Even though Col du Galibier is affectionately called the “Old Lady”, it’s short of forgiving, welcoming and nice. It was introduced to the Tour itinerary already 119 years ago and each time the peloton passed through here since 1947, a wreath has been laid down next to the memorial statue of Henry Desgrange, the Tour’s first Director. A place loaded with history but also steep challenges. Cameron was facing 21.4 km of climbing with an average elevation of 7.43 %. At 2,642 metres above sea level, it’s the eighth highest peak of France and can be reached by an asphalt road. Nevertheless, his enthusiasm never wavered – also thanks to the presence of the unique assistant vehicle.
It seems like the climb has been part of Tour’s routes so often it might have lost its edge but nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask Nairo Quintana, Primož Roglič, Andy Schleck or Eddy Merckx. As scenic and fairly safe as it may seem on TV, it’s not a feat for the faint of heart and support is not only welcome but essential. That’s why Cameron was accompanied by the brand-new, fully-electric Škoda ENYAQ iV as his personal assistance car, which served as a feeding, resting, gear-carrying and first-aid mobile station. Škoda ENYAQ iV debuted only about two weeks ago but it’s already high in demand appearance-wise. We were lucky enough to get our hands on it for this special shoot.
The all-electric vehicle’s perfect silence matches the surrounding breathtaking sights and tranquil nature amazingly. The Tour madness won’t pass through the southern tunnel portal under the summit of the Col du Galibier this year so we could actually have it all to ourselves. As Cameron noted, there’s another similarity between a cyclist and an electric car besides the lack of intrusive noisiness: “The main comparison between cycling and ENYAQ iV is that I am able to experience a unique landscape and perspective on the world while reducing my carbon footprint.”
On a single charge, the ENYAQ iV’s electric powertrain can range up to 500 km and the efficiency of energy recuperation system, which gets activated while braking, could be really showcased at the Col du Galibier’s winding descent. This particular model differs from the future mass-produced version by the characteristic velvet-red leading car paintjob and Tour decals, a retractable sunroof through which Mr Prudhomme, the Tour’s Director, can stand up, a five-channel radio or champagne-flute holders. Thanks to the powerful modular electrification toolkit (MEB) engine, the car was able to follow Cameron seamlessly and safely on all parts of the climb and descent. “The ENYAQ iV has impressed me with its lightness and silence. Although it is slightly larger than the SUPERB, its handling is extremely easy,” he added.
Cameron Jeffers, a 23-year-old Northern Irishman, was our unanimous first choice for this remarkable feat, nominated by his easy-going nature, lively and poignant commentary and, last but not least, the appropriate stamina. As we learned later, the Col du Galibier is his favourite Tour climb and he’s been dying to try it for some time now – plus, he’s pretty excited about mountainous scenery in general. “My relationship with the mountains is the sense of freedom it gives me, the clean air and the relief of the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s an unusual paradox climbing the long alpine mountains. The harder you go, the greater the pain but shorter the duration of the suffering. The sense of elation and achievement when you reach the summit in incomparable to anything else,” he elaborated.
How Škoda ENYAQ iV and Cameron braved the famous peak is all caught in the above video you can enjoy in full. In Cameron’s words right after he finished, the excitement was almost tangible: “It was my first time visiting the Col Du Galibier and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The weather was impeccable and the views were simply breathtaking (the lack of oxygen associated with the altitude was too!) It was great to be surrounded by passionate hard-working guys trying to produce the best film possible.”
Would you dare to cycle up the Col du Galibier? Do you think electric cars should form a functional and logical symbiosis with major cycling races and events? Let us know in the comments!