In the latest of our special Tour de France countdown features, Ellis Bacon looks back at 10 memorable moments from the 99 editions of the Grand Boucle.
Tells us which is you memorable moment in the comments section below.
1910 “You’re all murderers!”
The high mountains first featured in the 1910 edition of the Tour de France,
with the introduction of the Pyrenees. But far from providing the
spectacle they do today, back then they simply added to the brutality of
what was already an extremely tough race.
The unmade roads forced most riders to push their bikes up the
climbs, and prompted eventual 1910 winner Octave Lapize to crest the Col
d’Aubisque on foot while famously shouting, “You’re all murderers!” at
the race organisers.
The Alps were introduced in 1911, but their green, magisterial beauty
seemed to enchant, rather than anger the riders. The two mountain
ranges have remained key battlegrounds at the Tour ever since.
1913: Christophe fails to forge victory
In 1913, 10 years after the first edition of the Tour, French darling
Eugène Christophe was hoping to go one better than his runner’s-up
positioning 1912. The Tour had been decided on points then, but was
decided by accumulated time in 1913 and the Frenchman was a big
favourite. However, the clock was ticking when poor Christophe’s forks
broke on the descent of the Col du Tourmalet and he was forced to run
with his bike until he found a blacksmith’s forge at which to effect his
He fixed his forks, only to be disqualified for having received ‘outside assistance’ from the blacksmith’s apprentice.
1964: Anquetil and Poulidor duke it out on the Puy de Dôme
Jacques Anquetil always had his rivals’ measure in the time trials,
and it was perhaps for that reason that the Frenchman allowed compatriot
Raymond Poulidor to eventually ride away as they approached the top of
the Puy de Dôme on stage 20 of the 1964 Tour. But not before
photographer Roger Krieger captured the iconic image of the two rivals
bouncing off each other as they battled for superiority on the climb’s
By the top, Anquetil still held a slim 14-second lead over Poulidor —
‘The Eternal Second’, who would never win the Tour — and added to that
lead in the final time trial to Paris, where he won the race by 55
seconds to take his fifth and final Tour title.
1986: LeMond and Hinault match each other on Alpe d’Huez
Accepting Greg LeMond’s assistance to win the 1985 Tour was supposed
to mean that Bernard Hinault would return the favour in 1986. Yet the
famously aggressive Frenchman had other ideas when the time came — the
chance of winning a sixth title proving a massive incentive. But after a
tense duel, stage 18 to Alpe d’Huez proved to be the moment when
Hinault would accept that his young American teammate was the better
rider. The two matched each other pedal-stroke for pedal-stroke up
through the climb’s famous 21 hairpin bends before crossing the finish
line arm-in-arm — although ‘The Badger’ made sure he squeezed his wheel
across the line first to become the official stage winner.
1987: “That looks like Roche!”
“Just who is that rider coming up behind? Because that looks like Roche. That looks like Stephen Roche... It's Stephen Roche!”
Cycling commentator Phil Liggett’s hugely entertaining words did
justice to a performance sure to live on as one of the Tour’s greatest
Stephen Roche, the Irishman who became the Emerald Isle’s first, and
still only, Tour de France winner, dug deep into his reserves to peg
back rival Pedro Delgado on the slopes of La Plagne, emerging from the
mist to that famous commentary before collapsing on the ground, where he
was administered oxygen, and all but winked at his fans at home. Roche
had saved his Tour, and in spectacular fashion at that.
1989: A tale of ponytails and tri bars
There’s definitely a bit of an eighties theme going on in this top 10, but that’s because that decade’s Tours were that good.
However, 1983 and 1984 Tour champion Laurent Fignon’s ponytail was a
fashion choice that might just have lost him the race in 1989. Compared
to American Greg LeMond’s aerodynamic ‘triathlon’ handlebars and aero
helmet, Fignon’s long blond hair and round spectacles seemed to invite
the air to slow him down during the final time trial that year. But with
a 50-second buffer, Fignon’s lead seemed insurmountable.
“He’s bouncing off the barriers!” a delirious Liggett exclaimed as
the Frenchman emptied himself during the last couple of hundred metres
on the Champs-Elysées. Eight seconds before Fignon crossed the line,
LeMond started celebrating; it was the closest Tour in history, and
arguably the best there’s ever been, too.
1992: Hysteria on Sestriere as Chiappucci comes home
Claudio Chiappucci’s successful lone breakaway to Sestriere on stage
13 of the 1992 race provided some of the most extraordinary scenes ever
seen at the Tour.
The Alpine climb takes the riders into Italy, and so the Italian
climber could count on plenty of support from his compatriots that day.
Thousands turned out, and when the race’s lead motorbikes were blocked
by the sheer volume of spectators, Chiappucci was in danger of being
mobbed and disappearing into the crowds completely. Lucky, then, that he
was clad in the red-polka-dot jersey as ‘king of the mountains’ — a
jersey that can apparently be spotted from space.
1994: Poli conquers the Ventoux
If Mont Ventoux is ‘best’ remembered for the death of Tom Simpson,
then Italian Eros Poli’s 1994 escapades on its slopes goes at least some
way to redressing the balance towards more celebratory memories.
The Italian giant took on ‘The Giant of Provence’ in a battle
everyone was expecting the rider to lose. With a 25-minute lead over his
pursuers at the start of the climb, Poli dragged his huge, tired limbs
up and over the Ventoux, and was still able to celebrate his stage win
in Carpentras with a buffer of over three minutes on the chasers having
risked everything on the descent.
Stage 15 of this year’s Tour will hopefully provide more stunning
scenes on the Ventoux that will also be remembered for all the right
1996: Indurain’s reign reined in
His face was almost unreadable in every one of his victories from
1991 to 1995, but Miguel Indurain’s expression said it all on stage
seven of the 1996 Tour.
Indurain had arrived at the Tour fit and well having won June’s
Dauphiné Libéré, and, despite his third place at the 1995 Tour behind
Indurain and Switzerland’s Alex Zülle, there was little to suggest that
Bjarne Riis might go two better in 1996.
But on the road between Chambéry and Les Arcs — that year’s first
mountain stage, Indurain’s Tour untouchability suddenly left him. He
cracked, ceding almost three-and-a-half minutes to Riis. The next day,
the Dane took another 26 seconds out of the Spaniard in the time trial —
unheard of — and by the end of the following, snow-shortened stage to
Sestriere, Riis was in yellow.
2003: Armstrong has a field day
We can try to write Lance Armstrong out of Tour history when it comes
to the results, but it’s far more difficult to ignore the myriad images
of him in yellow.
Arguably the most memorable one that will infamously live on as a
reminder of his presence is of him plunging down through a field in
order to avoid a stricken Joseba Beloki, who’d crashed on the descent of
the Col de la Rochette, near Gap, on stage nine of the 2003 Tour.
The fact that Armstrong almost seamlessly rejoined the road after
leaping across the ditch at the bottom of said field made it look like
he could do no wrong... Ellis Bacon is author of new book Mapping Le Tour (Collins),
which details the geography of the Tour de France, with a preview of
the 2013 edition and a section on the race’s most memorable
This year's Tour de France
is the 100th edition of the Grand Boucle, with race organiser ASO
starting the celebrations with the first ever Grand Départ in Corsica on
Saturday June 29 and ending in style with an evening stage in the
centre of Paris on July 21.
In between are three weeks of intense racing around the hexagon of
France with a finely balanced route of tough and spectacular mountain
stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps, three vital time trials and a mix
of flat stages for the sprinters and hilly stages to inspire heroic
Like every Tour, each stage will tell a different story, with the battle
for the race leader's yellow jersey, the green points jersey and the
polka-dot mountains jersey the colourful threads and themes that hold
the three-week adventure together.
A Tour de France stage victory can make a rider's season, the winner
of the 100th edition of the Tour de France will make cycling history.
Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome
and Team Sky dominated the 2012 Tour de France, taking first and second
overall. Wiggo is not part of Team Sky this year due to a knee injury
and a disastrous Giro d'Italia and so Froome has been groomed as Team
Sky's new Grand Tour leader.
He seems content not to have to take on his teammate as well as his
biggest rivals but could miss the support and experience of a strong
teammate. Froome describes himself as something of a Grand Tour novice.
He is confident and hungry to win but we will see what he is really made
of during the chaotic three weeks of racing.
Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) tops the list of riders who could
discover Team Sky's weaknesses and end their domination this year. He
missed last year's Tour due to a doping ban but is back this year and
out to show Froome how to win the Tour and prove he is back to his best.
So far this season, his form has been hot and cold but he has strong
support from some experienced teammates and can count on the knowledge
and cunning of team manager Bjarne Riis.
In-house rivalries will no doubt be a theme of this year's Tour de
France despite the absence of Wiggins. Cadel Evans is the designated
team leader at BMC but has Tejay van Garderen snapping at his heels. The
American won the best young rider's white jersey last year and was
fifth overall, better than Evans, who finished seventh, as he struggled
with a mysterious virus. Their relationship will be fascinating to watch
as it the race evolves.
Movistar also has two contenders in their line-up, with Alejandro
Valverde and Nairo Quintana both focusing on the GC. Valverde is
experienced but the pocket-rocket Colombian seems far more suited to
Grand Tours and is rightly considered a dangerous outsider.
Other names to remember for the GC battle include French hope Thibaut
Pinot (FDJ), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal and Daniel
Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler (Team
Europcar) and Bauke Mollema of the soon to be named Belkin team. They
will all fight for a place in the top ten and even cause a surprise, win
a prestigious stage or crash out in the first week. Such is the nature
of the Tour de France for the overall contenders.
Sprinting battle royal
The sprinters are also promising a battle royal for the 100th edition
of the Tour de France, with the flat stages offering a high-speed,
adrenaline-fuelled showdown between Mark Cavendish,
André Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan and their respective Omega
Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto Belisol, Argos-Shimano and Cannondale teams.
Other sprinters expected to barge their way into the fast finishes
include Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Edvald
Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and the ever-erratic Roman Feillu
The four big sprint teams will chase down breakaways and then try and
set up their sprinters at high speeds. Crashes, polemics and the fight
for the green points jersey are part of the game and should keep us all
on the edge of our seats until the mountain stages and fight for the
The Tour de France parcours
As tradition, the Tour de France consists of 21 stages and two rest days during the three weeks of racing.
This year the route follows an anti-clockwise direction after the
opening stages in Corsica, with the Pyrenees coming in the first week of
racing before a transfer to Brittany, a long diagonal ride back south
via Lyon for the showdown in the Alps before a second flight takes the
riders to Paris for the finish on the Champs Élysées. The official race
distance is 3404km, an average of 162km a day.
The Tour de France often starts with a prologue time trial and flat
stages for the sprinters. Not this year. Corsica hosts three road
stages: to Bastia, Ajaccio and Calvi. Only the first really suits the
sprinters, with the others including rugged and testing climbs along the
coastline of the Mediterranean island.
Mark Cavendish may be favourite to win the first sprint and so take
the first yellow jersey but the other stages in Corsica could offer
Sagan a chance to quickly establish a lead in the battle for the green
The riders fly to Nice after Monday's stage but there is no rest day
and they face an intense afternoon of speed and nerves in the 25km team
time trial. The stage is out and back along the Promenade des Anglais
seafront with an equally flat and fast loop inland. Time lost by the
weaker teams could be decisive for their leaders' hope.
The first week heads across the south of France but with a mix of
hilly stages and expected sprint finishes. Here the canicule of July
will also be a factor, with holiday makers no doubt watching from the
shade along the side of the road.
The first mountain stage on Saturday July 8 ends in Ax 3 Domaines.
The Col de Pailhères (15.3km at 8%) is brutal, while the 7.8km climb to
the finish should set the hierarchy for the rest of the race. The
following day's ninth stage is just as important and is a classic day in
the Pyrenees, covering five cols in just 130km before the descent to
Bagnères-de-Bigorre. We can expect a breakaway attempt as the overall
contenders watch each other for signs of weakness.
The Tour de France transfers north to Brittany on the first rest day
for a change of landscape and probably weather. The 11th stage, a 33km
time trial, finishes in the spectacular shadows of the Mont-Saint-Michel
island, with riders out to beat each other and the coastal tide. Winds
and the risk of rain could also be a huge factor in the race of truth.
Showdown in the Alps!
Le Tour returns south after the time trial, cutting across central
France before a long stage to the summit of Mont Ventoux. The Géant de
Provence is a terrible, steep and painful climb (20.8km at 8%) and comes
after 220km of racing. The stage will also be held on Bastille Day:
extra motivation for the French riders and even bigger crowds on the
barren white rocky slopes.
The riders can enjoy the second rest day in Vaucluse after conquering
the Ventoux but the Alps are looming to the south-east. The 32km stage
17 time trial between Embrun and Chorges includes two climbs and
requires excellent bike handling skills and then Thursday's 172.5km
stage climbs L'Alpe d'Huez twice!
The first is followed by the decent of the Col de Sarenne, with some
riders not happy about the dangers of the twisting descent. The stage
ends with a second climb on the legendary hairpins, with another name to
add to the long list of prestigious winners.
The mountains continue on stage 19 to Le Grand-Bornand, with the Col
du Glandon and the Col de la Madeleine just two of five climbs covered
during the 200km stage.
The mountains of the 100th Tour de France end on Saturday July 20
with a relatively short (125km) but tough stage near Annecy. The climb
that could well decide the Tour is up to the finish at Annecy-Semnoz, a
final Hors Categorie climb that is 10.7km and has an 8.5% average
With no time bonuses awarded at stage or intermediate sprints, every
second will count throughout the race and on the final climb.
The last stage to Paris and the Champs-Élysées on Sunday July 21 will
be a celebration of the 100th Tour de France, of this year's overall
winner and hopefully everything that is good about professional cycling.
Riders leave Versailles at 5:45pm, with the finish scheduled for sunset
at 9:30pm local time.
It will be a spectacular end to what promises to be a spectacular Tour.
What's the real reason behind Wiggins missing the Tour?
Looks like the Wiggins/Sky honeymoon is now officially over. They've
had the good times, they've had some bad times and now marital trouble
is brewing behind the shiny façade. Like any relationship going bad,
there'll be some good excuses thrown about and I do wonder which one Sir
Dave has told Sir Brad.
Maybe not the brutal one of 'you've been replaced by a younger
model.' That might be a bit too much like the truth. No, something from
the less offensive selection has to be more appropriate for a national
hero. 'You're just not doing it for me, I think we need a break' or
perhaps 'it's not what we expected and something has to change.' The
last one is probably nearest the mark but then remember any change which
is required isn't for The Plan. Sky haven't been good at changing The
According to some sources close to the Wiggins camp, it seems that
the dicky left knee story might not be exactly the whole truth behind
the imposition of July holidays for last year's TdF champion. The can't
train reason might have been valid if he hadn't been doing four-hour
rides, trying to hit the required numbers. As anyone who has experienced
that kind of pain will tell you can't ride even 30 minutes under any
kind of effort with a knee injury so four hours, really?
This season hasn't been a patch on 2012 for Wiggins and it seems that
despite following head coach Tim Kerrison's menu for success like he
did previously, this time around he hasn't been hitting the numbers and
the results haven't been there. Cue head falling off and the onset of
unhappiness. Of course, the weather hasn't helped him but it looks like
Brad is missing old friends Shane Sutton and Sean Yates. When it came to
managing the athlete that Wiggins is, they were the ones who knew what
to look for, when to reassure him or when to shout at him, and now that
kind of relationship and understanding isn't available the wheels are
falling of the Wiggo wagon.
The wattage game might have worked last year but there's more to
training than just that aspect and it's difficult to keep doing the same
type of efforts year in year out and still keep your sanity. Sometimes
you need to change a few things to keep the mental side of things fresh,
some new ideas or stimulation in how you train and race and that's
where the good old boys could have stepped in before everything turned
So the dicky knee would have been a good cover story and you have to
admit it's more convenient than saying Wiggins wasn't going to be good
enough but then we come to the conspiracy theory.
Apparently when Chris Froome was considering putting his signature on
a new contract to stay with the Brit team after last year's Tour he
insisted on sole team leadership and no Wiggins at the 2013 TdF. It was
that or hello BMC. Now that kind of bombshell - if it's true - puts a
different complexion on the injury excuse and it might explain why Sky
were so keen to point Wiggins in the direction of the Giro. Of course
the internal politics between Froome, Sky and Wiggins wouldn't have been
a problem if Wiggins had met his target and won the Giro but he didn't
and now the dirty laundry is being pegged out.
Now to add this scenario we have the return of Alberto Contador, the
big danger but according to a team mate he isn't looking to be in the
same all-conquering form he once enjoyed. Tactics may well be deployed
in the race for yellow. The thinking goes that Froome and Contador will
be watching each other that closely that Richie Porte could sneak off up
the road and gain enough advantage to withstand any attacks from either
of the two named leaders.
Then who is going to help Froome out? Not Evans, as it was his spot as
number one at BMC which was been taken, and he's Australian to boot, so
he's not going to ride and certainly not any of the Spaniards either as
they couldn't go back home having helped Contador lose. Wiggins enjoyed a
certain aura before his triumph and had few enemies but Froome doesn't
seem to have that luxury. His PR machine needs to be making good
impressions so this Criterium du Dauphine is going to be vital to Chris
Froome's ambitions of TdF success. If he doesn't shine like Wiggins did
last year, there'll be extra pressure and if he wins, there'll be even
more stress. Meanwhile over at Sky Central, the mantra will continue,
stick to The Plan. Though you do wonder if Brad was kept fully in the
loop on that one.
Want a bit of good reading to get you prepared for a summer of
cycling? Look up The Rules by Velominati. I will point out that I
quickly browsed through them and noticed they've missed a couple. Front
brake to the left hand lever, rear brake on the right hand lever is one
and no sprinting on the hoods is another. The exception to that rule is
Guiseppe Saronni, for an example see the Goodwood Worlds in 82. I know
it's not a great exemption as he employed the same style at Prague in 81
and Freddy Maertens mugged him so stick to the rules.
No sprint support as Blanco chase GC, Tour de Suisse to test form
has been pleasantly surprised by his ability to bounce back from the
high-speed crash that took him out of the Tour of Turkey on stage 2 and
he believes that he will be ready for the Tour de France.
sprinter spent just two weeks off the bike following surgery on the
broken collarbone he sustained in Turkey, while a few of the associated
injuries took a little bit longer to get right. Renshaw returns to
racing at the Ronde van Zeeland Seaports this Sunday to get some
last-minute leg speed before heading to the Tour de Suisse, where his
performance will ultimately determine his Tour inclusion.
"The plan has always been for the Tour but now it just means that at
Tour de Suisse I have prove I'm back on the level. If I can prove I'm
right to race then there should be no worries," Renshaw told Cyclingnews.
"I had two weeks completely off the bike, one week on the home
trainer. I've been back on the road for almost two weeks. I'm going
pretty well actually and quite happy with how the recovery has gone. I
thought it was going to be a lot harder to come back but it's [the form]
has come back quite quick."
Blanco has a formidable line-up for the 200km Zeeland race, with Theo
Bos leading the line. Renshaw admits that while his condition is on the
up, he probably won't have the legs to contribute to Bos' sprint train,
which features fellow Australian Graeme Brown. At Suisse however,
there's a number of stages earmarked for sprints but with a difficult
parcours and a field full of riders testing themselves ahead of the
Grand Depart, bunch sprints are never certain.
"The only chance to race before Suisse is at Zeeland. I can't see
myself playing a big role in the race, it's more to get a day of racing
under the belt. It seems like there will be a few sprint stages but in
saying that it's Tour de Suisse and it's always a hard race," he said.
Renshaw's transition from lead-out man to sprinter and back to
sometime-lead-out man has led to mixed feelings for the Australian, who
is best-known for his performances alongside Mark Cavendish during his
Highroad days. At Blanco, Renshaw has come to understand that if Bos is
there, it's almost certain the Dutchman will be given the lead.
"It works quite well for the team when we race together but if we
ride together we always ride for him, so I try to do a different program
a lot," he explained.
Assuming Suisse goes to plan Renshaw should be in Corsica on June 29
but as has been the case a number of times this season, Renshaw won't
have support for the sprint stages. With a team that has ambitions for
the general classification, he will have to be there to take
opportunities when they arise, after his team duties have been
"If I go to the Tour it will be to support Bauke Mollema and Robert
Gesink, who are the leaders of the team. They are focused on GC so if I
go it will be to help those guys. I can obviously try to take my chance
in sprint stages but they [Blanco] won't have support for me," said
The Australia National Team
Critical of his omission from Cycling Australia's selection for the
2011 world championships and 2012 Olympic Games, Renshaw was satisfied
with the appointment of Brad McGee and Brian Stephens, who will share
the National Team DS position. Renshaw had voiced his backing of the
former professional McGee into the role held by Matt White - until he
stepped down - and believes sharing the work load with Stephens should
"I think he's going to be great in that role. I've known Brad a long
time, he's a smart guy and he'll do a great job. He's in Australia now
but they will have Brian Stephens to look over the European racing so
between the two of them they will do a good job."