The French Alps have always been the holy grail of cycling. But this year the quest is even tougher: Tour de France cyclists will set a new record for the highest finish.
Over the past 100 years, the craggy mountain range has hosted epic Tour de France duels, dashed dreams, and forged champions.
To mark a century of riding through the Alps, Tour de France organizers have set this year’s deciding stages among some of its most iconic and grueling peaks.
The peloton begins the first of three consecutive high mountain stages today, with Thursday and Friday – the final two climbing days in this year's Tour – expected to be the most decisive.
But the Galibier, often the tallest point, or “roof” of each Tour, doesn’t have that honor this year. That goes to the nearly 9,000-foot Col Agnel, the third-highest paved road in the Alps, one of three hors categorie climbs on Thursday. (Tour organizers rate mountains on a descending scale of difficulty, from one to four. The toughest climbs are called hors categorie, or outside of categorization.)