On a hot afternoon last week in the southeast of France, 30-year-old French mountain biker Alexis Bosson sat on his downhill bike. He stared at the wooden ramp that would launch him over the road gap below and into instant Internet glory. He and his nine-member crew from the nearby city of Annecy had planned this day for the past six months. They had scouted the location near the Plateau des Glières, built the jump, launched dozens of test runs, and stashed his bike nearby the night before.
The plan was to illicitly jump over the Tour De France as the unsuspecting racers pedaled by on the road below. For Bosson, an unknown, underground ripper, it was a stunt 15 years in the making.
Before Stage 8 of the 2003 Tour, a 21-year-old Canadian named Dave Watson spent several days preparing a jump off a 45-foot cliff on the Col du Galibier. But race day was a leap of faith. Watson had taken no practice runs and the clip, which would eventually appear in New World Disorder IV: Ride the Lightning, was his first and only attempt. Watson soared off the cliff and sailed over the peloton as they rode from Sallanches to Alpe d’Huez. Alas, he undershot the landing and ragdolled down the rocky slope on the other side.
He walked away with relatively minor injuries. No juiced-up road pros were harmed in the process.
Watson’s massive huck-to-yard-sale in the Alps inspired a group of riders from Annecy a decade later. Then-24-year-old Romain Marandet and his friends (including Bosson) planned a jump for six months leading up to Stage 20 of the 2013 Tour, which tackled six classified climbs around their hometown in southeast France. When the peloton climbed the final mountain of the day, the 3,000-foot grunt to Le Semnoz, Marandet stood at the top of the run-in, waiting for the right moment. Chris Froome approached in the race-leader’s yellow jersey, and the ground crew radioed Marandet the go ahead. The Frenchman soared over the road racers, becoming the first person to jump the Tour de France and successfully stick the landing.
Bosson was supposed to hit the jump along with Marandet in 2013. They’d planned a train—the riders would hit the jump in quick succession so they were simultaneously air born—but on “D-Day” Bosson had a meeting to attend. He wound up watching his friend’s solo send on TV.
Bosson’s redemption finally came last week. Two cops lingered nearby as he snuck his way up to the top of the ramp. The breakaway approached, and one of his crew radioed the go ahead. The Frenchman dropped in.
He flew 15 feet above the approaching riders and 20 feet across the road on Plateau des Glières. (Bosson and crew dialed the timing so he would jump over the road just before the peloton to avoid any accidents.) The feat flashed live across the Stage 10 race broadcast. Bosson launched over the road gap, his hands off the bars and outstretched behind his back.
The trajectory was spot on. He cleared the road and his hands reconnected with the grips. He touched down, and the Tour riders labored safely past as Bosson sped to the bottom of the landing.
He climbed back onto the road, and the crowd erupted in delight. The two gendarmeries still stood 160 feet away, completely ignorant or indifferent to the spectacle.
“The people were so happy,” Bosson recalled. “Everyone was cheering. There was a group of kids and my friend said, ‘You have to go up again, and jump over the peloton!’ And the kids were like, ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Go! Go! Go!’”
So Bosson, the obliging entertainer, hiked back up the approach. Four minutes later, when the remaining peloton arrived, he dropped in for an encore huck. You know, for the children.