Riblon, Elliot, and the Col de Sarenne


By David Ward — The morning of the 2013 Alpe d’Huez stage, my friend, Elliot, called me about 9 a.m. He was vacationing in Wisconsin, and had been watching the Tour coverage that morning. I immediately told him to say nothing of the day’s stage as I would be watching it that night. He said the stage was not yet over, but had to call. He asked, “Do you remember the turn on the Col de Sarenne where …”

Elliot Morris begins the descent of the Col de Sarenne. Photo by Dave Ward

Flash back to 2007 when Elliot and I went to France and spent two weeks riding famous cols of the Tour. One of them, of course, was Alpe d’Huez. It was a cold, misty and rainy day. After arriving at the summit, we descended down the Col de Sarenne.

David Ward on the descent of the Col de Sarenne. Photo courtesy Dave Ward

As shown in the Tour, it is a narrow, winding road, switchbacking down a steep slope. It starts above tree line (and actually at a higher elevation than Alpe d’Huez), descending into the trees about halfway down. When we rode it, we were dodging ruts, rocks and boulders on the upper switchbacks, grateful when we finally reached smoother, and subsequently newly paved, asphalt.

I am a good descender and so was ahead of Elliot on the way down. However, when I stopped to take some pictures, Elliot passed me and went on ahead. As I continued down, Elliot had disappeared into the trees. Suddenly, as I snaked around a minor bend, I saw Elliot laying on the road about fifteen yards before the next switchback. I stopped, asked if he was alright, and then told him to not move till I had taken his picture.

Elliot Morris crashed on the same corner that Riblon went off the road in Stage 18 of the 2013 Tour de France. Elliot was ok, but subjected to this photo. Photo by Dave Ward

Much like Christophe Riblon when making this descent in stage 18 of this year’s Tour, Elliot was going too fast for the turn. While Riblon simply went into the flora, Elliot locked his rear wheel and his bike slid out.

Forward to the present. “…I fell on the Col de Sarenne? There was a rider who went off the road on the exact same turn.” Elliot had recognized that stretch of road as the one where he fell, and was explaining that to his wife as Moser and Riblon approached it, and was amazed to then watch Riblon, also going too fast, ride off the end of the switchback. “My wife said, “You’ve got to call Dave and tell him.’”

So he did, and my wife and I had a good laugh that night as I pointed that stretch out to her and we then also watched Riblon’s foray off the road and into the brush. To his credit, Riblon handled it well and went on to win this remarkable stage.


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