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Too Tough For The Tour de France? | A Truly Epic Alpine Climb

October 17, 2019


(gentle music) – Come on, Si, let’s do it! – Yeah, I’m well-psyched mate,
this is going to be good! (gentle music) Ah, the Tour de France, the
pinnacle of bike racing, and one of the hardest
sporting events in the world. But is it as hard as it should be? I mean, this is the bottom of
what will be the final climb in this year’s race, the 2019 edition, potentially, the scene
for an epic showdown in the fight for the yellow jersey. And what a location! I mean, this is a 33-kilometer long climb all the way up to Val Thorens, which is the highest
ski resort in the Alps. An eye-watering 2,370 meters. – Ah, it’s not that bad. It’s not! – Is this another one of these, “Oh, America, we’ve got huge
mountains” things, Jeremy? – No, I mean, although we do. Val Thorens is only the beginning. We think if you’ve got
the bike and the legs, you can go all the way to
the top of Cime de Caron, which means that the entire climb would be 40 kilometers
long, averaging 6.5%, but the last eight kilometers
would be all gravel, and you would be… It’s really steep. – That sounds great. (gentle acoustic music) – Yes it does, Si. Riding gravel has taken
the world over lately, but one area that’s not
really talked about, and I’m not sure why, is the high mountains of Europe. I can’t understand it. There’s a huge network of
amazing roads and trails that go far beyond the limits of tarmac, right up the ridge lines, into the top of these beautiful summits. (gentle acoustic music) – As Jeremy said, we think
that you are going to need the right bike for this little escapade. Your standard Tour de France super bike just might not cut the mustard, although we don’t actually know yet. This dirt is from last
night’s warmup ride. Anyway, as you can see,
we have come prepared. Look, the French manufacturer, have very kindly loaned
us a couple of bikes. Now they’ve got a lot of
pedigree in the Tour de France, including being able to claim that they made the first ever carbon fiber bike to win the race. But this has come a long way since then. This is the 765 Gravel RS. – Although these bikes look the same, mine is actually the Look E-765. Si has basically brought
a knife to a gun fight. Mine has an electric
motor, the Fazua Evation. I got a e-bike, baby! Take that Tour de France riders. Ow! – Seriously, can someone explain to me why Jeremy has the e-bike? (gentle music) The climb to Val Thorens or Cime de Caron starts in a place called Moutier. A quintessential alpine town, the croissants are unmistakably French, and the coffee, too,
is unmistakably French. Here’s hoping that by
the time we get back, it’ll be time not for pastries though, but for pastis and raclette, a local delicacy of potatoes
smothered in molten cheese. (upbeat music) This road up to the ski
resort is a dead end when you ultimately
get there, which means, other than you’ve got to
come back the same way, is that traffic is really light, almost non-existent in fact. – Yeah, it is 33 kilometers
on tarmac to the top at an average gradient of 5%. It’s a slow burn. – Yeah, it’s a grind, isn’t it? – You want to hold my wheel,
and I’ll keep it in eco mode, and I’ll go hard. – Okay, let’s do it. Please tell me you’re
pressing on the pedals. – I’m pressing on the pedals,
but still, this is eco. This is what, 50, maybe? – You guys still here? You might… We’re going
to be here for a while, you might want to come
back in like an hour or so, something like that. – I think so.
– Yeah. (upbeat music) Oh, wow, mate. Look at that. – [Jeffery] Wow. – You know what, mate? One of those is Cime de Caron. – [Jeffery] Wow, that
looks really far away. (Si laughing) – [Si] As they adjust. (upbeat music) – We’re about halfway now,
and you haven’t missed much. It’s absolutely brutal. And it’s not to say it isn’t
beautiful, because it is, but it’s just so long. – Oh, man, isn’t it just. It’s a bit ironic, I think, Jeremy, given how hard this climb is, and given that it’s the final climb of what is countless
other super-hard climbs in the Tour de France–
– Yep. – that we’ve been insane
to question about whether the race could or should be harder, but there is a good reason for it, and that’s that when the tour
started out 116 years ago, it was intended to be utterly brutal. Their stages lasted 17 hours. They raced through the night, funnily enough on gravel tracks and on bikes that were twice
as heavy as ours today, and there wasn’t even a
hint of an electric motor, let alone one that puts out 250 watts. – So yes, I was doing the math last night, and this is only weighing in at four more kilograms
for this whole setup, and that has blown my mind, ’cause that offsets
like 80 extra kilograms, which is a ton. I could weigh 80 extra kilos. – And with that motor, would
me and you go the same speed? Seems kind of light.
– You might be right. (upbeat music) – Yeah, we’re getting close
to Val Thorens now, Si, and the pavement is about to end, and we’re about to hit that gravel. It is high up here, though. Woo, man, the altitude is kicking in. – Not much oxygen. – Do I sense a bit of weakness? – No. – Oh my gosh, dude, if this was the tour, I would attack the crap
out of you right now. (Si laughing) (upbeat jazzy music) – There he is, the king of Val Thorens. – [Jeremy] Welcome. – Oh, man, that was some climb. – It really is, yeah. That is a serious one. – Yeah.
– How you feeling? – Pretty tired. You can give me a hand. (Jeremy laughing) (Si grunts) Well, this might not be the exact place where the Tour de France
stage is going to finish, but it feels appropriately
symbolic, doesn’t it? We’re on a bench with Val
Thorens written on it. – [Jeffery] Pretty sick. – [Si] So, I mean, just how
much battery have you got left? – [Jeffery] I didn’t have it on. – What? – Yeah, no. I didn’t use it. All right, I’m joking! (laughing) I did use it, I did use it. – Don’t do that to me, man.
– I’m joking. I’m joking.
– Don’t do that to me. – No, I’ve still got like 60 or 70% left, and, yeah, it’s sweet. I’ve been kind of saving it, because I know that the
big stuff is coming. We’ve got like eight
kilometers of gravel left, and that’s where it’s
going to get really steep, and I’m going to want that engine. Bop-bop. (Si laughing) – Right, come on then. Woo!
– You ready to hit it? Let’s go, man, let’s do it! (Jeremy howling)
(Si laughing) So I’m just going to let a
little bit of pressure out, because when I was doing the
long road section to get here, I wanted that more road-like feeling. This bike does have that feeling, especially with that higher pressure. Now that we’re going to
hit the gravel though, I want to get down to like
35 pounds of pressure. These tires are 37C,
but this bike can hold up to 50, or even more probably, if you put 650Bs on it. (thumping drum music) (gentle music) – This rather unprepossessing looking spot is literally, apparently where
the tour’s going to finish. Very conveniently, it also marks the start of our gravel extra adventure. They could literally,
Jeremy, just keep on going. – Woo-hoo! I’m ready. – Yeah, I’m… Yeah. Yeah. – Come on, Si, let’s do it! – Yeah, I’m well-psyched, mate. This is going to be good! – I’m excited.
– I love an adventure. – It’s so awesome! (upbeat music) Come on, come on! Come on! (upbeat music) – Oh, my days. This is a very good
excuse to stop right now. – Yeah. – The roads kind of split. I think ours, judging from
what the computer’s telling us, is going up this way. And it looks pretty savage, mate. What do you reckon? – Oh, do you see how insanely
steep that’s going to be? – I do see how insanely
steep that’s going to be. – I honestly don’t know if
we’re riding bikes up that. – Well, is that road bike-able? What we’ve just done? – (exhales forcefully)
Everything’s road bike-able, but it’s definitely not
going to be a nice ride, and it doesn’t mean that you
won’t get a ton of flats. No, that’s gravel territory.
– Yeah. – Yeah, any time you see
big chunks, in my opinion, that’s gravel territory. – We’re going to have to factor some kind of bike chain scenario into our Tour de France pitch here. – That’s right.
– I’m going to, you know– – Which, I’m getting really excited about the idea of this.
– Yeah. – Think about it like when
they’re doing that TT thing, and then they decide, okay,
we need a lighter bike, and not as much aerodynamics. They switch to the road bike.
– Yeah. – A really light road bike, boom. Now they’re on the road
bike, do a quick switch… Imagine if they were doing that. Like, they finish here,
Bernal, Froome, Nibali, Thomas. They’re all at the bottom, and then boom, they come into it as a group, and then they switch
to their gravel bikes, their 40C gravel bikes, and then they start
going bananas with this. To climb to one of the top of these… Can you imagine the way
the crowds would be. And can you, no, seriously,
just think about that, like, “Ah!” (laughing) – You are painting quite
the picture, Jeremy. I’m sold. When we get to the top, mate, we’ll concoct some kind
of pitch to the ASO and–
– I think so. – We’ll sell it to them. – I think we could do it.
– Yeah. – I think I could do it, I
have a lot of energy for this. Let’s do it. – And you know what? If the tour doesn’t go for it, maybe we can just organize something. (upbeat music) – [Jeremy] This could be
Wout van Aert territory. – [Si] Yeah. These final few kilometers
are ridiculously steep. You can see we’re really grinding up, and honestly, we hadn’t quite expected it to be this tough. That is the reason we left
the gearing on our bike set up for, well, the kind of
riding that we normally do, and not this venture into
mountain bike territory. We’ve seen Froome do
this before, it’s fine. But that said, at less than nine kilos, I’m definitely benefiting
from the lighter weight of my bike compared to a mountain bike. And as for Jeremy, well,
I can officially tell you that he is finally in rocket mode, which means he’s getting
up to an extra 400 watts, and he needs every one, frankly, because we’re now close to
3,000 meters in altitude, and I could do with a few extra myself. I’ll tell you what, Jeremy. You’re absolutely killing me–
– Well. – on your e-bike. – Yeah, it doesn’t hurt. I mean, I have kept it
in eco mode for you. – No, you haven’t. – Well, okay, maybe on one
section I bumped it up, but I have to say, this
thing is so much fun. (upbeat music) Oh, it hurts. – [Si] Go, Jeremy! This is like a wall! E-bike or no, that is a mighty
impressive bit of riding. You have no idea how steep this is. (upbeat music) Okay, let’s be clear. We’re not suggesting the
Tour de France is easy, not by a long shot. I mean, neither of us have ever ridden it, so we can’t actually say.
– No. – But the fact is, this is
utterly, bonkersly, epic. The question is, do we
want the Tour de France to go back to those days where it used to pioneer new ground, riding over the hardest
climbs that were imaginable on bicycles? – I don’t think we do. I think it’s pretty sweet the way it is, but as much as I want
to see it come up here, and as much as I would love it, and I think the fans would freak out, I mean, we were both talking about this, I’m not sure that it’s safe. – No, no. The fact is, it is pretty extreme up here. I mean, and mentally, we’re pretty soft, we live at sea level.
(Jeremy laughing) But if you’ve got 750,000 fans up here, you’ve got like a
gazillion tour personnel, and infrastructure and teams… Yeah, I’m not entirely
sure it’s going to happen. But somebody needs to
race up here, Jeremy. – I agree.
– And something on two wheels, whether that be gravel
bikes or mountain bikes, somebody needs to come up here, and we need to be able
to watch it streamed live on the internet. – It would be crazy. – It would be crazy, so let us
know in the comments section if you would like to see that happen. In the meantime, stick with us, ’cause we’ve got a 42-kilometer-long
descent, my good man. (Jeffery cheering) – All right, you go first, mate. No, Jeremy, it’s that way. (Jeremy laughing) It’s a double black, apparently. – Have fun with that, buddy! (chuckling) – Jeremy? Jeremy! (gentle music) Oh, he’s got his foot out! Well, as you can see,
we haven’t quite made it to the bottom of the Val Thorens descent. A bit of an afternoon thunderstorm, hot chocolate emergency,
that kind of vibe, but we’ll finish off later. – I’m having a proper English tea, Si, and it’s delicious. – You think you’re having an English tea. – Chef Pepe did not disappoint. – This is the French alps,
Jeremy, I highly doubt it. But anyway, what an
amazing ride that has been. – [Jeremy] Absolutely phenomenal. – Yep. Make sure you give the
video a big thumbs up if you’ve enjoyed watching it too. We hope you have. – And if you want to check out
the bikes that we were riding, Ollie did a bit of a
presentation about them. – He did, yeah.
(Jeremy laughing) We normally call them videos, but yeah, Ollie did a presentation
(Jeremy laughing) about them. Go check him out.

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