Cycling (well, one day per year) Puy Dome
Ride 13.8 kilometers gaining 1,048 meters at 7.6% average grade.
Puy Dome is rich in cycling history (see Tour de France History below) and is the highest point of the Chaîne des Puys which consists of 80 volcanoes stretching north to south 45 kilometers in length in the Puy de Dome Province (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region) of central France.
Climb Summary by PJAMM ambassador Erwan Tréguier of Brittany, France:
Our volcanic jewel -- they stole it from us!
Some still bootleg the ride before dawn -
Disclaimer - PJAMM does not sanction nor encourage this . . . we’re just sayin . . .
The Puy de Dôme, one of the most famous ‘volcans d’Auvergne’
The Puy de Dôme used to be a classic climb of the Tour de France, some of the most memorable moments including the 1964 Anquetil-Poulidor showdown and the “stomach punch” received by Merckx from a rabid spectator in 1975. Ouch. Now, unfortunately, it can (officially) only be climbed one day each year during an organized event. Trying to sneak in and up very early before the site employees start working is tempting, but at one’s own risk: reportedly, fines have been delivered to unfortunate cyclists… Ouch again.
The train… enemy of the cyclists?
Today, there’s indeed a dissuasive “no-bike” (nor pedestrian!) sign at the gate that marks the real beginning of the climb (close to the parking lot). Why? Because they built a (rack) railway named the Panoramique des Dômes, which has operated since 2012 and uses half of the former road’s width. In fact, they sort of resuscitated the former railway (Fell system) that operated in the early 20th century (1907-1926). Word has it they consider it would be too dangerous to have cyclists in both directions (the road would be too narrow) but it might also be related to the UNESCO heritage status (finally obtained in 2018).
There’s still a road! (Or at least, half of it.)
Views near the top.
In any case, the road isn’t that narrow (service cars actually use it) and the pavement is excellent, unless sheep take care of its “frosting”. Also, no hairpins here as the road is smoothly spiraling up around the volcano. By the way, no need to wear a “cyclovolcanologist” lava-proof suit or to worry about pyroclastic flows: the last eruption is estimated to have occurred a bit more than 10,000 years ago!
There’s even a railway crossing on the forbidden road, near the end...
As expected for railways, the slope is very regular: it’s about 4 km at 12% between the infamous gate until the train terminus, where there’s a final ramp as the road was reshaped to climb above the railway. That’s where you’ll find the vintage concrete cube marking the official top of the climb (1415m), but there’s a little bonus: after a short flat dirt stretch, a last paved section climbs until the entrance of the TV/radio antennas (1450m), just above the ruins of the Gallo-Roman Temple of Mercury.
Unobstructed views from the top.
A prayer for Mercury.
Amazing view at the top, with many other green volcanoes around!
It’s a whole family of puys!
TOUR DE FRANCE HISTORY
Puy De Dôme is one of the most legendary climbs in the history of the Tour de France (see PJAMM Legendary Tour de France page). Puy De Dôme has been featured in the Tour de France 14 times between 1952 and 2023 - always as a summit finish. Some of the famed riders to win a Puy De Dôme stage are:
- 1952: Fausto Coppi (TdF 2x; Giro 4) - Coppi was first to the top the first time Puy De Dôme was featured in the TdF
- 1959 Federico Bahamontes (TdF 1959)
- 1964 Julio Jimenez (TdF KOM 3x; Vuelta KOM 3x)
- 1967 Felice Gimondi (TdF 1965; Vuela 1968)
- 1971 & 1973: Luis Ocaña (TdF 1973; Vuelta 1970)
- 1975: Lucien Van Impe (TdF 1976; 6x TdF KOM)
- 1976 & 1978: Joop Zoetemelk (TdF 1980; 2nd place TdF x6; Vuelta 1979; World Champion 1985)
Puy De Dôme debuted in the Tour the same year as the most famous climb in the world, Alpe d’Huez, both as summit finishes. Fausto Coppi won the inaugural Alpe d’Huez stage (Stage 10) and Puy De Dôme’s inaugural Stage 21 just 13 days later (there were 23 stages that year).
Puy De Dôme became ever-famous and is etched in the memories of all Tour de France historians in 1964 on Stage 20. It was on this 245 km (152 mi) stage that one of the greatest battles of the TdF occurred on the ascent. Beloved Raymond Poulidor battled it out shoulder to shoulder with rival and nemesis Jacques Anquetil. This was the year Anquetil would win his fifth and last TdF and one in which the popular Poulidor battled valiantly to win, but ultimately placed second. Poulidor started Stage 20 56 seconds behind Anquetil and made a fierce run up Puy De Dôme, in which he was right alongside Anquetil until the final kilometer, when he dropped him and shaved the TdF lead to 14 seconds. Poulidor ended up third in the 1964 Tour, 21 seconds behind winner Anquetil.
Anquetil and Poulidor battle it out on Puy De Dôme
Photograph: Robert Krieger/AP
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