Today’s stage in the Criterium du Dauphine finishes in Gap, a familiar route for fans and historians of the Tour de France. The final climb of the day is the dreaded Col du Manse, a Col which holds a certain place in the history of the Tour. Unlike most Cols though, this Col is more famous for its descent than the severity of its ascent.
In fact, most riders today will be racing up the climb only in order to be well placed for the descent. The Col du Manse is a fast, technical descent liberally sprinkled with gravel and worse still – the likelihood of melted tarmac.
Back in 2003 Lance Armstrong performed one of the most memorable pieces of bike handling skills on this descent whilst following his main rival at the Tour that year. Jose Beloki.was pushing hard on the descent to distance Armstrong. He pushed too hard and on a patch of ‘bubbling tarmac’ came to grief fracturing his thigh, elbow and wrist. His race was over, and sadly his career never recovered.