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Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz

Grand Colombier seen from the Rhone

Grand Colombier seen from the Rhône

A guide to Stage 15 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 15 of the 2016 Tour is 160km from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz, via Ceyzériat, Hautecourt-Romanèche, Nurieux, Peyriat, Cerdon, Vieu-d'Izenave, Outriaz, Corcelles, Champdor, Hauteville-Lompnes, Ruffieu, Hotonnes, Brénaz, Lochieu, and Anglefort. There are six categorised climbs on the stage - the Col du Berthiand, the Col du Sappel, the Col de Pisseloup, the Col de la Rochette, the Grand Colombier, and the Lacets du Grand Colombier. The intermediate sprint is at Hauteville-Lompnes. The stage is classified as mountainous - but with six climbs, it couldn't really be anything else. Read about Stage 15 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read the Stage 15 race report.

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 15 of the Tour de France 2016 is 160km from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz.

Stage classification Mountain
Distance 160km
Sprints Hauteville-Lompnes (after 72km)
Climbs Col du Berthiand (Category 1)
Col du Sappel (Category 2)
Col du Pisseloup (Category 3)
Col de la Rochette (Category 3)
Grand Colombier (hors catégorie)
Lacets du Grand Colombier (Category 1)

There's an official map of Stage 15, Tour de France 2016.

This is the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 15:

Profile of Stage 15, Tour de France 2016

Stage 15 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the Stage 15 timings (based on the medium estimated speed of 36kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in Bourg-en-Bresse 1255
0 Départ réel   1305
2 Ceyzériat 1307
23 Col du Berthiand (Category 1) 1343
32 Peyriat 1353
41.5 Cerdon 1406
52 Col du Sappel (Category 2) 1432
58 Outriaz 1439
63.5 Col du Pisseloup (Category 3) 1451
67 Champdor 1457
72 Hauteville-Lompnes (sprint) 1506
79 Col de la Rochette (Category 3) 1522
85 Ruffieu 1528
87.5 Hotonnes 1531
100 Lochieu 1552
113 Grand Colombier (hors catégorie) 1626
127.5 Anglefort 1642
136 Culoz 1653
146 Lacets du Grand Colombier (Category 1) 1717
151.5 Anglefort 1723
160 Finish at Culoz 1734

See the full timings for Stage 15 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 38, 36, and 34kmh.

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: the start at Bourg-en-Bresse

Royal Monastery of Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse

Royal Monastery of Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse, by Ginnia Moroni, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Stage 15 starts in Bourg-en-Bresse, a town of 40,000 people on the little river Reyssouze, in the Ain département, and just west of the Jura mountains.

Bourg-en-Bresse Tourisme has information about the start of Stage 15, including the events and entertainment, as well as the location of the start. The publicity caravan (1055) and the riders (1255) set off from boulevard Charles de Gaulle (D1075), at its junction with Chemin de la Providence, by the Parc de Brou. (The Parc de Brou surrounds the Royal Monastery of Brou). From the official itinerary, it seems that they'll go into the town centre, before heading out of Bourg-en-Bresse on the D979, past the Renault Trucks factory, and the Parc de Loisirs Bouvent, to Saint-Just.

This OpenStreetMap shows the departure point, and the route out of Bourg-en-Bresse:

Map of start of Stage 15, Tour de France 2016, Bourg-en-Bresse

The départ fictif is at 1255. The départ réel is at 1305, on the D979 between Saint-Just and Ceyzériat.

The Ain département has information about the Tour de France 2016 in l'Ain (the end of Stage 14, and all of Stage 15). There's an all-singing, all-dancing 3D map of the race route in l'Ain.

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: Bourg-en-Bresse to the Grand Colombier

Pont de Serrières-sur-Ain

Pont de Serrières-sur-Ain, by KlausFoehl, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The flag goes down and the racing starts on the D979 between Saint-Just and Ceyzériat. 

Church at Ceyzériat

Eglise Saint-Laurent at Ceyzériat, with its twisted bell tower, by Accrochoc, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The riders go through Ceyzériat, which is on the first slopes of the western side of the Jura, known as the Revermont.

Bohas

Bohas, by Jejecam, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

They continue, with wooded hills to the left, to Bohas. Immediately after the village, they cross the Suran river, and head up through the woods, passing a Medieval tower known as the Donjon de Buenc on their right, and continuing to the village of Hautecour.

Donjon de Buenc

Donjon de Buenc, by Thierry de Villepin, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

From Hautecour, it's up through the woods again, and down to cross the river Ain on the pont de Serrières. This bridge has one arch, with a span of 125m; the bridge itself is 225m long, and 45m above the river.

Pont de Serrières-sur-Ain

Pont de Serrières-sur-Ain, by KlausFoehl, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

After crossing the river, the roads starts to go up. This is the first of the day's six categorised climbs, the Col du Berthiand

Col du Berthiand (Category 1)

The altitude at the start of the climb is about 295m, and at the top, it is 780m, giving a height gain of 485m. The ascent is over a distance of 6km, which means an average gradient of 8.1%.

It has featured in the Tour de France three times in the past. In 2006, Sylvain Calzati was first to the top, in 2002 it was Jorg Jaksche, and in 1991 it was Claudio Chiapucci.

Col du Berthiand

The peloton tackling the Col du Berthiand from the other side (Nurieux-Volognat) on Stage 18 of the 2002 Tour de France, by Jejecam, CC BY-SA 4.0

Beyond the top of the climb, the route descends to Nurieux, where it turns right on the D11 to Volognat (both part of the commune of Nurieux-Volognat).

Nurieux

Nurieux, arriving from the Col du Berthiand, by Jejecam, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

From Volognat, the road rises to the village of Peyriat (meaning 'stony place'). Peyriat is at 615m, and beyond it, the road continues to rise to about 730m, then it descends, crosses the autoroute A40, and reaches the village of Ceignes. (The autoroute, built in 1986, is right next to Ceignes. Rumour has it that sales of earplugs have shot up in the last 30 years.)

Cerdon

Cerdon, Ain, by Stephane888, Licence CC BY-SA 2.5

After Ceignes (640m), the D11 descends to Cerdon (320m, and 300m by the time they get to the end of rue du 12 juillet 1944). (Cerdon is known for its sparkling rosé wine). Here, the riders turn left on the D1084, and start climbing. This is the next categorised climb of the day, the Col du Sappel. 

Col du Sappel (Category 2)

The riders cross a stream by the Val d'Enfer cemetery and Memorial to the Maquis of the Ain and the Resistance

Monument des maquis de l'Ain

Monument des maquis de l'Ain et de la Résistance, by Daniel Jolivet, Licence CC BY 2.0

They continue on the D1084 to Labalme. (Labalme means 'the cave', and it is home to the Grottes du Cerdon prehistoric leisure park!) In Labalme, the race turns right on the D57, which ascends past the ruins of the Château de Barrioz, and on up to the Col du Sappel. 

The altitude at the bottom of the climb is 300m, and at the top it is 794m, giving a height gain of 494m. The climb is over a distance of 8.8km, which means an average gradient of 5.6%.

At the top of the climb, the race passes the ruins of the Château du Sappel on the left, then it descends to Vieu-d'Izenave, and continues to Outriaz.

Stage 15 proves the non-existent saying, 'what comes down must go up'. After descending to Vieu-d'Izenave and Outriaz, I don't suppose Kittel, Cavendish, and Greipel will be thinking, 'what I could really do with now is another climb'. Nevertheless, from Outriaz, that's what's on the menu. It's the Col de Pisseloup.

Col de Pisseloup (Category 3)

The altitude at the bottom of the climb is about 685m, and at the top, it is 968m, giving a height gain of 283m. The climb is over a distance of 4.9km, which means an average gradient of 5.8%.

From the Col du Pisseloup, the race takes the D57A down to Corcelles and Champdor. From Champdor, the D21 to Hauteville-Lompnes, alongside the Albarine stream, is relatively level. That's probably why Hauteville-Lompnes has been chosen as the location of the day's intermediate sprint (with the line 500m before the main crossroads in Hauteville-Lompnes). Whether the sprinters interested in the green jersey competition will be anywhere near the front of the bunch by this point in Stage 15 is a moot point, and it may be that the sprint passes by in a storm of indifference. 

Profile of intermediate sprint on Stage 15, Tour de France 2016, at Hauteville-Lompnes

What comes after Hauteville-Lompnes? Another climb, of course. The D9 takes the riders up the Col de la Rochette, on the plateau d'Hauteville.

Col de la Rochette (Category 3)

The altitude at the bottom of the climb is about 840m, and at the top, it is 1,113m, giving a height gain of 273m. The climb is over a distance of 5.1km, which means an average gradient of 5.4%.

There's cross-country skiing on the plateau d'Hauteville. At the Col de la Rochette, the woods to the right are called the Bois de la Rochette, and the highest point in the vicinity is the Planachat (1,234m). From the Planachat, you can see the Grand Colombier, where the riders are heading today, and Mont Blanc, where the riders are not heading today, much to their relief no doubt.

Hotonnes

Hotonnes, by Joelgex, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

After the col, the D9 descends to Ruffieu; it continues to Hotonnes, by which time it's already climbing again. The climb from Hotonnes is from an altitude of about 700m, up to 980m, and on the Tour's itinerary, it's called the Côte d'Hotonnes, but on this stage, it doesn't merit being categorised. 

(There was a maquis camp just north of Hotonnes during the Second World War, the camp du Pré-Carré, with around 50 men. The Tour de France has been to Hotonnes before, in 2002. In the last 10 or 15 years, wolves have returned to this area, and they have killed a number of sheep).

From the top of the Côte d'Hotonnes, the race takes the D30 down to the hamlet of Brénaz, and the D69 to Lochieu. From Lochieu, the route is on the D120/route d'Arvières, on the major climb of the stage, the Grand Colombier.

This climb profile shows the Grand Colombier, and the other climb before the finish, the Lacets du Grand Colombier:

Profile of climbs of Grand Colombier and Lacets du Colombier at the end of Stage 15, Tour de France 2016

Profile of the climbs of the Grand Colombier & the Lacets du Colombier, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Grand Colombier (hors catégorie)

Grand Colombier seen from the Rhone

Grand Colombier seen from the Rhône

The Col du Grand Colombier is at 1,501m. It's the road crossing the Montagne du Grand Colombier between the mountain's highest point (1,534m), which is to the south of the col, and the Croix du Grand Colombier (1,525m), to the north of the col. The river Rhône runs in the valley at the foot of the Grand Colombier (immediately east of the mountain), and the Lac du Bourget and Aix les Bains are to the south.

Croix du Grand Colombier

La Croix du Grand Colombier, by Anthospace, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

There's a website dedicated to the Brotherhood of Grand Colombier Nuts.

The Col du Grand Colombier is ridden quite often in the Tour de l'Ain, but 2012 was its first appearance in the Tour de France. In that year's race, it was climbed from Culoz (to the south of the mountain), and Thomas Voeckler was first to the top. 

There are several ways up the Grand Colombier. Stage 15 isn't taking the most direct route from the west (up from Virieu-le-Petit, with a section at 22%); nevertheless, the road up from Lochieu is quite steep, with gradients of 14% in places.

There'll be no time to enjoy the views from the top.

Lac du Bourget from Grand Colombier

Looking south to the Lac du Bourget from the Grand Colombier, by Anthospace, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

From the Col du Grand Colombier, the riders descend the east-facing slopes of the mountain (D120 then D120A) to Anglefort. The junction of the D120 and D120A part-way down marks the start of what the organisers are calling 'the finishing circuit'.

This map gives an overall picture of the finishing circuit:

Map of finishing circuit on Stage 15, Tour de France 2016, on the Grand Colombier

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: the finishing circuit with the Lacets du Grand Colombier

On the Lacets du Grand Colombier, ascent from Culoz

On the Lacets du Grand Colombier, ascent from Culoz, by Anthospace, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Stage 15 arrives in Anglefort (close to a barrage of the river Rhône, and with a silicon factory). 

Rhone & Lac du Bourget from Grand Colombier

Rhône near Anglefort, & Lac du Bourget beyond, by G. Savart, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

It turns right on the D992, running along the valley floor to Culoz (which is overlooked by the Château de Montvéran.)

Lacets du Grand Colombier (Category 1)

On the Lacets du Grand Colombier, climb from Culoz

On the Lacets du Grand Colombier, climbing from Culoz, by Anthospace, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The riders leave Culoz on the D120, climbing the south-facing slope of the Grand Colombier. The road here is referred to as 'les lacets du Grand Colombier' because the series of hairpin bends make the road loop like shoe-laces. This time, they don't go all the way to the top of the Col du Grand Colombier, just to the junction of the D120 and the D120A, at 891m.

The altitude at Culoz is 250m, and at the top of the climb, it is 891m, giving a height gain of 641m. The climb is over a distance of 8.4km, which means an average gradiet of 7.6%.

At the D120/D120A junction, the riders descend the D120A again, to Anglefort. All that's left to do then is to steam along the D992 once more, by the river Rhône, to Culoz. They've already been over the finishing line in Culoz once, so they'll know exactly where it is!

Culoz

Culoz, by Florian Pépellin, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

What will happen on Stage 15? It's a hard afternoon of climbing. This is what Christian Prudhomme says: 'Cyclists in the area are used to climbing the Grand Colombier, a fearsome - and feared - mountain pass in the Jura Massif from its four sides. The Tour peloton will face a similar challenge when it tackles the summit from two different sides in the same stage. A tricky descent awaits before the finish in Culoz.'

Hmm, not your most inspired and insightful commentary, Mr P. This is what I think. There's nowhere to hide on Stage 15, and anyone who is having a bad day could lose a lot of time. Nobody will win the Tour de France today, but one or two riders might lose it. The stage win could go to a good climber who is no longer in the hunt for overall victory - perhaps Vincenzo Nibali or Steve Cummings. In the GC race, there'll be battle involving Chris Froome, Bauke Mollema, Adam Yates, Nairo Quintana, and the other favourites.

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: Geraint Thomas's view

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas, by Dacoucou, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Geraint Thomas, speaking to Peter Scrivener of the BBC, gave his view on each stage before the Tour began. This is what he said about Stage 15: 'This will be one of the hardest days and not just because of the amount of climbing involved. The yellow jersey will be on the back of one of the favourites by now, so nobody will be bothered about chasing those in the break. However, the make-up of the break is important - it could be smaller teams wanting a rider in there for added exposure, or riders chasing Kng of the Mountains points - so it could be hectic for the first hour until the right selection of riders are allowed to go clear.'

Who does he tip for the win? Romain Bardet.

Stage 16, Tour de France 2016

Bern

Stage 16 of the 2016 Tour de France is 209km from Moirans-en-Montagne to Bern. Although the stage is classified as flat, the terrain in the Jura, in the first half of the race, is rolling, and the riders reach an altitude of 902m at the Swiss border. They then descend the Val-de-Travers to the Lac de Neuchâtel, and ride along the lake shore. The one classified climb of the day, the Côte de Mühleberg, comes as the race leaves the lake, and heads towards Bern. In Bern, the road goes up, away from the river Aare, in the penultimate kilometre, then it's flat for the final kilometre to the finish line. Read about Stage 16, Tour de France 2016

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 15, Tour de France 2016: Bourg-en-Bresse

Royal Monastery of Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse

Royal Monastery of Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse, by Ginnia Moroni, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Bourg-en-Bresse is a town of 40,490 people on the river Reyssouze, and in the Ain département.

It seems that during the Gallo-Roman period, Bourg-en-Bresse had a farm or rural dwelling, but not major settlement.

In the Middle Ages, Bourg-en-Bresse belonged to the House of Savoie, and was chosen by the Dukes of Savoie to be capital of the Bresse region. It became part of France in 1601.

The economy takes advantage of Bourg's good transport links, and is based on agriculture (including breeding poulet de Bresse chickens), food processing, and manufacturing (including Renault trucks).

Bourg-en-Bresse is twinned with Aylesbury (UK).

Bourg-en-BressePont de SerrièresCroix du Grand Colombier

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