July 27, 1998. It was raining the day the Tour had to face the Galibier, making the climb that much more difficult, especially for a cyclist who did not love the wet. Pantani that year had already taken away great satisfaction, winning the Giro d'Italia. Initially he had no intention of participating in the Tour, but he made a promise to Luciano Pezzi (director of the Mercatone Uno team) who died in June 1998, in between the end of the Giro and the beginning of the Tour. He promised to go and try to win the most important stage race. For the Italians, there was an added desire for revenge on French soil after the defeat on penalties at the World Cup in the quarter finals against France, their all-time rival. Marco kept his promise.
"I have lost a formidable teacher, a man of those that you don't find so easily in the world of cycling. Luciano Pezzi, who believed in me, who bet on me when I was in a hospital bed, has gone. I have a great desire to take the yellow jersey and say: "Old friend, here, it's for you that I conquered it". I'm going to the Tour to continue to be Pantani."
Total distance: 524km
total elevation: 14,244m
Duration: 9 days
difficulty level: Challenge
Arrival at Turin airport (TRN) and transfer to Sampeyre (Piedmont). Accommodation and dinner at four-star hotel.
Colle dell'Agnello may not have the same name recognition as other climbs on the tour. It is recognized as one the most beautiful mountain passes in the alps and is surely one of those challenges a dedicated cyclist should take on. It is one of the passes that connect Italy and France, two special countries for us cyclists. Reaching an elevation of 2744m in approximately 50km, with 2178m of elevation gain. You may ask if it is so special, why is it not as famous as other climbs on the itinerary? Easy: it is not located in a very touristic part of Italy. Easing into the trip with this lesser known pass gives us the chance to experience a beautiful mountain without the obstacle of expectations, leaving only the joys of exploration and discovery on two wheels. The Tour de France has featured it twice throughout its history. Most recently during the 18th stage of the 2011 Tour. The stage from Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier made for a seriously epic race day, won by Andy Schleck while more than half the peloton, 89 out of 168 riders, didn't make it to the finish within the time limit and were then readmitted by the jury. On that day the menu included the Colle dell'Agnello as a starter, then Izoard as the first course, and eventually Galibier as the second course. Our stage will be less gluttonous, coming in much shorter and ending in Arvieux, France. We save Izoard for the next day. Accommodation at hotel.
In our option the most beautiful alpine climbs are those high altitude passes where the road is the only sign of development. They challenge the cyclists in many ways; they are often long and steep, the air thins as you get closer to the top, and the isolation you feel being surrounded by nature can make your thoughts the biggest challenge of all. These points have made these mountains famous in the pro races; those that win under these circumstances must be top athletes. Galibier and it's 2635m is one of the best examples of these climbs and during the TdF of 1998, Marco Pantani rose to challenge. He was 3 minutes behind Jan Ulrich in the GC and had to try something, so he launched a legendary attack on Galibier. On a very cold and rainy day, he put 9 minutes between him and the German champion, becoming the new yellow jersey holder and sealing the GC. His race style made French tifosi(fans) and press extatic and everyone watching the stage will remember that day forever. Our stage will be less long but still legendary. We start the day with the nearly 20km Galibier climb. After that we'll head down to Saint Michel de Maurienne, down the Col du Telegraf, and eventually to the destination at La Tossuire, where we stay overnight at a three star hotel.
Today features yet another classic climb, the Col de la Madeleine from the southern approach from Saint Martin sur la Chambre. After starting the day with a nice descent we arrive at the base of the climb. From here it is 20km up with a consistent gradient of over 7%, and final elevation gain of 1550m. It's easy for anyone into cycling to understand how Col de la Madeleine can break up a stage. And if we look back at the list of riders that were first to top during the Tour, we see some of the best riders of their era. Recently we have 2020: Richard Carapaz; 2018: Julian Alaphilippe; and 2013: Pierre Rolland. This climb has played an important role in the history of the race, but we aren't racing, so we might be much more interested in the fact that La Madeleine is recognized as one of the most beautiful climbs there is. If despite the beauty, you want to try and capture the King of the Mountain you have some work ahead of you. The young French rider Valentin Madouas holds the current Strava KOM, with a time of 58:34 averaging 19.2kph and more than 380w for nearly an hour. Regardless of how fast you tackle this tough climb, a quick break at the top with the spectacular views will be your reward. Your legs will be happy to know that it's all downhill from here, a long descent leads to the destination: the famous Alpine resort of Albertville where we comfortably stay overnight in a four-star hotel.
Valle d'Aosta is famous for being a beautiful valley surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in Europe. Mountains that are very popular for some super known ski resorts, just like Cervinia. And the valley roads feature lovely castles from the middle age that make for an enchanted place where riding. The enchantment of the valley road goes from Aosta to Chambave, where we take the climb up to Cervinia. Then it's matter of going up. We'll find two long climbs: the first up Col du Panthaleon (16km at 7.3%) and the final climb up Cervinia (19km at 5.5%). The last climb of the day, and of the whole trip, is really special. Sure, it's the last climb of the last day, but you'll see how umbelievable view is the Matterhorn in front of you for ages and that looks like you never get there. Are we maybe slow? Yes sure, but it's also the mountain that is an impressive, giant peak with its 4478m ASL. We touch base in the lovely Cervinia, have lunch and go to the hotel where we will celebrate the end of an amazing trip. Accommodation at a four-star hotel.
Transfer to Turin airport and end of services.
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 43
Quartu Sant'Elena, Cagliari