Top mountain bike jumps in Tour de France history
Some people think this stunt is an accident waiting to happen, that it’s highly irresponsible. Others think it’s inspirational. Some simply think it animates the Tour.
For many mountain bikers these stunts provide fuel for the traditional “MTBers vs roadies” banter, and gives their sport some time in the spotlight on one of the biggest sporting stages on Earth.
Brian Park is the editor of Pinkbike, CyclingTips’ MTB-focused sister site. I asked him what equipment is needed for a stunt like this.
“You need as much travel as the drop requires,” he said. “If it’s a steep, smooth landing you could do it on a hardtail. The successful 2013 attempt was done on a Trek Session with 8+ inches of travel. The guy who did it this year is on an Orange DH bike.”
As Park notes, a stunt like this takes a lot of planning.
“The successful jump attempts have been built with a ramp,” he said. “They would have scoped the area until they found a good landing off one side of the road, and then built the takeoff to suit. Unlike Dave Watson’s  attempt (that had an unfinished, rough landing) they smoothed out the landings and probably sent the drop a few times before the big show.”
With that in mind, here are four times that MTBers briefly took the spotlight at the Tour de France.
1. 2003 – Col de Galibier
In 2003, Canadian mountain biker Dave Watson jumped the Tour peloton on stage 8. The jump took place just before the summit of the Col de Galibier. The set-up and preparation had to be done in secret — it wasn’t clear how fans and organisers would react. Showing up several days before, Watson and his crew built the jump and cleared the landing before many fans showed up.
With three 16mm cameras rolling to catch the action, tension was high as the helicopters appeared on the horizon, marking the arrival of the lead group. The amount of police and the mayhem created by the fans on the take-off and landing meant that jumping the lead group was out of the question. With communication hardly possible due to the noise created by the fans, a group of about 12 riders was sighted in the distance and the jump was on. Frantic preparations were made to clear spectators away from the take-off and landing.
Watson patiently waited as the riders rounded the corner. Prior to the jump, Watson had not even had a chance to take a run in to the jump for fear of giving away his intentions. Jump time came and he climbed aboard his Stab Primo and punched it toward the lip with no hesitation.
Jumping just over the back of the peloton, so as to take no chances of injuring riders on an unknown jump, Watson sailed approximately 14 metres (45ft) before touching down. Due to a last minute brake check, to ensure the safety of the riders below, Watson came up slightly short and was bucked by his bike. Fans rushed to him to see the extent of his injuries.
Thankfully the end of this story is a happy one. Paramedics insisted on taking Watson on a two-hour ride out of the mountains to the hospital and the police didn’t seem to mind since the only person hurt was Watson. He was released from the hospital with a partially separated shoulder, sore back, neck, and a severely bruised groin. (thanks to Pinkbike for this story)
Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won that stage to the top of Alpe d’Huez. Dave Watson stole the show.
2. 2013 – Le Semnoz
A decade later, Watson’s jump over the roads of the Galibier inspired 24-year-old Romain Marandet from Annecy to do something similar. Marandet and his friends spent six months planning and one month setting up, all for three seconds of air time on stage 20 from Annecy up Le Semnoz.
A thunderstorm the night before soaked the approach and the landing, threatening the attempt. But Marandet managed to do what Watson couldn’t in 2003 by successfully landing the massive jump.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the stage up to Semnoz that day. Chances are he didn’t notice Marandet sailing over the bunch that day.
3. 2018 – Montée du Plateau des Glières
Alexis Bosson jumped over the Tour peloton as the riders climbed up the Montée du Plateau des Glières on stage 10 of the 2018 Tour. It took Bosson and his nine-man team six months of planning which started when they knew the Tour would come back around Annecy. It was the same team who planned the jump back in 2013.
Not content with merely completing the stunt, Bosson even threw in a no-hander to up the ante.
— daniel mcmahon (@cyclingreporter) July 17, 2018
Bosson was supposed to do the Tour de France road gap stunt back in 2013 with Marandet, but he couldn’t. This was his time to shine.
Julian Alaphilippe took a solo win at the top of Le Grand-Bornand on that spectacular day.
4. 2019 – Saint-Flour
On stage 10 of the 2019 Tour, 19-year-old Valentin Anouilh claimed this year’s honour as he gapped the yellow jersey between Saint-Flour and Albi, France. The video below shows multiple angles of his jump which was sizeable at 16 metres.
5. Honourable mention
No road gaps listicle would be complete without this one done on a road bike back in 2017.
During the final stage of the 74th Tour of Poland, Szymon Godziek, Poland’s best freestyle mountain bike rider, performed a world-first flip over the peloton. Godziek switched from his mountain bike to a road bike in order to complete the stunning jump.
Note: These are dangerous stunts performed by experienced professionals. We shouldn’t need to say it, but please don’t attempt anything like this. Ever.