No walk in the park
Stage 11 separates professionals from amateurs
Posted: Tuesday July 21, 1998 05:13 PM
LUCHON, France (CNN/SI) -- The Pyrenees have oft proven to be a reality check for cyclists, covering some in glory but decimating most of the riders hopes.
So it is that Wednesday's stage which stretches 170 kilometers (106 miles) from Luchon to Plateau de Beille has four major passes, three of which have proven treacherous in the past, the fourth has never been climbed in the tour before.
Twenty-eight kilometers from the start of the stage, the riders will tackle the Col de Mente pass, a first category climb.
In 1971, Spain's Luis Ocana looked almost certain to win his first Tour such was his domination in the mountains over Belgian Eddy Merckx. But the Spaniard fell in the rain in the Mente pass and was forced to abandon.
More rain is expected Wednesday.
Fifteen kilometers later, the race goes up the Col de Portet d'Aspet, where the tour suffered one of the worst experiences in its history when former team pursuit Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli of Italy crashed in 1995 while descending and hit his head on a wall. Casartelli was taken to hospital but died becoming the fourth fatality on the tour.
Some 45 kilometers from the finish lies the Col de Port where in 1929 Victor Fontan who held the overall leaders yellow jersey crashed and lost the tour.
The tour has never gone up to the Plateau de la Beille before. Some riders probably think it is just as well.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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