Stage 17: July 20 - Gap to Pinerolo 179km
To celebrate the 150th year of Italian unification, the Tour makes its only border crossing this year. After a steady ride up towards Briancon, a succession of small climbs - Montgenevre, Sestriere and Pramartino - pulls the peloton steadily towards Pinerolo. The Pramartino, a 6.7km ascent rated category two, could be the springboard for attacks that could go all the way to the finish. Watch out for the Italians.
JEAN-FRANÇOIS PESCHEUX’S ANALYSIS : The Alps begin
“There are still four intense race days left. Heading to Briançon, the road rises gently. Then the riders must cross climb the Col de Montgenèvre, descend, then climb again up to Sestrières this time, then descend again into Pinerolo. Ahead of them is still the Pra Martino, a small climb that’s 7km long and of modest gradient. A rider who is good in the mountains such as Cadel Evans may well be able to make an impression there, because the final run-in, which enables tribute to be made to the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, doesn’t feature any notable difficulties. This stage will bring huge satisfaction to the people of Pinerolo, who for many years have been keen to host a stage finish. The town is near to the border and offers the opportunity for this year’s only incursion into foreign territory.”
Stage 17 Climbs:
Stage 17: July 20 - Gap to Pinerolo (179 km)
Km 71.5 - Cote de Sainte-Marguerite - 2.8 km at 7.4 (cat. 3)
Km 85.5 - La Chaussee - 1.4 km at 8.3 (cat. 3)
Km 96.5 - Col de Montgenevre - 7.9 km at 6.1 (cat. 2)
Km 117 - Sestriere - 11.1 km at 6.3 (cat. 1)
Km 171 - Cote de Pramartino - 6.7 km at 6 (cat. 2)
• Stage town on 20 previous occasions
• 37, 785 inhabitants
• Prefecture of Hautes Alpes (05)
This stage of the Tour provides Gap with the perfect opportunity to further reinforce its links with Pinerolo – the day’s finish town – with which Gap has been a twin town for almost 40 years. From the start, the riders will head through the northern-most area of the Hautes-Alpes, tackling some of the race’s most mythical climbs. Thanks to these climbs, and to the Tour, the Hautes-Alpes has perhaps encouraged cycling more than any other department through well-executed town planning which takes the needs of the cyclist into consideration. The tourism committee has created 20 shared and signposted paths to encourage the sport and, during the summer, you can enjoy some of cycling’s best known climbs in complete safety due to them being closed to motor vehicles. Along the way, you can enjoy views of the Serre-Ponçon lake, Europe’s biggest man-made reservoir, the town of Embrun, perched up on the cliff, and the fortifications at Vauban de Briançon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Grand Boucle (Big Loop) has visited Gap 20 times and has witnessed the victories of the leading cyclists Raphaël Géminiani, Gastone Nencini, Jean-François Bernard, Erik Zabel, Alexandre Vinokourov and Pierrick Fédrigo. But the prefecture town of Hautes-Alpes was also the start for legendary stages to Briançon, which were successively won by Louison Bobet, Fausto Coppi and Federico Bahamontes. Since then, the stage leaving from Gap generally finishes in L’Alpe du Huez, which was the case in 1991, (with the victory of Gianni Bugno) or in 2006 (Fränk Schleck).
• Stage town for the first time
• 36, 000 inhabitants
• Town of the Province of Turin (Italy)
Before becoming part of Italy, Pinerolo, located around 40 kilometers south-west of Turin, was, at different times, both French and Savoyard. This toing and froing made at the discretion of history manifest in the town’s different names: Pinerolo in Italian, of course, but also Pignerol in French, Pinareul in Piedmontese and even Pineirol in Occitan-Alpin. In addition, the town also gave its name to Penarol, a neighborhood of Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, perhaps best known for its football team. The town’s fortress was where Nicolas Fouquet, a superintendent of finances to Louis XIV, was imprisoned in the Iron Mask, and for which Pinerolo is best known. Arriving in 1669, the legendary and enigmatic prisoner would remain secretly locked for 12 years. Since 1999, Pinerolo has put on a historical reconstruction each October – La Maschera di Ferro – which this year attracted some 70,000 visitors. At the end of the show, the identity of the masked man is revealed.
Surrounded by mountains and valleys and steeped in history, Pinerolo is just waiting to be explored. Following the example of Saumur’s Cadre Noir national riding school in France, Pinerolo is home to Italy’s cavalry, and upholds its traditions. Pinerolo can also claim its place as an Olympic town having held the curling here as part of the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. It’s also a cultural town full of museums: Le Museo Nazionale de l’Arma di Cavalleria, la Collezione Civica d’Arte di Palazzo Vittone, le Museo Diocesano, le Museo Storico del Mutuo Soccorso et la Casa del Senato. The San Donato cathedral, the San Maurizio basilica – one of the town’s landmarks – and Pinerolo’s old town, with its squares and picturesque mediaeval streets, are also all well worth a visit. All year round, Pinerolo also holds a number of cultural events: la Rassegna dell’Artigianato, la Maschera di Ferro, and international equestrian competitions. Pinerolo is all this and more: a smiling, welcoming town.
The Tour will be stopping for the first time in Pinerolo, which hosted a stage of the Giro d’Italia from Cueno to Pinerolo, in 1949, which became historic. “The Maddalena Pass would already have been enough to exhaust a bull. But it was just the beginning,» wrote Dino Buzatti, the special correspondent of the Corriere della Sera to describe the dual between Coppi and Bartali. On that day, Coppi, the younger of the two, gave the deathblow to the elder rider: «Today Bartali understood that he had reached decline. And for the first time he smiled.”