Sunday, 18 July 2010

Stage 15 Preview: Where Schleck must take a risk....

The 187.5km route starts in Pamiers, a virgin stage town in the sub-prefecture of Ariège; a familiar friend to the Tour, nine of Ariège’s towns have been visited in the Tour’s history. But while Ax-les-Thermes and Saint-Girons, located nearer to the Ariège mountain summits, are regulars on the Tour, the city of composer Gabriel Fauré has never before been visited.

Enthusiasts will be more familiar with Bagnères-de-Luchon where the stage ends; the Tour first visited Luchon 100 years ago. Octave Lapize was the first victor here, going on the be a Tour winner. The race returned a further 50 times over the century to the spa resort nicknamed the Queen of the Pyrenees in 1834 by Vincent de Chausenque in his book Les Pyrénées ou voyages pédestres (the Pyrenees on foot).

The focus of this stage is not the climbing, despite the Hors-Categorie climb of Port de Balès; here the focus is on the descent. From the final climb to Bagnères-de-Luchon, the bends are extremely delicate. With the foot of the Peyresourde slopes only 3km from the finish, there will be no way of clawing back what has been lost. This will be the second time the Port de Balès has been climbed. The first time was in 2007. The tarmac laid here has been especially done so with the Tour and its Spanish equivalent, the Vuelta, in mind. The magnificent climb will be hard, the road not very wide. Once the riders reach the summit, gaps can form on the descent as riders like Samuel Sánchez can pull away with their descending skills on the technical slope. It is quite probable that riders will be left by the wayside.


  1. Quite poignant that the route goes over the Col de Portet-D Aspet 15 years after the death of Fabio Casartelli

  2. Hey! Good work again. Good call on Sanchez, with Schleck not being the most nimble of descenders it's fair to say that we'll probably see the two GC contenders play cat and mouse, opening the door for a more cavalier climber/descender - enter Sanchez!!
    Looking forward to what you're going to create for the Queeen Stage on Thursday!