When you hear the phrase “Tour-de-France,” what are the first words that come to mind? Likely “France” and “bicycle” and “race.” Certainly not “llama” or “sheep” or even “dog.” And yet, this “multiple stage bicycle race” that takes place over many days and many, many, miles has quite the history of animal interference.
Yesterday, the contestants took on one of the most historically difficult parts of the race — the climb in Col du Tourmalet, the highest mountain pass used in the Tour de France. Yikes. According to Atlas Obscura, these climbs are considered “the most difficult in bicycle racing, and the Col du Tourmalet is notorious in the history of the Tour de France for its difficulty.” In fact, Atlas Obscura goes on to quote cyclist Octave Lapize, who won the Tour de France the first time they added that climb to the contest in 1910:
(I wish I had been this eloquent the one time I tried CrossFit. Talk about assassins.)
Regardless, as you can see, this climb is pretty hard.
But it seems that rising heart-rates and steep inclines aren’t the only distractions the cyclists almost had to battle. The day before the race, llamas had decided to make their way to the middle of the road!
The photographer, Joël Adagas, told The Huffington Post that the llamas were bought by the owner of a campsite in La Mongie to maintain the ground in the winter, but he was forced to move them into another area for the summer, and the herd will remain in Tourmalet until October.
They sure look like they’ve made themselves right at home:
Apparently, the llamas’ penchant for paved road is not due to an unnatural love for hard surfaces, but rather has to do with a love for heat. The pavement retains heat from the sun longer than unpaved ground, and as you can see from the photos, it was a pretty foggy and chilly day.
Luckily for the riders, the llamas moved before the riders reached the climb. Nonetheless, this wouldn’t have been the first animal-led interference Tour-de-France riders had to face. In 2013 and 2007, dogs (no doubt excited by all the fun humans) have run onto the course and caused various accidents (though luckily no one was seriously harmed):
And in 2010, sheep joined the fray:
Looks like they could have used some help from Babe.
Regardless, we are happy that yesterday’s ride passed without any llama-related mishaps. Of course, perhaps the most difficult obstacles of all are the spectators: that same day, a spectator caused an inflatable banner to collapse on the riders. Seems the llamas weren’t the problem, after all!