The last few meters of La Planche des Belle Filles were relentless. Any normal bike rider would have gotten off long before and even some of the elite were pushed to their limit over the course of four brutal climbs – some as steep as a 24 per cent incline. Behind the finish line, there was more than a fair share of shaky legs on display.
For the fourth time since 2012, the 160.5 kilometer ride up the 1,140 meter high mountain in Vosges featured on the Tour de France. This year though, the organizers had devised a special ‘treat’ for the riders, attaching an 800 meter long, extremely steep gravel road to an already grueling finish. By the end of it all though, there was a new man in possession of the yellow jersey, Giulio Ciccone, the 269th in it’s 100-year history.
It may not be the pink of his ultimate dream Giro d’Italia jersey, but the Italian rider was over the moon. “The yellow jersey was a childhood dream of mine,” he told reporters. “Today I’ve made that dream come true. It’s incredible. It’s hard to believe.”
A rookie who hadn’t even planned to compete on the Tour de France, Ciccone cemented his up-and-comer status in the cycling world at the end of the leg-breaking climb of the Planche des Belles Filles.
Giulio Ciccone leapt 41 places up the general classification standings to move into a narrow lead over Julian Alaphilippe (pictured).
“My big goal this year was the Giro,” said Ciccone. “The Tour was not on my program. But because of my strong…