When Saturday, July 9
Category high mountains
Impact on GC 4/5
Nowhere stands out as an obvious place to attack today, which is why the climbers will be licking their lips. Traditionally they are the masters of surprise. But four big climbs, all with a hatful of King of the Mountains points at the top, means they will attack.
This is also a day when the favourites have to stay in control. They cannot let anything get too out of hand. A climber on the rampage could spell disaster to their plans, because there aren’t enough kilometres for all-rounders to gain time back. This has the potential to be a real seesaw stage.
Pau is one of the most visited places in Tour de France history. It currently stands at number three in the Tour starts and finishes table, with 60 appearances. The leaders are Paris, of course, and Bordeaux. There’s a steady slog south-east up to Lourdes, then the riders head south up the Luz Valley and the Gorge de Luz to the foot of the Col du Tourmalet. Then anything could happen.
The finish is also very traditional. Bagnères-de-Luchon is just behind Pau in the Tour’s league table with 51 appearances. The reason the two towns appear so often is they lie on a great racing line. As well as the climbs featured today it’s possible to squeeze the Col du Soulor, Col d’Aubisque and the Col d’Aspin into a stage between Pau and Bagnères-de- Luchon.
Race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) goes into the stage with a sizeable five-minute and 50-second advantage over second-placed Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange). Van Avermaet’s performance in the previous stage was a surprise, as no-one had expected him to gain time in the general classification. Can he hang onto yellow for another day?
Aside from Van Avermaet’s lead, the rest of the top 10 overall is densely packed, with just a handful of seconds separating the likes of Yates, defending champion Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Fabio Aru (Astana). That could all change.