Distance: 19.2 miles. Elevation: 1998 ft.
A quick post for a short ride.
From Barcelonnette, this was a short climb to the ski station at Pra Loup. As far as I can tell, Pra Loup has been used three times as a Tour de France stage finish; 1975, 1980 and 2015. With the exception of the 1980 edition, the climb came after the descent from Col d’Allos. I mentioned the break-neck speed at which riders descended in 2015 from Col d’Allos in my previous post. I’ve also alluded to the 1975 edition in another post, which was the one where Eddy Merckx was finally dethroned by Bernard Thévenet on the climb I did today to Pra Loup.
I wonder what speed the riders were doing in 1975 on the Col d’Allos descent? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just as unbelievable.
Pra-Loup was also used as the stage 5 finish for the 2015 Critérium du Dauphiné. That year, cycling fans in the area had it good!
So this climb has a claim to fame, but apart from that it has almost nothing other than amazing views over the Ubaye and Bachelard valleys. It is a wide, well-surfaced road that climbs for four miles at an average of 6.5% with some 8%+ stretches thrown in. I guess it could be a challenge if it came at the end of a tough ride, but I found it very easy. There are complaints online about riders being blasted by the sun, so I think I was lucky to do it on a beautiful October afternoon, when the east-facing road was in shade nearly the whole way up.
Today’s ride started with me heading west into a strong headwind along a fast main road. The wind hampered my ability to hear vehicles approaching from behind so it wasn’t that pleasant.
That only lasted three miles until I turned off just before the village of Les Thuiles…
… where I crossed the Ubaye river…
… and found myself on a quiet back road, now with the wind behind me.
Another three miles on, the climb to Pra Loup started. I went up it without stopping and didn’t use my lowest gear. I was pleased with that, given the steeper sections. Maybe I’m getting fitter! I’ve certainly lost some weight, so that helps.
I was in the shade nearly the whole way, and that helps a lot. There were wonderful views most of the way, but then you enter civilisation – that’s assuming that an ugly ski resort is civilised!
I rode to the highest part of the resort and looped back around and down. I didn’t hang about and got photos on the way down.
The lower ski station of Pra-Loup 1500 is where the 1975 tour stage finished, so that village has the glory of the monument to Bernard Thévenet, hailing him the slayer of The Cannibal (Eddy Merckx).
Back down in the Ubaye valley, the late afternoon sun was casting a glancing light across the fields, highlighting the farmer’s neat mowing.
I then did a quick tour of the centre of Barcelonnette. Everything was closed.
No arm-warmers, no cap, no snood, no rain jacket and no food, other than my pre-ride banana. One bidon. No cols. Job done!
- Roads to Ride: Pra Loup (some great info re. 1975 tour and even the origin of the name Pra-Loup)
- Critérium du Dauphiné 2015 Stage 5