Stage 18: Briançon to Izoard

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 06:30. Transfer: none. Start time: 07:40. Distance: 179.5km. Terrain: high mountains (3,700 metres climbing).  Climbs: one HC (Col d’Izoard), one Cat 1, one Cat 3. Finish: 20:10. Time in saddle: 9h35.

Suffer scores: John 8/10, Alex 7/10.

Local lowdown

Once upon a time I worked on a campsite for Eurocamp (that was a LONG time ago). A colleague was stationed in Briançon which he labelled “the highest town in Europe, the coldest town in Europe and the most boring town in Europe”. Now some of that he got from the tourist office I think, but probably not all of it….. Getting to the top of the Izoard is going to involve navigating our way past the numerous cheese producers in the area. There’s also a vibrant wood industry here, but I didn’t get to see that. Too many trees in the way.

Tale from the Tour

Not quite sure where to start.  Stressful but triumphant probably sums it up. Despite being a really pretty route and probably the best Etape du Tour for a while (though I did 2011/13/14/15), our rides are not ridden on closed roads so we had a lot of heavy traffic – lorries, many sports car enthusiasts and whole squadrons of motorcyclists. There were also quite a few tunnels which, though not long, are still a bit hairy when other vehicles are around.

Also I was keen to crack  on with completing the last hard climbs of the Tour, but had to be patient as these were not due until much later in the day. Ultimately of course, the job was done and although we have the Tour’s longest stage tomorrow, the end is nearly in sight even if not quite in touching distance yet. I also had a puncture which was caused by excessive heat building up in the tyres – a combination of high ambient temperature and my poor descending skills which means that I am on the brakes more than most. This seems to have caused the rim tape to be displaced and pop went the inner tube. That just added to the stress until the tape was replaced at feed stop 4. After that, it was a relief to be on the final HC climb, the Izoard (it’s not so ‘ard actually).

Despite the stress I felt, I have in fact been fortunate in that any health or mechanical issues I have experienced on this trip have been minimal so far.
The day in pictures then:

A day that starts with this
And this


And finishes with this should not be stressful, but I don’t want to sugar-coat my feelings today.

I must say that when passing the lake, which is massive and so took ages to ride alongside, a big part of me wanted to hire a camper van on the lake shore and then either sit under a tree or go for a bracing swim!

I don’t to be all doom and gloom though as that might just be tiredness talking anyway. The day certainly had its lighter moments:

Another one for you Will!
My family like this one, which includes an oblique (ok, incorrect) reference to an Al Stewart song (To Catalina on a fishing boat…)
Didi. He has been following the Tour de France for over 30 years. Everyone arriving at the hotel was excitedly saying “I’ve seen Didi”. Yes mate, we all have!

Ultimately this was a day of triumph. As the kms to the top gradually ticked down, so we left the villages and cafés behind and saw the rocky slopes.

Nearing the top of the Col d’Izoard

Then finally I had to allow myself this moment of celebration!

Sufferwise, it was the mental side of things that caused me most issues because of the traffic. So far on tour we have either had boring and busy roads or quiet and pretty ones, and these were pretty but busy. Maybe I am just more sensitive in my tired state. Alex is a good descender, so enjoyed that part of the day far more than I did!

One thought on “Stage 18: Briançon to Izoard”

  1. Still a couple of suffering cogs in reserve. Magnificent effort John – you have it so much harder than the pros as you are in the saddle so much longer. I hope you have a less stressful day tomorrow.


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