Stage 16: Pau-Bagnères de Luchon

>> Save up to 31% with a magazine subscription. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<

After a rest day in Pau, the race plunges back into the Pyrenees, having already had a taste on stage 14, with a finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon – a spa town that has hosted the Tour a number of times in recent years due, like Pau, to being one of the few places in the Pyrenees that’s big enough to host the race and all the paraphernalia that comes with it.

It’s the gruppetto’s worst nightmare, with four horrible climbs, not to mention some irritatingly grippy drags through the valleys.

First up: the Col d’Aubisque by the hard side (although that implies there’s an easy side, which there isn’t). This is followed by the Tourmalet, which lazy writers always precede with “the mighty,” just like George Hincapie is always preceded by “Big”. Having ridden up the Tourmalet, we use another word, but Cycle Sport is a family publication, so we won’t print it here. The Aspin and Peyresourde are relatively straightforward. We say “relatively”. We mean, “actually not at all”.

Nice descent to the finish, though. The less good climbers should be able to build enough momentum to whizz straight through the finish line, all the way to their hotels, up the stairs and straight into their baths.

Let battle recommence between the big favourites over a 197km roller coaster of pain, sweat and exuberant [that’s one word to describe them – Ed] fans.

There’s something for everybody today. The bonus sprint comes early, before the Col d’Aubisque, so the green jersey contenders still have work to do. It’s one of the most important days for the climbers’ jersey – only stage 11 has more points available than today. And, of course, it’s the second-last chance for the climbers who want to win the yellow jersey to put some time into the stronger time triallists.

Think ‘The Sound of Music’ transplanted to the Pyrenees: green mountain meadows, cowbells, and absolutely insane Basque fans (there were crazy Basques in the Sound of Music, weren’t there?)

Tripe. The proliferation of sheep and cattle means that we’re in offal-eaters’ heaven.

The Col du Tourmalet never disappoints – 19 km at an average grade of 7.4 per cent, and the hardest mountain of the day, which is saying something.

1910 Octave Lapize
1911 Paul Duboc
1912 Odile Defraye
1913 Philippe Thys
1914 Firmin Lambot
1919 Honoré Barthélémy
1920 Firmin Lambot
1921 Louis Heusghem
1922 Jean Alavoine
1923 Jean Alavoine
1924 Ottavio Bottechia
1925 Adelin Benoit
1926 Lucien Buysse
1927 Nicolas Frantz
1928 Victor Fontan
1929 Salvador Cardona
1930 Alfredo Binda
1931 Antonin Magne
1932 Antonio Pesenti
1933 Léon Louyet
1934 Adriano Vignoli
1935 Slyvère Maes
1936 Sauveur Ducazeaux
1937 Eloi Meulenberg
1938 Félicien Vervaecke
1947 Albert Bourlon
1949 Jean Robic
1951 Hugo Koblet
1953 Jean Robic
1954 Gilbert Bauvin
1956 Jean-Pierre Schmitz
1958 Federico Bahamontes
1960 Kurt Gimmi
1963 Guy Ignolin
1964 Raymond Poulidor
1966 Marcello Mugnaini
1967 Fernando Manzaneque
1969 Raymond Delisle
1971 José Manuel Fuente
1972 Eddy Merckx
1983 Luis Ocana
1979 René Bittinger
1980 Raymond Martin
1983 Robert Millar
1998 Rodolfo Massi
2010 Thomas Voeckler


Cycling Magazine, July 23 1983
Stage 10, Pau-Bagnères de Luchon
Four years in the wilderness ended on July 11 for Scot Robert Millar when he rode into Luchon the lone winner of the hardest mountain stage of the 1983 Tour.

Four years a professional, but denied a ride in the Tour until this year, the former British amateur road champion became the first Briton to win a mountain stage in the 80-year history of the race.

It was a classic victory of a classic stage, taking in the major passes of the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde.

On the Tourmalet, Patrocinie Jiminez jumped away and only Millar was able to match him. The Glaswegian and South American overhauled leader Jacques Michaud before the summit, the highest point of the Tour. The sun was high and hot, the riders already had 125 kilometres in their legs and there were still two first-category climbs to go.

Jiminez and Millar’s lead melted away in alarming fashion as the chasing group got within a minute of the two leaders.

But Millar had waiting a long time for his moment of truth and he wasn’t going to be denied.

He danced up the Col du Peyresourde, jumped away to take the summit alone, before starting the descent to Luchon and victory.

Behind him Delgado had caught and left Jiminez but he wasn’t going to catch Millar and the seemingly frail Scot threw his arms aloft as he crossed the line just six seconds ahead of the Spaniard.

“My success doesn’t surprise me,” Millar said. “I felt good all day and I knew I was going to win. I was determined not to be caught.”

– Luchon has hosted 46 stage finishes of the Tour de France. First winner was Octave Lapize in 1910, the year the Pyrenees were introduced into the Tour. Thomas Voeckler won over the Port de Balès into Luchon a century later.
– This will be the 81st appearance of the Col du Tourmalet, in 99 editions of the Tour, making it the most used mountain of the race. Second place is the Col d’Aubisque, which makes its 74th appearance, and third is the Aspin, which makes its 71st appearance.
– In 50 postwar crossings, the first rider over the Tourmalet has gone on to win 16 mountains jerseys but only four yellow jerseys.
– In the last 30 climbs of the Tourmalet, the first rider over has only gone on to win the stage six times.

Col d’Aubisque
Category HC
Start Laruns
Length 16.4km
Height 1,709m
Altitude gain 1,164m
Average gradient 7.1%

Col du Tourmalet
Category HC
Start Luz St Sauveur
Length 19km
Height 2,115m
Altitude gain 1,410m
Average gradient 7.4%

Col d’Aspin
Category 1
Start Ste Marie de Campan
Length 12.4km
Height 1,489m
Altitude gain 624m
Average gradient 4.8%

Col de Peyresourde
Category 1
Start Arreaux
Length 9.5km
Height 1,569m
Altitude gain 657m
Average gradient 6.7%

Cycle Sport’s Tour village: All our Tour coverage, comment, analysis and banter.

Follow us on Twitter:

Maps courtesy of Amaury Sports Organisation