When Thursday July 16
To Plateau de Beille
Impact on overall: 5/5
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Where are we?
It’s our final day in the Pyrenees, and it’s a day that the climbers will want to make count. We head off from the sports-mad town of Lannemezan, and head east through the mountains towards a final showdown that is the summit finish at the ski resort of Plateau de Beille — and the southern-most point of this 102nd edition of the Tour.
What’s on the route?
Four major climbs make this the perfect day out for those riders targeting the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey.
The Col de Portet d’Aspet comes just over 40km into the stage, and it could well be that the race will intentionally stay together here in order to stop to pay its respects at the monument that is now on the climb to Fabio Casartelli.
Twenty years ago, on the 15th stage from Saint-Girons to Cauterets, the then reigning Olympic road race champion crashed on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet, and died shortly afterwards.
From here, the race heads on to the Col de la Core, making its seventh appearance in the Tour, having first been used in 1984.
The climbs just keep getting bigger as first the riders scale the Port de Lers, which has featured as recently as 2012, before it’s on to the big dog — Plateau de Beille — at 1,780m high and 16 kilometres long, with an average gradient of eight per cent, but with sections touching 10 per cent.
Strap yourselves in — we fancy that this could be a lively one! It’s the final day in the Pyrenees, and it’s almost a whole week again until we reach the Alps. Those who haven’t yet had the chance to show off their climbers should do so now.
If one of the main contenders is already in yellow, expect his team to be in full control of who is or isn’t allowed to go up the road, but if a lesser-known rider is in possession of the leader’s jersey, this could be an absolute free-for-all. Let’s hope for the latter, eh? It’s still a bit early in the race, entertainment-wise, for anyone to be riding defensively.
With four major climbs and three descents on the menu, descending skills could be forced into play as any breakaway riders know that they’ll need a major buffer going into the last climb up to Plateau de Beille, for which most of the big guns will have been saving themselves. And as the main contenders go head-to-head on the final climb, whether in a battle for the stage win or not, this should give us the biggest indication yet as to who has the climbing legs to take them all the way to Paris at the head of affairs.