I’ve said it before but of the three climbs the Izoard is really the one with true history, character and dramatic views. Most famously Coppi and Bobet’s rivalry through the 1950s is celebrated by the monument near the summit.
It’s been part of the tour since 1922 and the list of riders to have crossed it in the lead reads like a rollcall of legends from a golden age. www.ledicodutour.com gives a list from 1947 onwards that includes Robic, Bobet, Coppi, Bartali, Merckx and Bahamontes.
I would like to think I will be adding my name to that list this year which, in a way, I will be. The Etape is going over it a week before the peleton proper does so, by the use of the logic beloved of amateur sporting legends everywhere, I will cross the Izoard ahead of the peleton. This is of course the same by which I have never been beaten by Lance Armstrong for the reason that I have never competed against him.
I always think I’ve seen the Izoard in the race more times than I actually have. I can vaguely recall Botero going over it in 2000 but not Garmendia in 2003, which is probably down to the lousy UK television coverage of the event.
It’s strange that it isn’t more often eulogised by those writing about Le Tour since that golden era of the 1950s when it was crossed more frequently than it is now. There’s a musuem near the top, which I would love to visit but which I doubt I’ll want to stop for on the Etape unless I get a chance to ride up there on the Saturday beforehand.
Similarly part of me wishes I had more time to take pictures on the day as we ride up through the alpine scenery of the lower part of the climb and the unmistakeable Casse Desert, a landscape often described as “lunar” by journalists.