Circle of Death

Welcome to the first wednesday legs first post.

This represents a transition from a weekly email to a blog.

Over the coming weeks and months, the site will be fine tuned so please be patient.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings.

Happy reading. iPib


High-end clothing maker Rapha last week launched a “Circle of Death” jersey to celebrate a Pyrenean mountain route by the same name.

This reference to the Circle of Death intrigued me. What is the Circle of Death. Nothing to do with a big curry night, the Circle of Death ride is a loop in the Pyrenees that includes the Col d’Aubisque, Col d’Aspin, Col de Peyresourde and the Col du Tourmalet.

The Tourmalet was first inserted into the eighth edition of the race in 1910 after Alphonse Steinès, race director Desgrange’s assistant, had reconnoitred the route the previous year. Discovering an unmade road rendered impassable by snow, Steinès dismissed his driver and continued on foot. He got lost, fell down a ravine and had to be rescued, but the following morning, in a gendarmerie in the hamlet of Barèges on the way down from the 2,115m summit, he cabled his boss: “Tourmalet crossed stop very good road stop perfectly practicable stop Steines.”

Despite being a known despot, and perhaps a sadist and a misogynist as well, Desgrange did not plan for his riders to tackle the narrow, rutted and desperately wild roads of the Pyrenees or Alps. He was convinced by Steines of it’s merits. Degrange once said that the ideal Tour would be one in which only one rider finished. Despite the inclusion of the mountains, there were hardly any concessions to this maxim. At 4,737 kilometres the 1910 edition was nearly 300 kilometres longer than in 1909, with fifteen stages instead of fourteen.

Stage 9 from Perpignan to Luchon featured four major climbs (including the Portet d’Aspet) over its 289 kilometres, but it was stage 10, after a rest day, that was the real mountains challenge. Luchon to Bayonne, 326 kilometres over five climbs:

Peyresourde (1,569 metres)

Col de Peyresourde was listed by Le Cycle Magazine as one of the 30 most beautiful climbs in France
Peyresourde profile

Col d’Aspin (1,489 metres)

Col d’Aspin from Rapha

Tourmalet (2,115 metres)

Aubisque (1,709 metres), and – in case it were thought too easy

Col d’Aubisque
Col d’Aubisque

And then just to put the final pinch into the riders legs, the Osquich at 390 metres to finish it off.

The only small concession was that Degrange introduced for the first time la voiture-balai, the broom-wagon to sweep up any riders unable to carry on.

Even so, the mountains proved daunting and only 110 riders signed up in 1910, compared to 150 in 1909. There were only three professional teams, of ten riders each, with 80 amateur isoles making up the balance. Only 41 finished (37%), compared to 55 out of 150 in 1909 (35%) so it would seem that only the tougher riders decided to tackle the course.

When the race went over theTourmelet on 21 July 1910, Octave Lapize, was seen to be walking alongside his heavy single-speed bike in a state of some distress. As Lapize crossed the summit of the next pass, the Col d’Aubisque, he hurled a famous imprecation at the commissaires. “You are all assassins,” he shouted with what remained of his strength. “No human being should be put through an ordeal like this. That’s enough for me.” Nevertheless he carried on. Ten days later Lapize was celebrating victory in Paris, with Garrigou second, having covered a route of 4,737km in 31 days and thereby establishing a precedent for an ineluctable combination of cyclists, mountains and suffering.

The press wrote of the new stage routes into the wilderness of the Pyrenees as “dangerous” and “bizarre.” Of course this was much to the delight of Henri Desgrange and his sponsoring newspaper Le Auto.

With the inclusion of the dangerous Pyrenees Mountains and the riders shouting “Assassins…” and “Murderers…” Tour legend was made in 1910. The press contributed tremendously to the legend by naming the hardest day in the Pyrenees “The Circle of Death”, where hopes of a Tour de France victory go to die.

On the issue of diets, it is fascinating to note that in 1910 the defending champion, François Faber, set off into the Pyrenees with 12 veal cutlets in his bag, saying, “It’s because I eat like four men that I can fight against five”

These Cols now form a vital element of the race. These great peaks of the Pyrenees are arguably the ultimate battleground of the Tour de France.  There are many hallowed climbs in the Pyrenees but this range within a range stands above all others.

This year, the Cols are included on the one stage. Shite.

Stage 16 TdF
Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon – 197 km

The profile shows just how brutal it will be. Watch out for this stage, the winner may not be determined, however it will have a significant influence on who the final winner is.


Criterium du Dauphine – Race wrapup

Stage 3 Givors – La Clayette

Edvald Boasson Hagen won this in a sprint from Gerald Ciolek (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Borut Bozic (Astana).

Stage 4 – (ITT): Villié-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse

Bradley Wiggins won the 53km in dominant form, beating world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) by 34 seconds. Team mate Michael Rogers  was third at 1:11 down.

The two key things tat came out of todaus ride was teh form of Wiggo, and Andy Schlecks crash. Picked up by the wind and mercilessly dumped. He subsequently withdrew from the race the next day. Fingers cross he can not only recover by the TdF, but also grab some form which has been missing this season so far.

Wiggins – ITT King
Andy Schleck injured following a crash early in the stage
Michael Rogers – Team Sky

Stage 5 Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans to Rumilly 

Arthur Vichot (FDJ Big Mat) won stage 5 with a solo move inside the final six kilometres.

The 23-year-old Frenchman was part of an early breakaway move on the 186.5km stage and soloed to the line with a 26-second advantage over Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana).

Remember Arthur. Back then Arthur was a young rider with Française des Jeux rider and was picked randomly by a group of cycling enthusiasts from the Port Adelaide Cycling Club. They created a Facebook fan club for the rider, which was created for an unknown rider who would be doing his first race here, who had never been to Australia before and didn’t speak English.  He’s one to watch for over the next few years.

Arthur Vichot

Stage 6 Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine

The pocket rocket – Nairo Quinitana (Movistar) won the sixth stage ahead of Cadel Evans who broke from the small group of favourites to finish second, 16 seconds down, with Daniel Moreno of Katusha leading the group across the finish line another eight seconds later. They don’t call him the pocket rocket for nothing. Nairo is 169cm (5′ 5.7″) and 57kg. Jeez. Mention this to your partner and see what their reaction is.

Cadel attacking Team Sky and Wiggo

Stage 7 Morzine to Châtel

This stage was all about Wiggo and his awesome Team Sky.

The final stage was won by Daniel Moreno (Katusha), who also won Stage 2. Daniel just pipped Luis Leon Sanchez on the line. Evans pipped Edvald Boasson Hagen on the line for third.

Final podium placings for the Criterium were Wiggins (1st), teammate and Australian Michael Rogers (2nd) and Evans (3rd). Two Aussies on the podium. Fantastic.

Wiggins’s lead was never in doubt over the stage, with Sky keeping a close eye on both the day’s escape group and the competition for yellow. The dominant performance by both the captain and the team now make Wiggins the top favourite for the Tour de France.

The big question is, has Wiggo peaked too early.  He says he hasn’t, but he and his Team Sky rode superbly, so it is hard to imaging they can get any better.  Wiggo is now a marked man, he will be closely watched. He won’t be allowed to to sneak seconds, he will be isolated when he can. His and Team Sky time trialing abilities should set up some considerable time advantages, but the TdF is a long 3 weeks, and anything can happen.

Don’t forget that there were quite a few riders who rode the giro who didn’t ride the Dauphine, nor no dominant  trains for Team Sky to contend with. Yes, they still have the Manx Missile to come in, but all you Brits and Wiggo fans, don’t count your chickens, not just yet.

I caught Evans interview on SBS2 after the race, and he looked very comfortable with his situation.

Toy of the week – Winter Toes

How many got caught out by the cold snap over the long weekend? 2.5 degrees when I left home on Sunday for a ride in the hills. There were few complaints. Boys, remember Rule #5. HTFU.

This weeks toy is a quick look at some of those booty covers and socks that can help you keep your toes frostbite free. One of the best purchases I made several years ago were a set of neoprene booties.

By my quick 5 minute research, there appears to be 4 main types of overshoes, with some others thrown into the mix. Of course this is not a comprehensive review. There is bound to be other types I have missed.

Overshoe Type 1 – Polyurethane rubber outer, mostly with some inner lining such as a MicroFleece. Provides a the highest level of water-resistance. Also quite durable.

Overshoe Type 2 – Smooth neoprene construction and welded seams (like a wetsuit), good level of waterproofing. Neoprene is great at keeping your feet warm and it stretches to fit.

Castelli 9525 neoprene

Overshoe Type 3 – Thin Lycra. Great for show, aerodynamics and mildly cool days.

Sugoi Resistor

Overshoe Type 4 – Composites that have various types and thickness of layers designed for different purposes. Composites include Neoskin waterproof layer on top of 3 mm neoprene, Nylon/Spandex such as defeet.


Website of the week –     Twelve Fifty-One

A chronicling of worthy films, shorts, scenes, music videos, and sometimes music.


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