MILAN (VN) — The Tour de France celebrates 100 years this year by tackling the Alpe d’Huez twice in one day. To accomplish the feat, the organizer is taking the riders up and over the never-before-used Col de Sarenne. According to Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), the inclusion of the climb and above all, its descent, is reckless.
The two-time defending time trial world champion rode the climb as part of the Critérium du Dauphiné’s stage 7 on Saturday. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) went on to win 120 kilometers later in Superdévoluy, where Martin shook his head in wonder.
“I was excited to ride the new road from Alpe d’Huez, the exact same route we’ll see in the Tour,” the German wrote on his website. “I have say that I was negatively surprised. The road is old and narrow. It’s a bad road, no guardrails. A mistake could see you falling straight down 30 meters.”
The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) will use the iconic Alpe d’Huez climb and new back road around Sarenne at 1,999 meters in the 18th stage of the Tour de France, three days before the race wraps up in Paris. Martin regrets the ASO’s decision.
“It’s irresponsible to send us there,” Martin added. “And I cannot imagine that something will change on the road for the Tour.”
ASO resurfaced parts, put asphalt down on the gravel, and flattened out other bits on the Col de Sarenne, but has been unable to give it a complete makeover. Local environmental groups lobbied to keep ASO from resurfacing the 5km stretch ascent and 26.5km descent.
The only other improvement ASO will make between now and the Tour’s stage, as with every stage, is sweeping for a clean passage. Though the road appears rough, it still seems better than many found in the Giro d’Italia last month.
The Giro has had similar criticism. For instance, two years ago organizer RCS Sport cut Monte Crostis due to mounting pressure. It placed padding against dangerous objects and strung up nets to stop free falls. Ultimately, an alternative route was used to bring the peloton to Monte Zoncolan.
‘Ride the conditions’
The Tour hopes that riders take it easy so that it can celebrate its 100th anniversary in style.
“It all depends on how you ride it,” former Tour stage winner and ex-head of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA), Cédric Vasseur, told VeloNews. “Besides, only the top riders will take it all out, the rest of the guys can go easy down Sarenne.”
Vasseur will follow the riders as he gives live commentary daily from a motorbike for France 2.
Richie Porte will be racing to protect Sky’s captain, Chris Froome. He rode it with Martin Saturday and echoed Vasseur’s comment.
“It wasn’t any worse than some we have been down but we also went down it pretty easy as Froome spoke to Alberto Contador and co., and we decided to go easy,” Porte told VeloNews.
“I guess you just have to ride to the conditions!”