Bourg St M Town Hall, Dec 2017. Has "Architecture of XX Century" status, alongside cinema & Arc 2000 cable car station. Click on photo for more

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

TOUR DE FRANCE 1996: Les Arcs and The Beginning of The End for Miguel Indurain

The 1996 Tour de France can hardly go down as the greatest in history, given that the winner Bjarne Riis admitted taking drugs during the tour, with most of the other riders also implicated - see wikipedia account for some of the background.

Aside from this depressing backdrop, it is notable for two reasons: the first inclusion of the climb to Les Arcs, and the beginning of the end for Miguel Indurain.  Here's the route, which included the Chambery to Les Arcs stage, via Col de la Madeleine and the Cormet de Roselend:

Other features of the 1996 Tour include:

  • Lance Armstrong having to give up at Aix-les-Bains - the start of his fight against cancer.
  • Snow stopping the racing on the Cols de l'Iseran and Galibier
  • Chris Boardman in his heyday, albeit not on the Les Arcs stage.

The stage to Les Arcs was also notable for seeing yellow jersey holder Stephane Heulot abandon on the Cormet de Roseland.

On the climb itself, we see Indurain dropped just before the Arc 1600 roundabout, and (in contravention of the rules) taking a drink.  Was he wearing too much, speculate the commentators.  Have a look at around 2:45 for the moment Indurain cracks, with Luc Leblanc going on to win the stage.

Gary Imlach was sent to Indurain's hotel (the Grand Hotel Paradiso) in Arc 1800 to find out more.  "I wasn't suffering but I didn't have the rhythm or strength to do it...."

It wasn't entirely the end of the road for Indurain - the next day he put in a very good performance in the Bourg St Maurice - Val d'Isere time trail.  But it was Les Arcs which marked the beginning of the end for "Big Mig".  It isn't the hardest climb in the world, but it is long - 15km.  Arguably the 2009 Tour would have been much more interesting if the organisers hadn't wimped out of taking the riders up to Arc 1800, rather than finishing in Bourg-St-Maurice.....

More on cycling in Les Arcs here

And below is a fuller version of that 1996 stage:

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