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Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Pau to Peyragudes

A guide to Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2017, which is 214.5km from Pau to Peyragudes, on Thursday 13th July 2017. This is the first day in the Pyrenees, and the climbs include the Col de Menté and the Port de Balès. The stage finishes with an ascent of the Col de Peyresourde, plus a final climb to the finish at Peyragudes. Read about Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2017 here.

Bardet wins Stage 12 on steep Peyragudes climb

13th July 2017

Romain Bardet

Romain Bardet, by Laurie Beylier, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Romain Bardet won Stage 12 on the super-steep climb of the runway at Peyragudes. Rigoberto Uran was second, 2s back, and Fabio Aru third in the same time as Uran. Froome was seventh, 22s behind the winner. Fabio Aru is the new yellow jersey, with a 6s lead over Froome.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: facts, figures, and map

Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2017 starts at Pau and heads east towards Tarbes. The road is uphill to Capvern-les-Bains, which is within sight of the Pyrenees mountains. The first categorised climb of the stage is the Col des Ares, north of the Pic de Cagires; the riders circle that mountain, coming back over the Col de Menté to the south. The long climb of the Port de Balès brings the race to Saint-Aventin, the launchpad for the ascent of the Col de Peyresourde. As a final test, the race continues from the Peyresourde up to the ski resort of Peyragudes, with a 16% gradient in the final kilometre on Peyragudes airport runway.

Stage classification Mountain
Distance 214.5km
Intermediate sprint Loures Barousse
Climbs Côte de Capvern (Category 4)
Col des Ares (Category 2)
Col de Menté (Category 1)
Port de Balès (hors catégorie)
Col de Peyresourde (Category 1)
Peyragudes (Category 2)

This is the official map of Stage 12.

The official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 12:

Profile of Stage 12, Tour de France 2017

Profile of Stage 12, Tour de France 2017, © ASO/Tour de France organisers

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: date & timings

Stage 12 takes place on Thursday 13th July 2017.

The publicity caravan leaves Pau at 08h45, and arrives at the finish in Peyragudes at 15h25. The peloton leaves Pau at 10h55 (départ fictif), and arrives - in pieces, no doubt - at Peyragudes between 16h44 and 17h25.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: the route

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: the start in Pau

Palais Beaumont, Pau

Palais Beaumont, Pau, by Turol Jones, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The stage starts in Pau, with a départ fictif at 10h55 from the Tour des Géants (an outdoor interactive exhibition dedicated to the Tour de France), at Stade Tissié. According to Sud Ouest, There's to be a ceremony of homage to three Tour winners who are no longer with us: Ferdi Kubler (1950), Roger Walkowiak (1956), and Roger Pingeon (1967). As they set off, the riders pass the Palais Beaumont.

This map shows the route of the start in Pau (the darker coloured line):

Route of start of Stage 12, TDF 2017, in Pau

Route of start of Stage 12, Tour de France 2017, in Pau, © town of Pau

The neutralised section will be on boulevard Barbanègre, avenue Trespoey, avenue Beau-Soleil, avenue des Arrouturous, and route de Tarbes. The flag goes down and the racing starts at 11h10, as the race leaves Lée.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Pau to Capvern-les-Bains

Stage 12 follows the D817 to Tarbes.

Tarbes Town Hall

Tarbes Town Hall, by Florent Pécassou, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

From Tarbes, the route is east-south-east to Tournay. After Tournay, the D817 crosses the A64 autoroute, and begins to rise towards Capvern-les-Bains. The section here was a Category 4 climb on Stage 7 of the 2016 Tour, and it Category 4 again in 2017. The altitude where the D817 reaches Capvern is 594m. The climb is over a distance of 7.7km, and the average gradient is 3.1%. The climb isn't even a starter on today's menu of climbs, it's just an amuse-bouche.

Capvern, spa buildings

Spa buildings, Capvern, by Senaux, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Capvern-les-Bains to Saint Béat

When they leave Capvern, the riders are heading for the Haute-Garonne département, and Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.


Basilica Saint-Just-de-Valcabrère & Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, by vil-sandi, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

After passing the picturesque Basilica and Cathedral at Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, they make their way upstream by the Garonne to Loures Barousse, for the intermdiate sprint.

Intermediate sprint profile, Stage 12 TDF 2017, Loures Barousse

Intermediate sprint profile, Stage 12 TDF 2017, Loures Barousse, © ASO/Tour de France

Next on the route is Fronsac, a village which is overlooked by a C13th tower, a remnant of the Château of the Comtes de Comminges.


Tower of the Château of the Comtes de Comminges at Fronsac, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Now the climbing starts. The route is on the D618 to the Col des Ares (797m). According to VeloPeloton, this climb is easy - short, not very steep, not going very high, and with plenty of shade from the trees. The average gradient is 4.6%, over 7.4km.

Col des Ares

Col des Ares

The descent is via Juzet d'Izaut to Sengouagnet. The riders now make their way around from the north side of the Pic de Cagire to the south side.

Pic de Cagire

Pic de Cagire, by Paternel 1, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Leaving the D618, the stage takes the D85, then the D44, up to the Col de Menté (1,349m, 6.9km at 8.1% average). Menté sounds like, but isn't spelt like, 'climb' in French, montée. This climb is steeper than that of the Col des Ares (gradients of around 8% from just before le Couret), and goes higher. CyclingCols has a profile of the climb (the relevant one is from the east).

Col de Menté

Top of the Col de Menté, by Rafa Guijarro, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The descent from the Col de Menté is to Saint-Béat.


Saint-Béat, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Saint-Béat to the Col de Peyresourde

The race is back in the valley next to the river Garonne from Saint-Béat, then it leaves the river for Mauléon-Barousse (612m). Mauléon-Barousse is a short distance before the official start of the climb to the Port de Balès (1,755m).


Mauléon-Barousse, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

After Mauléon-Barousee, the riders ascend by the Ourse de Ferrère stream. When they reach the Grange de Crouhens, at an altitude of just over 800m, that's the official start of the climb of the Port de Balès (hors catégorie). This profile graphic shows the Port de Balès, the next climb of the Col de Peyresourde, and the final climb to the finish at Peyragudes:

Profile of the climbs of the Port de Bales and the Col de Peyresourde on Stage 12, Tour de France 2017

Profile of the climbs of the Port de Balès and the Col de Peyresourde, © ASO/Tour de France organisers

ClimbByBike looks at the climb of the Port de Balès from Mauléon-Barousese, so over 19km, and rates the average gradient as 6.3%. The Tour de France's graphic treats the climb as starting later, which gives 11.7km at an average of 7.7%. Either way, the top is at 1,775m.

Port de Balès

Top of the Port de Balès, by Simon James, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The descent from the Port de Balès is next to the Neste d'Oeuil stream to Saint-Aventin. (There's an entertaining legend about Saint Aventin). In the village, they turn right on the D618 up to the Col de Peyresourde - a Category 1 climb of 9.7km at an average of 7.8% (and it is a fairly even gradient).

Col de Peyresourde milepost

Col de Peyresourde milepost, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The road drops down from the Peyresourde, then there's a steep last 2.4km to the ski resort of Peyragudes and its airport runway at 1,580m - Category 2, an average of 8.4%, with a maximum gradient of 16%.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: favourites for the stage win

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana, by nuestrociclismo.com, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 12 is a day for the climbers and GC contenders. Given the short very steep section just before the finish, it seems logical to go for somebody small and light. Step forward Nairo Quintana! I suggest Stage 12 is suited to your abilities.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: comments

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Stage 13, Tour de France 2017


Château de Foix, by Jorge Franganillo, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 13 of the Tour de France 2017 is a short, sharp Pyrenean affair. At just 100km, it takes in some lesser-known climbs on the way from Saint-Girons to Foix, including the Mur de Péguère.

Read about Stage 13, Tour de France 2017.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: towns, sights and attractions

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Pau

Chateau de Pau

Chateau de Pau, by Turol Jones, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Pau is a city of 78,506 people (the inhabitants are called Palois) on the river Gave de Pau. It's the historic capital of the province of Béarn.

There are views of the Pyrenees from the boulevard des Pyrenées. Alphonse de Lamartine said, 'Pau has the most beautiful view of the earth just as Naples has the most beautiful view of the sea.'

Boulevard des Pyrenées, Pau

Boulevard des Pyrenées, Pau, by ludovic, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The origin of the name Pau is uncertain. It could come from pal, referring to the palisade or fence around the first castle in Pau. Another possibility is that pal means rockface, and refers to Pau's position at the foot of mountains.

A castle was built by the Viscounts of Béarn, probably in the C11th, to protect a ford of the Gave de Pau. Pau became the capital of Béarn in 1464. It then became the seat of the Kings of Navarre in 1512. Henri of Navarre went on to become King Henri IV of France, in 1589. In 1620, Béarn lost its independence from France, although the Parliament of Navarre continued to govern local matters (with laws in the Occitan dialect).

In the Belle Epoque (usually defined as 1871 to 1914), Pau developed as a tourist destination for the royal, aristocratic, and rich. Scottish doctor Alexander Taylor helped make it a popular destination for a winter cure. Later, aviation and petrochemicals (following the discovery of natural gas in Lacq) were significant industries here, and more recently, the services sector has grown. There's a large student population at the Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour.

The Chateau de Pau is one of the city's main attractions. It was originally a fortification guarding a ford of the Gave de Pau, reinforced in the C14th by Gaston III of Foix-Béarn. In the C16th, as the seat of the Navarre dynasty, it was transformed into a residence. 

Henri of Navarre was born in the chateau. Wikipedia has a garbled explanation of Henri's connection to the castle, which has the hallmarks of a computer translation from French: 'The future Henri IV takes the trouble to be born December 13, 1553, and the story did the rest. The fame of the king...gives the castle, which did not see him grow up or die, a particular taste, and the right to claim honours those who give birth supermen.' Right. I, who not understand all things to men, a special smell, this translation glorious three and a half ten out of.

Palais Beaumont, Pau

Palais Beaumont, Pau, by Turol Jones, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Tarbes

Massey Museum, Tarbes

Massey museum, Tarbes, by Viaggio Routard, Licence CC BY 2.0

Tarbes is a town of 42,000 people on the river Adour, in the département of the Hautes-Pyrénées. It's the capital of the Bigorre region.

Traditionally, it was an industrial town, and it is now diversifying into aeronautics and high-tech. It's a centre for the sale of local produce, including Tarbais beans.

According to legend, Tarbis, Queen of Ethopia went wandering after being rejected by Moses. She settle here, and gave her name to the town.

The first settlement here may have grown up around a ford in the river, used by merchants who travelled to obtain salt in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Tarbes was colonised by the Romans.

There were invasions by the Barbarians (from the 400s), and the Vikings (around 840). At the end of the 1100s, the Counts of Bigorre settled here.

It was after the Franco-Prussian War (1870) that an artillery workshop was founded in Tarbes, and production of arms increased during World War I. Tarbes was awarded the Croix de Guerre for its Resistance during the Second World War. There's a stud with a military heritage, the Haras de Tarbes. It was founded by the Emporer Napoléon Bonaparte, and is credited with creating the Anglo-Arabian breed.

Today, Tarbes is involved in manufacture in the rail and aviation sectors. It's also a University city.

Adrien Théaux (a World Cup skier based in Val Thorens) was born in Tarbes in 1984.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Tournay


Tournay, by Logophile F, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Tournay is a small town of 1,358 people, which calls itself 'little Nice'. It was a ville bastide, founded by a paréage agreement in 1307, and named after Tournai in Belgium because the French King had just won a battle there. It had a castle called the Chateau de Renso, but that was destroyed in the C16th during the Wars of Religion. In 1591, a convent of the Order of Minims was created here, and in 1952, a Benedictine Abbey was founded. Jean Sarraméa wrote a little verse about Tournay:

Tournay, claire bastide issue du Moyen Age

Où nature et Bigorre heureusement ménagent

Une sérénité où l'âme est en repos

Regardez au Midi le spectacle si beau:

Neige et rocs mariés, les fières Pyrénées

Ah, vallon de l'Arros! La verdure et le calme

Y sèment la douceur où naquit Francis Jammes [a poet and novelist]

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Capvern-les-Bains

Capvern, spa buildings

Spa buildings, Capvern, by Senaux, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Capvern is a spa resort on the Lène stream and the plateau de Lannemezan. The spa facilities are centred on Capvern-les-Bains. Capvern means 'the green point or peak'. The waters of the spa are reputed to cure urinary, digestive, and rheumatic and complaints, and gout. The first people to take the waters were probably Roman soldiers, but the popularity of spa treatments was at its peak in the C19th. From 1875, people were enticed with the slogan, 'Si ta vessie est menacée, Capvern sera la panacée', meaning 'If your bladder is menaced, Capvern is the panacea'. That was always bound to bring the punters in - who could resist?

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges


Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, by S.G.H., Licence CC BY 2.0

Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges is at a crossroads which commands access to one of the routes to the Pyrenees. 

Before the Romans, the town was called Convènes, inhabited by an Iberian people of the same name. Under the Romans, it was called Lugdunum Convenarum, and it became a Roman colony. They built a forum, a temple, thermal baths, a theatre, and vast villas. There may have been 10,000 inhabitants. After the Romans, it was acquired by the Visigoths.

The Cathedral and the Basilica were begun under Bertrand de l'Isle, who was Bishop of Comminges from 1083. After his death, he was made a saint, and he gives his name to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.

Today, the town is much less populous than in the Roman period (only about 250 people live there). The ville haute around the Cathedral lives from tourism, and the ville basse has an economy based on agriculture.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Saint-Béat

Saint-Béat & the river Garonne

Saint-Béat & the river Garonne, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Saint-Béat is a village in a stunning location by the river Garonne. Its proximity to the river also leaves it vulnerable to flooding.

Saint-Béat is known for its white marble quarries. The marble was used for some of the statues in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles.

There's a C12th fort, which controlled passage through the narrow Garonne valley here.

Above Saint-Béat, on the Tuc de l'Etang mountain, is the ski resort of le Mourtis (1,450m).

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: Mauléon-Barousse


Mauléon-Barousse is a village at the confluence of two streams, the Ourse de Sost and the Ourse de Ferrère.

The name Mauléon derives from mauvais lion, or 'bad lion', which may have been designed to be intimidating. It was transferred from Mauléon-Soule in the Basque country in around 1120, when the local lord there acquired the land here at Barousse by marriage.

The château and its pentagonal tower pre-date the name Mauléon, having been built a few years earlier, around 1100. The château was extensively re-modelled in the C13 and 14th.

Stage 12, Tour de France 2017: the legend of Saint Aventin

Saint Aventin was a hermit who lived in the C8th. He was taken prisoner by the Saracens, who locked him in a tower a little way from today's village of Saint-Aventin. He freed himself from his chains, and jumped from the tower, right across the valley, and landed without hurting himself.

Where he landed, his foot made an imprint in a rock, and that footprint in a rock is still visible today on the doorstep of the Chapelle du Miracle, which was built on that spot.

When Aventin was recaptured by the Saracens, they cut his head off. He picked it up and walked to the place where his tomb would be. Centuries later, the site of his tomb was revealed to a shepherd. Aventin's remains were put on a sled and pulled by cows - cows which stopped on the site of the village of Saint-Aventin.

PauCol de MentéCol de Peyresourde

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