A landslide has forced organizers to detour around the famous Galibier climb on the penultimate stage of the 2015 Tour de France.
Just nine days before the race start in Utrecht, ASO officials confirmed Thursday that the 20th stage of the 2015 Tour will not tackle the fearsome Col du Galibier, due to a closure of a tunnel on the approach to the climb, and will instead tackle the Croix-de-Fer en route to the famed Alpe d’Huez climb.
“Kept on alert since the closure of the Chambon tunnel, because of a landslide in April, Tour de France organizers have been informed by the Isère authorities of the inability to restore circulation before the passage of the race scheduled on 25 July,” a Tour press release said Thursday. “Despite the determination of all parties involved to conserve the original route, but more importantly, to allow the population of the communities concerned to return to their normal traffic patterns, it was decided that the route of stage 20 be changed.”
The blocked tunnel, near the village of La Grave, is on the main route from Grenoble to Briancon and is causing major traffic headaches for local residents and businesses. Despite efforts to clear up the rubble since its closure in April, road work will not be completed in time to allow for the Tour stage.
The decision takes some drama out of the stage from Modane to Alpe d’Huez, in what will be the last climbing day and perhaps the decisive stage of the Tour before the final lap around the Champs-Élysées to close out the race on July 26.
The Galibier tops out at 2,645 meters (8,728 feet), typically the highest point of any Tour it’s a part of, and often serves as a breaking point of stages across the Alps. Road work, however, will force organizers to route the stage across the nearby Croix-de-Fer (29km at 5.2 percent), hitting 2,067 meters (6,821 feet) in the valley north of Alpe d’Huez. From there, the course descends quickly to Bourg-d’Oisans at the foot of the famed 21 “lacets” leading up Alpe d’Huez.
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As a result, the Tour’s highest point — with the Henri Desgrange prize that goes with it — will be Col d’Allos featured in stage 17, topping out at an altitude of 2,250 meters (7,425 feet).
Despite the change, the route distance will remain the same, at a short and explosive distance of 110.5km, and the stage will start at roughly the same time from Modane at 1:15 p.m. local time.
Several riders expect the Tour to be decided on Alpe d’Huez, including favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who said in a recent interview, “The stage to Alpe d’Huez could make the race. It’s the hardest climb at the end of three weeks. The race could be decided there.”
The 102nd Tour de France begins July 4 in Utrecht, Netherlands.
AFP contributed to this report