The Tour de France has its historic climbs. And the Tour de France has its special climbs. The Puy Mary falls into the latter category, but it is very special indeed. And to showcase this unique climb in the heart of France’s Massif Central, the Tour de France opted to climb its most grueling ascent today.
As the stage approached, race organizers announced a series of restrictions, and photographers found themselves negotiating on the eve of the race simply to be able to position themselves on the climb and work.
I understood that even with a credential in hand, I needed to get there early today, and so I drove out of Clermont-Ferrand well before the Tour publicity caravan passed through and I went straight up to the climb.
Barely 1,500 meters in altitude, the Puy Mary is in some ways unassuming, at least at the start. But just before the narrow road broke through the tree line, the pitches steepened considerably to nearly 15 percent. And it was here where Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar would accelerate away from the rest of their rivals later in the day.
But while the racing was great, I enjoyed the ambiance even better. Without cars or campers, the only fans that made it towards the summit were those who came by bike or foot. There was a festive party spirit, but it was gentle compared to certain mountain stages in year’s past, as fans waited all afternoon to encourage the riders: from the first to the last!