Tour de France 2022 stage 18 preview: potential fireworks from Pogacar on the Hautacam

All you need to know about the route, timings, and what to expect from stage 18

Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty)

Stage 18 of the Tour de France 2022 starts in Lourdes and comes to a conclusion at the top of Hautacam.

It seems Tour race director Thierry Gouvenou was keen to keep the back end of the race unpredictable with the mix of tradition, new stuff and a final devilishly hard climbing test. Dramatic GC changes could well be the order of the day.

When is stage 18 of the Tour de France taking place?

The Tour de France stage 18 takes place on Thursday, July 21 starting at 12:40 BST with an anticipated finish time of 16:38 BST. 

How long is stage 18 of the Tour de France?

The Tour de France stage 18 will be 143.2 km long.

Tour de France stage 18: expected timings

RouteDistance to goAnticipated Time (BST)
Lourdes143.2km12:40
Laruns84.7km14:04
Col d’Aubisque66.5km14:47
Col du Spandelles33.2km15:41
Hautacam0km16:38

Tour de France stage 18 route

Tour de France stage 18

(Image credit: ASO)

It begins near the grotto shrine in Lourdes, heading west to begin with, before turning south to run up the Ossau valley to Laruns and from there onto the harder northern flank of the Col d’Aubisque. The second most-visited climb behind the Col du Tourmalet, this will be the 74th time it’s been tackled. Rising for 16.4km at 7.1%, that latter figure is a little misleading as the opening half-dozen kilometres aren’t too taxing, while the final 10km average 8.5%. 

From the summit, there’s a short and sometimes hairy descent through the spectacular Cirque du Litor and a short rise to the Col du Soulor, where the riders will swing left and down to the village of Ferrières, beyond which they’ll quickly reach the foot of the Col de Spandelles. This pass has never 5/5 1/5 3/5 featured before, but is sure to make a mark on both riders and fans. It’s as tough as the last 10km of the Aubisque, averaging 8.3% for 10.3km. At the summit, where the thick woodland thins out, there are stunning views, including to the east towards the finale at Hautacam. 

After the descent, the riders will have a short ride across the Argelès-Gazost valley to start the final ascent. Like the Aubisque, it comprises two quite different parts. The first half-dozen of its 13.6km are mostly steady, but the next five are anything but, with long sections above 10%. The gradient – 7.8% for the whole climb – eases towards the top, although it may not feel that way for some

Useful Tour de France 2022 resources

Tour de France stage 18: what to expect 

This could shape up as a re-run of the previous stage, with lots of climbers keen to get into the break, the King of the Mountains perhaps among them. They’ll be hoping that the GC contenders give them enough leeway to go for the stage win. Whether that happens depends to a large extent on the state of the GC. If it’s tight, the peloton’s tempo is likely to be rapid, and there may even be attacks from the yellow jersey group on the Spandelles, which offers an ideal launch pad for a long-range effort. Ultimately, this stage will confirm who the strongest rider is.

Tour de France stage 18: riders to watch

This deep into the race it’ll be the strongest riders vying for the win, so likely the top three or four on GC. If Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) is going to claim his third Tour de France victory then he's only got two stages left to realistically claw back time on race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). It's going to be a fun day!

The tragic tale of the Otxoa twins

The first mountain stage of the 2000 Tour de France was dismal, a wet and cold July day with low cloud cloaking much of the key action. It was lit up by 25-year-old Basque climber Javier Otxoa, who dropped his breakaway companion Nico Mattan on the Col de Marie-Blanque and rode 155km solo to victory at Hautacam. More than 10 minutes clear of the favourites going onto the climb, his margin at the line was just 42 seconds over the rampant Lance Armstrong.

On February 2001, Otxoa and his twin brother Ricardo, who also raced for the Spanish Kelme team, were preparing for the season near Málaga when they were hit by a car. Ricardo died at the scene, while Javier sustained career-ending injuries including cerebral paralysis. He did eventually return to racing and competed as a Paralympian at the 2004 Games in Athens, winning a gold and a silver medal. He repeated that achievement in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

He died in August 2018 after a long illness that was related to the injuries he received in 2001.

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Peter Cossins has been writing about professional cycling since 1993, with his reporting appearing in numerous publications and websites including Cycling WeeklyCycle Sport and Procycling - which he edited from 2006 to 2009. Peter is the author of several books on cycling - The Monuments, his history of cycling's five greatest one-day Classic races, was published in 2014, followed in 2015 by Alpe d’Huez, an appraisal of cycling’s greatest climb. Yellow Jersey - his celebration of the iconic Tour de France winner's jersey won the 2020 Telegraph Sports Book Awards Cycling Book of the Year Award.