How to conquer the Col de Beloka

Stage 14 this year’s Tour de France gave us a master class in how to perform at your best on L’Étape Australia’s Col de Beloka.

Beloka is 3.04km, at an average gradient of 9 per cent.
The climb at the end of Stage 14 was the Cote de la Croix Neuve to Mende, which the French call the Montée Laurent Jalabert, since their hero claimed the stage there on Bastille Day in 1995.

This climb is 3.34km, at an average gradient of 10 per cent.

This year there was a large breakaway group, well ahead of the main peloton, that disputed the stage win. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) attacked his breakaway companions, bravely hitting the climb more than a minute ahead of the chasing group. On the climb all eyes were on Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step). But, on a climb that suits his characteristics perfectly, the energetic Frenchman made a mess of it by getting a little jumpy and wasting energy.

Meanwhile the underrated Omar Fraile (Astana) was more patient on the early, steep, pinches before going all in, on the second half of the climb, bridging across to Stuyven and soloing to victory.

In the 2015 Tour stage, to the same finish line, Steve Cummings, a former teams pursuit world champion, outsmarted Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet. Cummings was dropped early on the climb by Pinot and Bardet but stuck to his pursuiting roots and rode his tempo, flirting with the red zone but not going beyond the point of no return.

Meanwhile Pinot and Bardet, who are both pure climbers, were gas on, gas off, attacking each other and underestimating Cummings. Cummings clawed his way back and in the sprint for stage honours made them look like… well, look like climbers.

Both Fraile and Cummings rode a steady tempo at the start of the climb but were at their limit by the top.

With these two examples of patients in mind, my recommendation is to not get distracted by following the tempo of others on the 16 per cent gradients at the bottom of Beloka, keep a little in the tank, and once you get to the midway point, where it’s not quite as steep, ramp up the tempo all the way to top.

Good luck. I’ll see you at the finish line.


 

Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.