Tour de France 2022, stage 12
Start location: Briançon
Finish location: Alpe d'Huez
Start time: 12.05 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.55 BST
According to the author Andrew Beattie, there is a stretch of the Col du Lautaret which was once known as the ‘Rampe des Commères’ or ‘Gossips’ Rise’. In his book The Alps: a Cultural History, he wrote, “This was so-named because that section was too steep for horse-drawn carriages to cope with when fully laden, so their passengers had to get out and walk, presumably making the best of the situation by having a good gossip.’
These days the Lautaret is renowned among cyclists for having some of the shallower slopes that they’ll tackle in the Alps, and there’s usually less call to get off one’s bike and walk up it (unless one is having a really bad day). The Lautaret is a steady ascent from Briançon, and its inclusion in the route of stage 12 of the 2022 Tour de France is mainly as a precursor to much more steep and arduous climbs. But while the quality and gradient of the road are much improved since the days of horse-drawn carriages, the Tour does continue to have a deep-rooted tradition of gossip and intrigue: rumours fly around the Tour, passed from rider to soigneur to mechanic to hanger-on to journalist to journalist and back again, in an infinite loop of unverifiable and largely unprintable chatter.
There’s no need for the Tour’s machinery of gossip to speculate about the route of stage 12, however. As with stage 11, the hardest climbs of the Alps have been packed in, and as with stage 11, it’s even a continuing celebration of one of the Tour’s greatest hits: the 1986 race. The day after Bernard Hinault wore his last yellow jersey on the Col du Granon, the Frenchman and his team-mate and eventual winner Greg LeMond detonated the Tour de France, attacking in tandem over the Col du Galibier, then on to the Col de la Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez (ie, Hinault attacked and LeMond was compelled to follow, because that’s the kind of Tour it was). The route of stage 12 reprises act two of 1986’s Alpine drama, going back over the Galibier, and will be every bit as hard as the previous day, with three hors-catégorie climbs on the route.
Of course, Alpe d’Huez is a very hard climb, and the gradient is exacerbated by the heat of the sun - the climb faces south. And coming off the back of the Galibier (via the Lautaret) and Croix de Fer makes it even tougher. However despite Hinault and LeMond’s early attack in 1986, the route doesn’t necessarily reward early aggression. The descent of the Croix de Fer is punctuated by two sections of uphill, one of which is a kilometre long; the valley road from the bottom of the Croix de Fer to the foot of Alpe d’Huez is often a headwind. However, for the same reasons, this is not a stage on which to suffer bad luck.
By the top of Alpe d’Huez, with the two hardest summit finishes of the 2022 Tour done, the general classification will be approaching its final shape. There are a lot of stages where riders do not win the Tour, but they can lose it. This is definitely a stage where they can win it.
Tour de France 2022 stage 12 map and profile
The second of gruelling back-to-back Alpine stages takes the riders up to a summit finish on Alpe d'Huez, back in the race for the first time since 2018.
The stage starts with a shock though, going straight up the Col du Galibier from the other side having already conquered the Valloire ascent on stage 11. This time they approach from the gun and up via the Col du Lautaret. With just over 33km gone the riders will cross over an altitude of 2,642m, and will cross back over 2,000m when they summit the Col de la Croix de Fer 80km later.
While these climbs are long they are unlikely to split up the main GC contenders, so the real damage will be done on the Alpe. Over 13km long at 8% average gradient, this is a difficult climb, particularly after such a tough stage the day before, and will provide a spectacular battleground for another GC showdown.
Alpe d'Huez profile
Tour de France 2022 stage 12 map
Tour de France 2022 stage 12 predictions and contenders
Like stage 11, it's difficult to see the GC contenders allowing to let the breakaway slip away and gain enough time to fight it out on Alpe d'Huez. It has happened numerous times in the past, but the stage represents one of the last super-hard stages to make an impact in the overall fight. There's tough stages to come, but this will be telling in the final fight for the yellow jersey.
Expect, then, riders from the top-10 to try for the stage victory. Yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard may hope to completely put the Tour de France to bed having dropped the mighty Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on the Col du Granon, but his Jumbo-Visma team's efforts on stage 11 may see them ride more conservatively and controlled here.
Pogačar is unlikely to take losing yellow lying down, so if he can recover sufficiently he may be tomorrow's most aggressive rider and potentially favourite for victory on the Alpe.
The 2018 winner on Alpe d'Huez Geraint Thomas will hope to replicate his previous success here, but hasn't looked quite in the same form as he was that particular year. On that occasion the Welshman won in a final sprint from the GC group, but has been outgunned in that regard by both Pogačar and Vingegaard so far in this Tour.
Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) showed he is back on strong form on stage 11, as did Romain Bardet (Team DSM), and both will be candidates for a stage win here if they can slip away on hold of the main favourites. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), like Bardet, will also desperately want to win in front of home fans here on Bastille Day.
Expect to see a more than normal number of French riders trying to get in the breakaway.
Prediction: We think this will be another battle between the GC contenders and Tadej Pogačar will show a resurgence to take a third stage win of this Tour. Jonas Vingegaard will retain his lead in the yellow jersey.