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What Are the Best Tour de France Stages?

Richard Moore Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France book cover

Cycling journalist Richard Moore asks, "What are the most memorable Tour de France stages of all time?", and poses the 20 stages he thinks earn the mark. Includes excerpts from all 20 stages.

Stage 20, La Resurrection: Greg LeMond in the 1989 Tour de France

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages 1989 Greg LeMond La Resurrection

Greg LeMond awoke in Paris on Sunday, July 23, the final day of the 1989 Tour de France, and wondered what the next 12 hours held in store. The previous evening he had told his soigneur, Otto Jacome, that he thought he could do

Stage 19, Redemption: David Millar in the 2012 Tour de France

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages 2012 David Millar Redemption

We had two and a half weeks to go,” says David Millar, reflecting on the situation he and his team, Garmin- Sharp, found themselves in, just one week into the 2012 Tour. “So we had to pull our heads out of our arses and find a new way of racing.”

Stage 18, Playstation Cycling: Andy Schleck in the 2011 Tour de France

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages 2011 Andy Schleck playstation cycling

It was a stage destined for the history books. But that was the whole point. On the 100th anniversary of the Tour’s first expedition into the Alps, the 18th stage finished at the top of one of the most mythical of mountains, the Col du Galibier.

Stage 17, Untold Stories: Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, and David Millar in the 2010 Tour de France

Etape by Richard Moore Tour de France stages 2010 Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, David Millar, Untold Stories

Climbing the Col du Tourmalet, Mark Cavendish slips out the back of the group. His loyal teammate, Bernhard Eisel, remains at his side and tries to encourage him. “Big effort, Cav, come on, stay with the group."

Stage 16 Honor Among Thieves: Lance Armstrong and Iban Mayo in the 2003 Tour de France

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages 2003 Lance Armstrong, Iban Mayo Honor Among Thieves

Lance Armstrong is angry. “I mean, listen, look. Travis Tygart and his band of haters can say what they want. Those Tours happened. . . . It was an unfortunate time, most of us if not all of us played by the same set of rules. . . . I consider myself the winner of those seven Tours.”

Stage 15 Champagne Freddy: Freddy Maertens in the 1981 Tour de France

Richard Moore Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France:

“Anyone who says they can do it naturally is a liar,” says Maertens, meaning racing without drugs.

Stage 14 The Unknown Warrior: Jose Luis Viejo in the 1976 Tour de France

Richard Moore Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France: The Unknown Warrior Jose Luis Viejo 1976

The biggest winning margin by an individual rider on a stage of the Tour de France? That would be José Luis Viejo, on stage 11 in 1976.

Stage 13 Shock and Awe: Bobby Julich, Jorg Jaksche, Marco Pantani, and Jan Ullrich at the 1998 Tour de France

Richard Moore Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France: Jan Ullrich, Marco Pantani, Bobby Julich 1998 Shock and Awe

“Every day, including the stage to Plateau de Beille, he was just sitting at the back with his team,” recalls Bobby Julich, the American who was fourth in the Dublin prologue. “This is before race radios, and when you’re going back to talk to the team car there’s Marco sitting at the back, in last position.

Stage 12: The Devil, Claudio Chiappucci, 1992

Richard Moore Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France: Claudio Chiappucci The Devil 1992

Ten minutes later, the electronic gate clicks and whirs and begins to slide open. Instantly recognizable, the cyclist once known as “El Diablo” (the devil) appears behind the wheel of an SUV with a 20-something girl in the passenger seat. He is 50 but looks and dresses about 30 years younger.

Stage 11 Anarchy: Stephen Roche, Jean-Francois Bernard, and Andy Hampsten in the 1987 Tour de France

Richard Moore Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France: Shelly Verses, Jean-Francois Bernard, Andy Hampsten, Stephen Roche 1987 Anarchy

There’s a photo of me washing his face at the finish,” says Shelley Verses, “but really I was trying to cover his face, to hide it.”

Stage 10: Guerrilla Warfare, Luis Herrera, Bernard Hinault, and Laurent Fignon, 1984

Richard Moore Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France: Luis Herrera, Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon 1984 Guerrilla Warfare

Herrara, the little bird, is set free. Now he is flying up l’Alpe d’Huez, while Hinault labors, and a little lower down the mountain, Laurent Fignon, in the tricolore of French champion, sets off in pursuit.

Stage 9: What About Zimmy? Urs Zimmermann, 1991

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages urs zimmerman what about zimmy 1991

It wasn't that Urs Zimmermann didn’t like his fellow cyclists. It was just that, after two weeks in their company, he felt like he needed a change.

Stage 8: Trilogy, Eddy Merckx, 1971

The trouble with Merckx is that there are so many deeds to choose from. The pick for many is 1969 and his Tour de France début, specifically the stage that tackled the “Circle of Death” in the Pyrenees—Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet, and Col d’Aubisque. Merckx attacked over the top of the Tourmalet, then rode alone for 140 km—about 87 miles—to win in Mourenx. That performance prompted the Tour director, Jacques Goddet, to coin a new word, Merckxissimo.

Stage 7: Dutch Cold War, Marc Sargeant and Frans Maassen, 1992

The trio was over 15 minutes clear of the peloton; now there were only 35 km remaining, just 22 miles, and it was certain that one of them was going to win. Then one of the three, having spoken to his team car, stopped working. He moved to the back. When he moved forward to do his turn on the front, he soft-pedaled. The speed dropped dramatically.

Stage 6: For Fabio, Lance Armstrong, 1995

Etape by Richard Moore - For Fabio - Lance Armstrong Tour de France stage1995

The memory is as vivid as the stain that could be seen darkening the road. It was a damp patch, a small puddle emanating from a stricken rider’s head, expanding on the asphalt as riders sprinted past, rubbernecking at 45 mph to catch a glimpse of the figure on the road. He was lying on his side, curled up in the fetal position.

Stage 5: Beware of the Badger, Bernard Hinault, 1980

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages the Badger 1980 Bernard Hinault

“It’s bollocks, this race. You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants; you’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping. It’s a piece of shit. . . .”

Stage 4: The Boy with Fire in His Eyes, Mark Cavendish, 2009

Etape by Richard Moore Tour de France stages Mark Cavendish 2009 BOURGOIN JALLIEU AUBENAS

I ask Mark Cavendish to discuss his best-ever stage win in the Tour de France and he is transformed. He sits upright. First, he must decide which one was best.

Stage 3: The Sculptor, Joel Pelier, 1989

Etape by Richard Moore Tour de France stage 1989 The Sculptor Joel Pelier

In the morning of the first road stage of the 1989 Tour de France, Joël Pelier told his team director, Javier Mínguez, “I would like to attack today.”

Stage 2: The Bulldog, Wilfried Nelissen, 1994

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages 1994 The Bulldog Wilfried Nelissen

They are sprinting for the line in Armentières at 70 kph (43 mph): a heaving, jostling bunch, a slightly downhill finish, a right- hand bend with 400 m to go, another right-hander with 150 to go; then the road kicks slightly up. All heads go down.

Stage 1: The Outsider, Chris Boardman, 1994

Etape by Richard Moore tour de france stages 1994 Chris Boardman

"At the 1994 Tour, everybody went for a three-week race,” says Chris Boardman. “I went for seven minutes.”

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