Colombians like coming to Morzine, and this year marks the Tour’s 20th visit here. On the eleventh stage of the 1985 Tour, Lucho Herrera broke away with eventual race winner Bernard Hinault to claim the first high mountain stage in nearby Morzine Avoriaz (the village above Morzine); three days later he would confirm his uphill superiority with another stage victory, also taking home the mountains classification.
And three years after Herrera on the same numbered stage, also the inaugural foray in the high mountains, Fabio Parra triumphed in Morzine at the end of a mammoth 232 kilometre stage from Besançon, also becoming the first Colombian to finish on the podium.
Most recently, Nairo Quintana claimed his first WorldTour victory on the penultimate and queen stage of the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné.
On a 167.5 kilometre stage that contained no less than six categorised climbs, the boy from Combita, northeast of the sprawling capital of Bogota, audaciously, and single-handedly, decided to take on the group maillot jaune. Quintana, then all of 22 years young, chose the final ascent of the Col de Joux Plane, considered the toughest climb in the Haute-Savoie, to make his move - and despite a concerted chase by defending Tour champion Cadel Evans, he wasn’t seen again till the awards ceremony… A star was born.
Mountain passes & hills
Km 21.0 - Col des Aravis (1,487m): 6.7 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 2
Km 45.5 - Col de la Colombière (1,618m): 11.7 kilometre-long climb at 5.8% - category 1
Km 93.5 - Col de la Ramaz (1,619m): 13.9 kilometre-long climb at 7.1% - category 1
Km 134.5 - Col de Joux Plane (1,691m): 11.6 kilometre-long climb at 8.5% - category HC
Whenever the Tour comes to Morzine the Col de Joux Plane precedes it. The unrelenting Alp has featured eleven times previously and three times in the past 20 years, though given the dubious nature of its most recent winners (specifically, Marco Pantani, Richard Virenque and Floyd Landis, who all displayed a penchant for what Tyler Hamilton nicknamed ‘Edgar Allan Poe’) little can be inferred from those occasions as to what may transpire today.
This year, the Joux Plane will be approached from its southern, and considerably harder, side in Samoens: 8.5 per cent versus a 6.5 per cent average from Morzine.
Near the summit, riders will be able to see the climb of Mont Blanc where they finished the day previous; then, once at the top, it'll be an near-identical amount of down as there was up. To provide an idea of just how fast - not to mention dangerous! - a descent it is, the day he won at the Dauphiné four years ago, Quintana said: "I knew I could get to the finish solo if I had twenty seconds at the top." Can he salvage his Tour in Morzine?
With two podium positions on a knife's edge, the Col de Joux Plane has the potential to shred the race to pieces, and decide who stands next to Chris Froome in Paris. Says Thierry Gouvenou, the man who designed the stage: “We’re aiming for total suspense, right up to the very end of the race.”
Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France race director, says...
“The grand final for the climbers and maybe for the yellow jersey will once again be played in the Alps, on a short and intense stage for which one will have to keep energy... and cold blood. Indeed, after the climbs to the Col de la Ramaz, and then Joux Plane, the Tour could well be decided on a long 12-kilometre downhill portion. A first!”
Weather: Despite some bright intervals on the Col de Aravis, many clouds and many rain showers throughout. The cloud base with some fog will be at 2000m. Temperatures will decrease in the afternoon; 15°C at the Col de Aravis, Colombière and Joux Plane, and 22°C in the lower valleys, like in Scionzier.