To call the thirteenth stage of the 1992 Tour lumpy would be an understatement. The stage from Saint Gervais to Sestrières took on six climbs, two of which rated hors categorie , or beyond category, not to forget two category one climbs. Needless to say, the day’s stage was going to be hard.
Shortly after the Peloton left Saint Gervais Claudio Chiappucci, the rider known as El Diablo, found himself in a break with fifteen others. The Devil was wearing polka – dots and was bent on keeping his prize. After capturing the points at the top of days first climb Chiappucci attacked and whittled his big group to a smaller one. One that included fellow climber, the Frenchman Richard Virenque.
The big guns, including Migel Indurian gave the seventh place Chiappucci enough rope to hang himself. The chances of a breakaway surviving on a stage such as this was nearly unheard of in this modern age. The Devil wasn’t just playing with his top ten placing, but his coveted climbers jersey as well. To make Years later El Diablo would confess to Peloton magazine that “it was not my plan to go from so far away”. Still, the stage was to end in Chiappucci’s home country, Italy. He couldn’t help himself.
After whittling the group down The Devil then did the unthinkable again. At the start of the loooong Col de l’ Iseran he attacked his break away companions and went off alone. He was going for the win from a 100 miles out. The Italian continued to work his way through the mountains alone.
As he climbed the peloton would dig into his lead, only to loose the pace as the Italian bombed down grades as steep as 10%. For what he lost on the climbs he gained as he rocketed back toward the valley floors. Only to repeat the same game of cat and mouse as he climbed the next mountain. What must have gone through his mind as the moto rider gave The Devil his time gas. Maybe there were moments of doubt. Perhaps he cursed himself, his bike, his chosen profession. Perhaps, in the moment he even regretted being born, as some of us are want to do when in great pain.
What we do know is that on that final climb, the rider known as El Diablo crossed finish line alone, the only one in the picture as the Belgians say, surround be the Italian Tifosi.
* Source material for this piece was taken from Peloton Magazine #05