‘No road quite like it’ – the Méribel summit finish for stage 17 of the 2020 Tour de France.
A savage and newly formed climb (officially opened in 2019), and that when combined with the col de la Madeleine, just a few kilometres earlier, it will surely determine who wins the Tour. Set in the Savoie region of the Northern French Alps, Méribel is a picturesque ski resort part of Les Trois Vallées – the world’s largest ski domain.
The climb starts some 21km before, at Brides de Bains (633m above sea level); ascending 1671m in total with an average gradient of 8%. This seems to be true for the first 9km, but in the final 6 kilometres it averages over 10% with steep 20-25% ramps making for a hard finish.
The road to Meribel a busy thoroughfare in the winter months "gently" winds through Les Allues, Nantgerel, Mussilon, before leading to Meribel itself. It's always strange to see a place in the summer months when your memories involve have ski's attached and seemingly skiing down impossibly steep slopes.
In Méribel, the road starts to meander through the village and its many luxurious chalets. And from here-on-in, the gradient is relentless – the part of the climb when the official of the Tour de France suggested that there was 'no road quite like it'.
The stiff 21% is coming. And many like it. Hitting the narrow ‘no vehicle’ paved trail, it is a wonder how the Tour de France is going to go up and through here…it seems a bit unnatural and surprising when all the other summit finishes are on roads – but here lies further the charm.
Up and out of the saddle with 20% + gradient.
For the ride attacker, these narrow and steep turns make it easy to create a visual separation between themselves and others trying to hang on. Positioning will be everything, and there will be psychological warfare.
At 4 km the skies open and the sight of where this mad trail is taking you starts to reveal its way. Granite towering above you.
A cycling journey like no other. This doesn't technically fit with the definition of "col" (mountain pass) but it does with the word "EPIC".
Col du Galibier
(Col du Télégraphe)
The most stringent (road bike) col on the French mainland – Col du Galibier is iconic. It is deemed to be a 'top 5' of world climbs, and is favoured by teams for pre Tour training.