When Thursday July 24
Category High mountains
Where are we?
We’re now in Gascony, while the race remains in the heart of the Pyrenees for a second day of tough climbing. The mountains the day before will have sapped the riders’ strength, so anyone who’s got anything left will have a good chance of a stage win as an exhausted peloton creeps towards Paris
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What’s on the route?
Take one glance at the profile of stage 18 and it’s pretty obvious what this stage is all about: the Col du Tourmalet dominates this stage, and, at over 17km long, it’s a bit more than just a leg-loosener before the summit finish at the ski station on the Hautacam.
A couple of third-category climbs earlier in the stage will encourage attacks, but any breaks still up the road on the Tourmalet will start to get a little worried, knowing that the race is likely to come alive on the slopes behind them.
What might happen?
Riders will have to attack on this stage, whether it’s to gain more points towards the King of the Mountains competition, or to claw back time in the hope of a higher finish on the general classification — even, perhaps, to stay in contention for Tour victory — or in an effort to win a stage, with time rapidly running out. But you try climbing the Pyrenean monster that is the Tourmalet after 17 days of riding and 3,100km in your legs. Go on.
If you’re there
Forget the Armagnac; you need to taste the garbure — a Gascon peasant soup packed with ham and vegetables.
Slap-bang in the middle of the mountain range, the Col du Tourmalet is one of the highest mountain roads in the Pyrenees.