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12-09-2020 | Frank Jansen

The stage cities and their gran fondo's: Clermont-Ferrand

CycloWorld heroes the Tour de France. In a series of articles we focus on the stage cities and the gran fondo's and sportives of thee region. Today: stage 14, which starts from Clermont-Ferrand.

Cycling around Clermont-Ferrand

Clermont-Ferrand is the largest stage city of this Tour after Paris and Lyon: over 140,000 people live there. It is a beautiful, cozy French city full of stores, terraces, churches and so on. Especially the center is definitely worth spending a day. Everything is easily accessible on foot. The city is only 20 km from yesterday's stage city. For information about the terrain, please refer to that article.

Gran fondo's

Who says Clermont-Ferrand, says Puy de Dôme. Leaving aside the Alps and Pyrenees, this is undoubtedly the most legendary climb in Tour history. It was here that Eddy Merckx received the famous blow to the liver from a spectator, who eventually cost him the Tour. And in the 1964 Tour, Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor fought a fantastic battle here. As much as 13 times this mountain was in the course, the last time was in 1988. What a pity that this climb will never be part of the Tour again. In fact, even cyclists are not allowed to cycle up the mountain (almost) anymore. At least, when we talk about the last (very steep) 4 km, which run so characteristic around the mountain. The (not very special) road to the foot, which starts in Clermond-Ferrand, is still open.

Why are the last 4 kilometers closed? We'll try to explain. The mountain is private property. Cycling tourists used to be able to cycle up the mountain at set times. In 2010, however, it was decided to put an end to this. Half of the asphalt road was sacrificed to build a train. In 2012 the train went into operation and cycling was only allowed during the annual tour: La Montée du Puy-de-Dôme, in which only 300 people are allowed to participate. Usually this event is sold out within a few minutes. By the way, there is no date for 2021 yet. Understandable, but also a pity, is that you have to take the train down in this tour for safety reasons. That means you'll miss out on the very fast descent.

When I was in the region a few years ago, I couldn't resist and secretly rode this climb very early in the morning. You can find the trip report here.

In tomorrow's edition: Lyon.

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