Mission: Stage 10 of the 1926 Tour de France has been called the hardest stage ever! What was it like? Can JB and VC survive the Circle of death?
In this episode of the Impossible Route, Jeremiah Bishop and The Vegan Cyclist take on the “Tour de Gravel.” The concept is to recreate the experience of the hardest-ever stage in the Tour de France’s golden era. Begging the question: is it possible to recreate the experience, finish in the time cut. Not get lost?
“This is a journey not just through terrain but one thru time”
The hardest days of the Tour de France were most likely in the 1910-1920’s.
Stage 10 of the 1926 Tour was a turning point for the event. With a 40% cutoff rate and nicknamed “The Circle of Death,” the high Pyrenees was feared by early tour de France riders. We want to know why?
OUR GOAL is to experience first-hand why this was called the toughest stage. Can we complete the stage within the same time cut that the Tour de France riders faced? Can we accomplish it with the classic rules? Can we even find parts of the old route no longer in use? Is it even Possible to survive our gravel simulation route across the Pyrenees?
We started on the west coast of France in Bayonne at 3 am. Riding the new Canyon Endurace allowed us to fit 35 c Irc Boken tires for what was to be a mixed route of pavement and abandoned dirt roads to replicate the 30% gravel and dirt that the riders took in 1926.
The crux of the route was the Tourmalet-Pic Du Midi climb. This monster climb some 15 hours into day one ascending 4,400 ft /1341M of ascent on pavement with the finale on a brutally steep rocky road.
Day 2 was even more climbing as our route took us into Spain’s high mountains thru ancient dirt tracks and stone villages of the mountain kingdom of Andorra. The finale into Perpignan included historic villages aqueducts and a final sprint for glory.