When Tuesday July 22
Category High mountains
Where are we?
After a second, richly deserved rest day, stage 16 will dawn too soon for those tired riders left in the race.
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Already, we’re heading back into the mountains, and the spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon — or just Luchon, if you’re a local — welcomes the Tour like an old friend for the 53rd time. Its regular use is thanks to it being a gateway to the Pyrenees, with the infrastructure to support the travelling circus that is the Tour.
What’s on the route?
While the Port de Balès is the day’s principal difficulty, the Col de Portet d’Aspet, coming halfway into the stage, will soften up the legs nicely. There are three other categorised climbs, too — the fourth-category Côte de Fanjeaux and Côte de Pamiers, and, between the Aspet and the Balès, the third-category Col des Ares, so plenty to keep those chasing the polka-dot jersey busy.
What might happen?
This could go one of two ways, depending on the main contenders’ willingness to race. Either there’ll be fireworks as they realise that there’s less than a week to go until the finish in Paris, or they’ll keep their powder dry for the following tough two days in the high Pyrenees, and leave this one to the stage-chasers.
If you’re there
One word: cassoulet. Seek out the local beany, meaty goodness. We could eat it all day, and probably will.
Into the Pyrenees we go for the final, frenetic week of the race.