When Wednesday July 23
To Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet
Category High mountains
Where are we?
We’re at the heart of the Pyrenees, close to the border with Spain, and as such there’s no escape from the climbing as the mountains come thick and fast.
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What’s on the route?
At 124.5km, this may be a ‘short’ day — the 2014 Tour’s shortest, in fact, bar the time trial — but talk about packing a lot in! The first 40km or so of the stage rise ‘gently’, and then it’s on to the first climb of the day: the first-category Col du Portillon.
The race then descends into Bagnères-de-Luchon, where we finished the day before, which marks the start of the Col de Peyresourde. Next is the Col de Val Louron-Azet, with gradients over 10 per cent in the early sections of the climb. After a steep descent to the town of Saint-Lary-Soulan, the final climb to Pla d’Adet begins — again featuring steep sections of over 10 per cent.
What might happen?
This is it: there’s no longer anywhere to hide. If you’ve somehow managed to remain in the shadows, ticking along in the hopes of perhaps, y’know, winning the Tour de France, this is the stage — or this one and the following one — when you’ll be found out.
The stage will have maximum impact, although it’s hard to split just which of stages 17 and 18 will see someone deliver the hammer blow that decides the 2014 race.
They’re calling these two stages ‘The Super Two’ already. Well, we are; we just made it up.
If you’re there
Although there are many tasty Spanish-influenced dishes well worth trying here, we’re still in cassoulet country… so we’ll have another one of those, please
Mountains, mountains and yet more mountains. This is no place to be if you don’t like mountains.