The climber does not look like much: he is the revenge of the skinny guys, of the featherweights.
The steeper the slope is, the more his power-weight ratio does wonders. You would swear that a magical force pulls him towards the summit at the same moment that gravity sticks all the big guys to the road and calls them downhill rather than up.
In contrast to the baroudeur, the climber doesn’t leave the others under any illusions for long. From the first accelerations on the early slopes of a col, the peloton splits and transforms itself into a contest of grimaces and every man for himself. The climber dances, plays with the slopes and the hairpins, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing.
Read: Robert Millar on form, feeling and the fundamentals of climbing
Whereas the average cyclist opens his mouth wide and looks for a steady pace as protection against deadly accelerations, the climber takes up the pace of his kind and casts stones before taking off for good. Setting off at high speed, the small motor of the climber doesn’t seem to suffer from the lack of oxygen of Alpine altitudes. The climber hides a big secret in his little torso.
If a big bloke happens to follow him, it can only be a super champion: a Merckx, a Hinault, an Indurain. The rare few who are rouleurs-baroudeurs-climbers-sprinters.
It’s thanks to climbers that they invented the gruppetto, this little interdependent peloton exclusively reserved for non-climbers. They climb the cols at their breaking point, under the firm leadership of a few rouleurs reputed for having swallowed a stopwatch and for knowing the science that will get everyone to the end of the stage inside the time limit. The sprinters and the rouleurs like to forget the mountain stages.
Definitions by Paul Fournel: Rouleur| Baroudeur| Sprinter| Climber
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