When Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor put on a show on the Puy de Dome.

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When Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor put on a show on the Puy de Dome.

After 35 years, one of the Grande Boucle’s most legendary climbs, the Puy de Dome, finally returns in a Tour de France stage. The finish of today’s ninth stage, 182.4 km starting in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, will be right at the 1415 meters of this Massif Central volcano overlooking the town of Clermont Ferrand and located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.

Why these 35 years of absence? Officially because of the impossibility of safely accommodating the great tide of the public that poured up this slope, but the construction of the new railroad narrowed the roadway, which is now no longer passable except by service vehicles. And today it will be, again, for the world’s most prestigious stage race.

The Puy de Dome has been the site of a Tour stage finish thirteen times. Two were Italian victories, that of Fausto Coppi, who in 1952 baptized this climb on his debut on the Grande Boucle route, and that of Felice Gimondi in 1967. The last time up there was in 1988 and the stage winner was Johnny Weltz, a Dane like the current yellow jersey and last year’s winner Jonas Vingegaard.

But the most iconic stage, as they say today, that arrived at Puy de Dome was the one on July 12, 1964. Starting from Brive-la-Gallarde and 237.5 km long, it was won by Spanish climber Julio Jimenez ahead of compatriot Federico Bahamontes, but it was marked by the duel of those who split France in two in that Tour: Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor. The former was the predestined one, the one who won the grand tours thanks to the time trials; the latter, who later became Mathieu Van der Poel’s grandfather was the eternal placer, who reached the Tour podium eight times out of 14 participations but never wore the yellow jersey even for a day.

On that day Poulidor, detached in the standings from Anquetil by 56 seconds, attacked on the toughest point of the 14-kilometer climb, but his rival resisted, even going so far as to flank him for many hundreds of meters as if to intimidate him and tell him “don’t detach me.” But Poulidor at the last kilometer attacked again and this time Anquetil gave way. His gap to his rival at the finish was 42 seconds and he then remained in the yellow jersey for only 14 seconds, then putting the seal on his fifth Tour in the final time trial in Paris.

Poulidor was second at 55 seconds, and that Tour, paradoxically, he lost it right on the Puy de Dome, when he managed too late to break away from his rival, who had also pulled out the energy he did not have, A crazy duel on a crazy climb that will remain forever in the history of cycling and world sport.

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