired many stories from the 74 (as of stage 16) occasions it has featured on the Tour route, none better than the hapless Eugène Christophe in 1913. The Frenchman snapped his forks, walked over eight miles to find a forge to make his own repair, then continued having effectively lost the race. To pile misery upon misery, race officials handed Christophe a 10-minute time penalty – outside assistance was forbidden so the young boy operating the bellows was considered against the rules: harsh, to say the least.

This year is only the second time, however, the Tourmalet has hosted a stage finish. Jean-Pierre Danguillaume won on the mountain in 1974, but Eddy Merckx dominated the Tour, as seen in this grainy but excellent footage of the prologue in Brest. Not a pointy hat or tri-bar in sight.

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