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Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Megève to Morzine

La Clusaz 

La Clusaz, by HedgehogCycling

A guide to Stage 20 of the Tour de France 2016 from Megève to Morzine. The main climbs are the Col des Aravis, the Col de la Colombière, the Col de la Ramaz, and the Col de Joux Plane. The stage finishes with a 12km descent to Morzine. This is a proper Alpine stage, which is the Queen Stage of the 2016 Tour. Afterwards, only the processional ride to Paris remains, so the rider leading after Stage 20 will almost certainly win the Tour. 

The Etape du Tour 2016 (the 24th edition of the event) will be ridden on the Stage 20 route by 15,000 amateur cyclists on Sunday 10th July 2016.

Read about Stage 20 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read the Stage 20 race report.

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 20 of the Tour de France 2016 is 146km from Megève to Morzine.

Stage classification Mountain
Distance 146km
Intermediate sprints Le Grand Bornand (after 33.5km)
Climbs Col des Aravis (Category 2)
Col de la Colombière (Category 1)
Col de la Ramaz (Category 1)
Col de Joux Plane (Hors Catégorie)

There's a map of the route of Stage 20 on the Etape du Tour website (but the route was shortened to avoid the Col de la Ramaz, which was suffering from rockfalls). There's also an official Tour de France map of Stage 20.

This is the official Tour de France stage profile:

Tour de France 2016 Stage 20 stage profile

Profile of Stage 20, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the timings on Stage 20 (based on the medium estimated speed of 36kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in Megève 1255
0 Départ réel on D1212 1300
1.5 Praz-sur-Arly 1302
9.5 Flumet 1314
21 Col des Aravis (Category 2) 1338
26.5 La Clusaz 1344
33.5 Le Grand Bornand (intermediate sprint) 1351
45.5 Col de la Colombière (Category 1) 1420
68 Marignier 1446
93.5 Col de la Ramaz (Category 1) 1540
122 Samoëns 1614
134.5 Col de Joux Plane (hors catégorie) 1649
137.5 Col du Ranfolly 1652
146.5 Morzine 1701

See full timings for Stage 20 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 38, 36, and 34kmh.

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: video of the route

This video shows the route of Stage 20 of the Tour de France 2016:

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: from the start at Megève to Flumet

Megève télécabine 

Megève télécabine, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 18 starts in Megève, which will already have seen the Tour twice - the Stage 18 time trial finishes here, and Stage 19 passes through on the way to the finish in St-Gervais Mont Blanc. 

The riders will take the N212 out of Megève. It's fairly flat through Praz-sur-Arly, then descends to Flumet.

Flumet

Flumet, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: the Col des Aravis

Col des Aravis

Col des Aravis, by HedgehogCycling

From Flumet, Stage 20 takes the D909 towards the Col des Aravis. First, the road twists and turns through the Gorges de l'Arondine (pictured below).

Gorges de l'Arondine

Gorges de l'Arondine, by HedgehogCycling

It then leaves the Arondine river, and emerges from the forests of the gorge. It starts to climb the Col des Aravis with a series of hairpin bends, soon passing through the village of La Giettaz, then reaching the top of the Col des Aravais at 1498m. The other height often given is 1487m, and I think it depends on exactly where you measure the altitude: 1498m is on the sign on the La Giettaz side, and 1487m is at the other side of the Col, arriving from La Clusaz. The Col des Aravis crosses the Chaine des Aravis mountains at the lowest possible point.

Summit of the Col des Aravis

Top of the Col des Aravis, by HedgehogCycling

The Col des Aravis has been on the route of the Tour de France 39 times altogether. On the last occasion in 2010, Jérôme Pineau was the first rider to the top.

According to the race organisers, it's a 6.7km climb to the top of the Col at 1487m, at an average gradient of 7%. Alpinecols says that the steepest part, which is near the top, is 12%.

There's a chapel at the Col dedicated to St Anne, founded in 1650, rebuilt in 1765, and restored several times over the centuries. It's called the Chapelle des Aravis, and the message on the front of the chapel reads, 'Sainte Anne, protégez les voyageurs', or 'St Anne, protect travellers.'

Chapelle des Aravis de Sainte-Anne, Col des Aravis

Chapelle des Aravis, Col des Aravis, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: la Clusaz and le Grand Bornand

La Clusaz

La Clusaz, by HedgehogCycling

From the Col des Aravis, the road goes down to La Clusaz. It's not too twisty or steep, so it should be a fast descent.

Descent from Col des Aravis to la Clusaz

Descent from Col des Aravis to La Clusaz, by HedgehogCycling

Below La Clusaz, Stage 20 goes through St-Jean-de-Sixt (which has a Bun-J-Ride, where you can cycle off a ramp, attached to a bungee), and takes the D4 to le Grand Bornand.

Le Grand Bornand, Mairie

Mairie, le Grand Bornand, by HedgehogCycling

The day's intermediate sprint is at le Grand Bornand.

Profile of sprint on Stage 20 TDF 2016 at le Grand Bornand

Profile of sprint on Stage 20, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: le Col de la Colombière

Turn for Col de la Colombière, le Grand Bornand

Le Grand Bornand, by HedgehogCycling

The next climb begins from le Grand Bornand: the Col de la Colombière. The D4 heads up to the ski resort of Grand Bornand le Chinaillon, and beyond towards the Col. To the right of the road during the ascent are Mt Lachat de Chatillon and la Pointe Percée, and to the left are le Pic de Jallouvre and la Pointe Blanche.

Ascent of the Col de la Colombière

Col de la Colombière, by Werner Bayer, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The altitude at the top of the Col de la Colombière is 1618m. According to the Tour de France organisers, the altitude at le Grand Bornand is 940m, so the height gained to the top is 678m, over a distance of 11.7km. This gives an average gradient of 5.8%. Alpinecols says that the final kilometre is the steepest, with a gradient of 9%.

The Col de la Colombière has featured in the Tour de France route 20 times, most recently in 2010, when Christophe Moreau was first to the top. British rider Barry Hoban also reached the summit first, in 1968.

Top of the Col de la Colombière

Col de la Colombière @ Hike to Pic de Jallouvre, by Guilhem Vellut, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

From the top of the Col de la Colombière, the D4 goes down to the village of le Reposoir, with a mountain called le Bargy on the left, and la Pointe Percée and la Pointe d'Almet on the right.

Le Reposoir

Le Reposoir, by mimi coco, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Le Reposoir is a village on a stream called le Foron du Reposoir (a minor tributary of the river Arve). There was little here before Carthusian monks arrived in 1151. They called the place le Reposoir, meaning a place of rest for the soul. The Carthusians were expelled in 1901, and the monastery was abandoned for some years. It became a Carmelite monastery in 1922.

La Chartreuse du Reposoir

La Chartreuse du Reposoir, by mimi coco, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

The descent continues from le Reposoir to Scionzier (537m).

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Scionzier, Marignier, & Mieussy

Mieussy, Mairie

Mairie de Mieussy, by HedgehogCycling

The next few kilometres are relatively flat. The race comes into Scionzier on the D4, then takes the D304 under the N1205, turns left on avenue du Crozet/avenue des Léchères, and right under the A40 on avenue du Stade. It goes over the Arve on the avenue des Iles, then left on the D19 towards Marignier. 

(Marignier is a town on the river Giffre and at the foot of le Môle (1863m). It is said to have been founded by a knight who returned from the Crusades, and was known as Marinicum in the Middle Ages. Like other towns in the Arve valley, the industrial specialisation of Marignier is in the manufacture of screws, bolts, and other metal lathe products).

Le Môle, Marignier

Le Môle - Haute Savoie, by Patrick Nouhailler, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

In the outskirts of Marignier, Stage 20 turns right on the D26 route du Giffre, by the river Giffre. At le Pont du Risse, it turns sharp right and starts to climb to Mieussy. (The first 'parachute de pente' flights took place at Mieussy in 1978. It became known as parapente. Mieussy hosted a World Cup event in 2000).

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Col de la Ramaz

Col de la Ramaz

Col de la Ramaz, by HedgehogCycling

The Col de la Ramaz begins at Mieussy. It is known for being the ascent which ended Lance Armstrong's hopes of winning the 2010 Tour. The road, the D308, passes through the hamlets of Messy and Chez Besson, and heads for the ski resort of Praz-de-Lys - Sommand. The Col comes after Sommand, and before le Praz-de-Lys. The steepest part is immediately before Sommand, in a recently built tunnel section. Alpinecols mentions views of Mont Blanc from the top. 

Climb profile for Col de la Ramaz

The official Tour de France climb profile shows Mieussy at an altitude of 633m, and the top of the Col de la Ramaz at 1619m, making a height gain of 986m, over a distance of 13.9km. This gives an average gradient of 7.1%.

Plateau de Sommand, Col de la Ramaz

Col de la Ramaz...in the rain...turned back again (showing Plateau de Sommand, on 15th April 2016), by bebutchered, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

A series of hairpin bends then bring the riders back to the valley, le Foron, and the junction with the D902, where they turn right towards Taninges. (Taninges is a town on the river Giffre which dates back to Roman times. On the southern edge of the town is the old Carthusian Abbey of Mélan, now devoted to contemporary art. There are 40 or 50 bells (le carillon de Taninges) in the clock tower at the church in Taninges, the first such carillon in Haute-Savoie).

From Taninges, there's the respite of a flat valley road (the D907) to Samoens.

D907 Taninges to Samoens road

D907 from Taninges to Samoens, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Samoens & the Col de Joux Plane

Samoens

Samoens, by HedgehogCycling

The race reaches Samoens, and heads up to the left, to begin the final climb, the Col de Joux Plane. (Joux is a local word for a wooded mountainside; plane might indicate 'flat', but that seems illogical). Alpinecols describes it as 'probably the toughest climb in the Haute Savoie'.

Col de la Joux Plane, lower down

Lower slopes of the Col de la Joux Plane, by HedgehogCycling

The road climbs through pasture and woods, on the lower slopes. It reaches the wooden Chalets de Mapellet la Bourgeoise, where there was still snow in the middle of May 2016.

Cyclist near the top of the Col de Joux Plane

Cyclist near the top of the Col de Joux Plane, by HedgehogCycling

The top of the Joux Plane is at 1691m, according to the Tour de France graphic, or 1700m according to the road sign.

Summit of Col de la Joux Plane

The climb of Col de la Joux Plane goes from 704m in Samoens to 1691m at the top, a height gain of 987m, over a distance of 11.6km. This gives an average gradient of 8.5%.

Col de Joux Plane climb profile

The stage continues to Morzine. According to Alpinecols, from Joux Plane, 'after a short descent around the lake one must climb another 70m to cross the Col de Ranfolly before beginning the steep, exhilarating descent to Morzine.'

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: to the finish in Morzine

Morzine

Morzine, by eGuide Travel, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

After passing the Col du Ran Folly (1656m), there are 8km of descent to the finish at Morzine. This video shows a cyclist going down the route in July 2015:

According to the Portes du Soleil website, on arrival in Morzine, 'the route will take them towards the fire station, then towards the town hall. They will then ride up rue du Bourg to cross the finish line on Tourist Office square.'

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: what the riders say

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana is looking forward to Stage 20, and the finish in Morzine, according to CyclingNews. Colombians have had success in Morzine and Avoriaz in the past, including Luis Herrera in 1985, Fabio Parra in 1988, and Santiago Botero in 2000. Quintana himself made a break on the Col de Joux Plane in the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné, and went on to win in Morzine.

Quintana says, 'I know the last col will be the Joux Plane, and if the yellow dream must be played out there, even on the descent, then so much the better for me. I won a stage of the Dauphiné there in 2012, and I'm ready to do it again.'

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas, by Dacoucou, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Geraint Thomas, speaking to Peter Scrivener of the BBC, gave his view on each stage before the Tour began. This is what he said about Stage 20: 'These climbs were tough when we tried them after a training camp, so they will be even more punishing on Stage 20 of the Tour de France. If we need to make up time, we'll make the stage as hard as we can for as long as we can. The descent into Morzine is not super-technical, but it is the final descent in the Alps, in the Tour, and if you are tired and chasing hard, you could make a mistake, which makes it dangerous.'

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Grand Départ 2016

The 2016 Tour de France begins at Mont St Michel, in the Manche département of France. 

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Megève

Télécabine, Megève 

Megève is a fashionable ski resort - perhaps better known for celebrity clients and expensive restaurants than for extreme skiing. It is at an altitude of 1,113m, so not one of the higher resorts.

Mairie de Megève

The name Megève comes from the Celtic Mageva, meaning village in the middle of waters. Before winter sports tourism, it was a peaceful agricultural village. The first tourists came in the C19th - pilgrims who came to visit the Stations of the Cross erected by Reverend Ambroise Martin from 1840, then tourists hoping to profit from the pure air. 

The first ski competition took place in 1914. Local farmers created ski tows, and the arrival of the Rothschild family at Mont d'Arbois hastened the development of the town and ski resort. The first téléphérique was built in 1933. 

Emile Allais

Megève is known as the home town of famous skier Emile Allais, born here in 1912 (and who died in Sallanches in 2012). He learnt to ski when helping Baron Rothschild's Austrian ski instructor, as a porter. He broke a leg in 1933, while doing his military service with the chasseurs alpins, and it was then slightly shorter than the other; when he later broke the other leg, the doctor was able to make it the same length as the first. 

He was the first Frenchman to win a medal in downhill skiing, and he won gold in downhill, slalom, and combined at the 1937 World Championships in Chamonix. He invented the 'French skiing method', published with Paul Gignoux at the end of 1937, and taught (in an updated version) at the French ski schools (Ecoles du Ski Francais) throughout ski resorts in France. In December 1937, he became the first French ski instructor, with medal number 1. After the Second World War, he became technical director at ENSA (Ecole Nationale de Ski et d'Alpinisme, which trains instructors). He was still skiing at the age of 100.

A Allard, boutique in Megève

Amongst Megève's attractions other than skiing, there's a museum (Musée du Haut Val d' Arly); a replica of the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, with fifteen oratories and chapels; and plane trips from the altiport at Côte 2000. There are also plenty of high-end shops, like A Allard. Armand Allard was a tailor in Megève from 1926, and Emile Allais asked him to create ski trousers which would be practical for competition. The result was the fuseau - tight fitting trousers, which Allais wore when winning his gold medals in 1937.

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Praz-sur-Arly

School at Praz-sur-Arly

Praz is a Savoyard variant of prés - meadows; the Arly is the river that flows here, and the root of the name is ar, running water, and ly, height. The inhabitants of Praz-sur-Arly are called Pralins. The first farms here appeared in the C14th. The church, of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, dates from 1881. Praz-sur-Arly has a ski resort, which is part of the Espace Diamant. There's an international hot air balloon event, les Montgolfiades de Praz-sur-Arly. It's also a well-known place for dog-sledding).

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Flumet

Flumet

Flumet is a village and ski resort at an altitude of 900m. It's at the confluence of two mountain streams, the Arly and its tributary the Arondine. The name Flumet may come from the Latin flumen, meaning river.

In the Middle Ages, Flumet was on the edge of the province of Faucigny, and it developed as a fortified town in the C12th and C13th. It became part of Savoie in 1355. Flumet's castle was destroyed in a fire in 1679.

With the rest of Savoie, Flumet was annexed by France after the Revolution, in 1792; it became Savoyard again on the defeat of Napoleon in 1814; then it joined France definitively in 1860. Flumet was (and is) in the Savoie département (73), not Haute Savoie (74). Because Haute Savoie had a free trade agreement with Switzerland, and Savoie did not, border towns like Flumet were involved in smuggling contraband at the end of the C19th.

Other than contraband, Flumet's economy was traditionally dependent on agriculture, especially making Reblochon and Beaufort cheese. More recently, winter sports have been important to the village: Flumet is part of the Espace Diamant ski area.

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: la Clusaz

La Clusaz

La Clusaz is a village and ski resort in the Aravis mountains. The name La Clusaz means 'narrow or closed valley between two mountains'. At one time, the village was called Clusa Locus Dei, or 'God's narrow place between two mountains', a name given to it by the Abbaye de Talloires, which owned La Clusaz.

The road to La Clusaz, from Annecy and Thônes, was opened in 1902, and this allowed it to become a summer and winter resort. The first cable car was built in 1956. Famous freestyle and freeride skier Candide Thovex is from La Clusaz. There's walking and mountain biking in the summer. La Clusaz hosted World Cup parapente events in 2001 and 2003.

Stage 20, Tour de France: le Grand Bornand

Le Grand Bornand, Mairie

Le Grand Bornand is a village and ski resort in a valley between the Chaine des Aravis to the south east and the Massif des Bornes to the north and west. It's at an altitude of 952m, and there are two télécabines out of the village itself; more lifts serve the main related ski resort, Le Grand Bornand Chinaillon, at 1300m. Ski racer Tessa Worley comes from le Grand Bornand.

The name Bornand probably comes from the Borne stream, which runs down Vallée du Bouchet from the Pointe Percée to le Grand Bornand, plus nand or nant, meaning valley.

There are about 60 farms in the commune, and the principal product is Reblochon cheese. 

A traditional chalet in le Grand Bornand has a stone-built lower storey, and the top of the building is wooden. Each chalet has its own mazot, a smaller wooden building without windows, used for storing ham, cereals, and jams.

This video shows the finish of Stage 17 of the 2004 Tour de France in le Grand Bornand:

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Samoens

Samoens

Samoens, by HedgehogCycling

Samoens is a village on the river Giffre at an altitude of 704m. The highest point of the commune of Samoens is the pointe des Avoudrues, at 2666m. The rock here is limestone, and there are deep caves and potholes such as le gouffre Mirolda.

The name Samoens may come from Franco-Provencal, and mean seven mountains or Alpine pastures, referring to seven mountains around the village. Inhabitants of Samoens are called Septimontains.

In the Middle Ages (C14th to C19th), stonemasons from Samoens plied their trade across France and Europe. They built the town halls at Annecy and Bonneville, and many of Vauban's forts.

Today, tourism is the mainstay of the local economy, with skiing in the winter. Samoens is part of the Grand Massif ski area, with Sixt, Morillon, Les Carroz, d'Araches, and Flaine. In the summer, activities include and climbing, caving, and mountain biking.

Stage 20, Tour de France 2016: Morzine

Morzine

Morzine, by eGuide Travel, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Morzine is a village, and a ski resort which is part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, with Avoriaz. It is at an altitude of 977m.

The name comes from the Latin morgenes, meaning 'border area'. In the C12th, it was a grange of the Cistercian Abbey of Notre Dame d'Aulps, 7km north.

Slate quarries were an important economic activity from the 1700s to the early 1900s. Winter tourism took off in the 1930s.

Morzine is famous as a ski resort, but it's also popular for summer activities including mountain biking, golf, hiking, and caving. It has an Olympic size pool.

Col des AravisLa Chartreuse du ReposoirCol de Joux Plane

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