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Fear and loathing in La Toussuire... "On a tightened format, attacking can occur at any time," forewarns race director Christian Prudhomme. "No title contender will feel relaxed on this stage."
By
24 Jul 2015 - 3:21 PM 

Unfortunately for La Toussuire, the climb will forever be known as the mountain that unhitched American maillot jaune Floyd Landis on the fifteenth leg of the 2006 Tour - only to stage what was quite literally an unbelievable comeback less than 24 hours later; a 120 kilometre solo effort in the Alps moving him back into contention from eleventh to third overall, and, following the penultimate day's time trial, mellow in yellow…

Four days after he was crowned champion in Paris, Landis' urine sample (taken the day of his great escape) had come back 'non-negative' for synthetic testosterone, as well as a ratio of testosterone-epitestosterone nearly three times that allowed by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules. A week later, his B sample sealed his fate and, in June 2008, after a protracted two-year legal battle, he was stripped of his title by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

It took six years for the Tour organisation to muster the courage to include La Toussuire again.

For the French the wait was well worth it, because in the July of 2012, after Thibaut Pinot and Thomas Voeckler, France celebrated its third consecutive en ligne triumph when Pierre Rolland crossed the line solo atop the 18km ascent; the sadistic course profile leaving one man standing by day's end from the initial 28-man break. "I am relieved it's over. That was the hardest stage," said race leader Bradley Wiggins, under siege from one of his own when team-mate Chris Froome attacked and dropped the groupe maillot jaune two kilometres from the summit, before being ordered by Team Sky directeur-sportif Sean Yates (now at Tinkoff-Saxo) to return to Wiggo's side.

"The Yates boys did La Toussuire after the Dauphiné and afterwards they were pretty rooted!" - Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director

As much as the parcours it's the lurid history that evokes fear and loathing in La Toussuire, despite being visited just twice by the Tour in the past 101 editions.

Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:

"On a tightened format, attacking can occur at any time. Especially when the course offers climbs up to the Col du Chaussy, a newcomer on the Tour de France, the Col de la Croix de Fer, followed by the Col du Mollard, before the final climb up to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles!

"No title contender will feel relaxed on this stage."

Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, says:

"This stage has more than sixty kilometres of climbing in 138K... The Yates boys did La Toussuire after the (Critérium du) Dauphiné and afterwards they were pretty rooted! We did a couple of stages before Dauphiné and this one after - they only rode the last 75, 80K of the stage - and they found it very, very tough. And they were just cruising up it...

"It's good they did it, for sure, though mentally, after you've raced (the Dauphiné) you've switched off, whereas at the Tour you'll need to be switched on for three weeks. But it was good for those guys to go through that process of checking out the climbs. They (the Tour organisers) might use this climb (of La Toussuire) again in two years' time; they might use it in three years' time...

"Does it make you go any better, by seeing a climb at the Tour de France three or four weeks before you've done it?

"Mentally, it gives guys a good picture of how hard it is. (But) it doesn't look quite the same with a couple of million people on the side of the road. Some guys are right into doing that stuff and getting themselves used to the process of preparing for (riding GC at) the Tour, which, hopefully, in the not too distant future, we can start preparing the Yates boys for."

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