A guide to the Tour de France
Stage 16 of the Tour de France 2018 is 218km from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon. According to Christian Prudhomme, after a rest day, it should inspire climbers who have already lost touch in the General Classification. Positioned as it is at the end of the stage, the Col de Portillon could prove decisive - the climb up it and/or the descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon. Read about Stage 16 of the Tour de France 2018 here.
Adam Yates led over the last climb, but Julian Alaphilippe applied pressure in the descent, and took the win. See video highlights of Stage 16.
Read the Hedgehog Stage 16 diary.
|Climbs||Côte de Fanjeaux (Category 4)
Côte de Pamiers (Category 4)
Col de Portet-d'Aspet (Category 2)
Col de Menté (Category 1)
Col du Portillon (Category 1)
This is the official map of Stage 16.
The official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 16:
Profile of Stage 16, Tour de France 2018, © ASO/Tour de France
Tuesday 24th July 2018, after a rest day on Monday.
The publicity caravan sets off from place Général de Gaulle at 0930, and the peloton at 1130. The estimated average speeds are 36, 38, and 42kmh, and depending on which is the most accurate, the riders should arrive at the finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon between 1654 and 1740.
Mark Cavendish looks forward to the Tour de France for the BBC, and names his 'one to watch' - his prediction for the stage win.
'Another long stage. The race is approaching the Pyrenees now, and hits the foothills at the end of today's stage. You can call them foothills, but there's still two Category 1 climbs. The breakaway could go to the end again. Or Team Sky might want to get to grips and put their dominance in before the big showdowns in the Pyrenees, in which case they will control it, and we'll see an attack from Chris Froome at the end.'
His one to watch? Lilian Calmejane.
The stage starts at Carcassonne, where Stage 15 finished before the rest day. The fortified Medieval Cité provides a splendid backdrop to the start of this bicycle race, but the start line itself (départ fictif) is at place Général de Gaulle, in the new town.
The riders go anti-clockwise on the boulevards around the town centre (square Gambetta, boulevard Jean Jaurès, boulevard d'Omer Sarraut). They cross the Canal du Midi on the N113, then turn left and cross back over it on the D118. They head west out of Carcassonne on the avenue Bunau Varilla then the D119 avenue Henry Gout. (It was Doctor Gout, by the way, which was probably very handy for him).
The départ réel, is on the D119 route de Montréal, by Carcassonne airport.
The route is quite flat to start with, as the peloton heads west through Montréal.
Next on the route is Fanjeaux. There's a climb out of Fanjeaux: Category 4, 2.4km at 4.9%, reaching a height of 348m.
The riders continue to Belpech. (The name comes from 'bel', being either beautiful in Occitan, or referring to a Celtic god worshiped by people here in pre-Roman times; and 'pech' meaning hill).
Shortly after Belpech, the route leaves the Aude and enters the Ariège; next, it reaches Pamiers (on the river Ariège). There's a climb up away from the river Ariège as the peloton leaves Pamiers. It is called the Côte de Pamiers: Category 4, 2.3km at 5.8%, 417m at the top.
Pailhès is the next village on the route, then le Mas-d'Azil, famous for its large cave, the Grotte du Mas-d'Azil. Leaving the village, the road (the D119) goes through part of the cave system.
Rolling terrain takes the riders on to Saint-Girons, on the river Salat. Saint-Girons is the location of the day's intermediate sprint. There's a very sharp bend to the right shortly before the line.
When they reach Saint-Girons, the riders have covered 121.5km. From Saint-Girons, the road begins to rise. The race leaves the Ariège département and enters the Haute-Garonne as it climbs towards the Col de Portet-d'Aspet.
The first of the three cols towards the end of Stage 16 is the Col de Portet-d'Aspet. It is closely followed by the Col de Menté.
Profile of Col de Portet-d'Aspet and Col de Menté, © ASO/Tour de France
The climb of the Col de Portet-d'Aspet begins at Saint-Lary, and it's 5.4km at an average 7.1%. The last time it featured in the Tour de France was on Stage 12 of the 2015 race, when Georg Preidler was first to the top.
Near the bottom of the descent of the Portet-d'Aspet, the race passes a monument to Fabio Casartelli, who died after a crash here during the 1995 Tour de France.
There's a descent from the Portet d'Aspet. From a place called Ger de Boutx, the ascent of the Col de Menté begins. This climb was on the route of Stage 12 of the 2017 Tour de France, when the riders also tackled it from the east. It is 6.9km at a steep and steady 8.1%.
After the summit of the Col de Menté, there's a descent to Saint-Béat.
The stage route then follows the Garonne south on the N125, before crossing into Spain (Province of Lleida, Catalonia). Still by the river, the road is now the N230. The mountains of Les and Bossost are up to the right. The peloton goes through the villages of Les then Bossost, before launching up the hairpins of the Col du Portillon.
The climb is 8.3km at an average 7.1%.
Profile of Col du Portillon, © ASO/Tour de France
The riders pass the Aran Animal Park shortly before the summit of the climb. They reach 1,292m at the top of the Col, on the border between Spain and France. Then there's a 10.5km descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
The stage finishes with a descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon. According to Cols Cyclisme, the average gradient is 6.5%, and the maximum is 14%. If the road is wet, the end of Stage 16 could be perilous. In that case, the question for the contenders for a stage win, and the GC riders, will be whether to gamble or play safe.
The finish line is on the boulevard Edmond Rostand.
This is a difficult stage to call, but let's assume Christian Prudhomme is right, and it will be won by a rider who can climb but who has already lost touch in the GC. That might be a rider who started with GC ambitions, but has lost time earlier in the race, but equally it could be someone who is targeting stage wins.
I put Warren Barguil's name here back in January. His season leading up to the Tour de France has been disappointing, but I'm sticking with him.
Stage 17 of the Tour de France 2018 is just 65km from Bagnères-de-Luchon to the Col de Portet.
Read about Stage 17 of the 2018 Tour de France.
Carcassonne is a town of 46,724 people in the département of the Aude, on the river Aude and the Canal du Midi. It's dominated by the Medieval château surrounded by ramparts, la Cité de Carcassonne.
According to legend, it got its name from Carcas, the wife of a Saracen king. The Saracens in the city were beseiged by Charlemagne. The king of the Saracens was captured and put to death. His wife, Carcas, continued to hold out. Her soldiers were dying of starvation, so she put scarecrows on the ramparts, and changed their hats ever 2 hours, to make it look as though the sentries were changing over. Then she killed the last remaining pig, stuffed its belly with the last of the corn, and threw it over the walls. When it landed, the belly burst open to reveal the corn. Charlemagne's soldiers were amazed. They thought that even after the long seige, the Saracens were feeding their pigs with corn. Defeated, they packed up and began to leave. Carcas had the victory trumpets sounded, and Charlmagne's soldiers said 'Ecoutez, Carcas sonne' (listen, Carcas is sounding [the trumpets]). So the town got its name. Probably.
Carcassonne started as a Roman camp in the C1st AD. The Visigoths captured it as the Roman Empire crumbled, and it became part of the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse. In 725, the Saracens took it from the Visigoths, and in 759, the Saracens were defeated by the Franks, under Pepin the Short.
Carcassonne belonged to the Counts of Toulouse, within the Frankish Empire, from the 800s to the 1200s. Peace and prosperity was disrupted from 1208, with the Albigensian Crusades. Catharism was a dualistic form of Christianity - there was a spiritual world ruled by God, and a material world governed by Satan. Cathars were regarded as heretics by the Roman Catholic church. When a Papal legate was assassinated in 1208, the Pope began a Crusade against the Cathars in the south west of France. In 1209, the Viscount of Carcassonne was defeated by Simon de Montfort.
The King of France exiled the inhabitants of Carcassonne for 7 years, and at the end of this time, he allowed them to build a fortified new town, or ville bastide, known as the Ville Basse (to the west of the river Aude), and to repair and strengthen the original fortress (to the east of the Aude). The fortress to the east of the river is what is known as la Cité de Carcassonne, and is the largest Medieval fortress in Europe. It was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the C19th.
La Cité has a double curtain wall, with 14 towers on the outer wall, and 24 towers on the inner wall. Inside is the C12th Château Comtal, which was the home of the viscounts of Carcassonne, and the Basilique Saint-Nazaire, begun in 1096 in a Romanesque style, and completed in the 1200s and 1300s in a Gothic style.
Il ne faut pas mourir sans avoir vu Carcassonne
Je me fais vieux, j'ai soixante ans ;
J'ai travaillé toute ma vie,
Sans avoir, durant tout ce temps,
Pu satisfaire mon envie.
Je vois bien qu'il n'est ici bas
De bonheur complet pour personne.
Mon voeu ne s'accomplira pas :
Je n'ai jamais vu Carcassonne.
On voit la ville de là-haut,
Derrière les montagnes bleues :
Mais pour y parvenir il faut,
Il faut faire cinq grandes lieues ;
En faire autant pour revenir !
Ah! si la vendange était bonne !
Le raisin ne veut pas jaunir :
Je ne verrai pas Carcassonne.
On dit qu'on y voit tous les jours,
Ni plus ni moins que les dimanches,
Des gens s'en aller sur les tours,
En habits neuf, en robes blanches,
On dit qu'on y voit des châteaux
Grands comme ceux de Babylone,
Un évêque et deux généraux !
Je ne connais pas Carcassonne !
Le vicaire a cent fois raison.
C'est des imprudents que nous sommes,
Il disait dans son oraison
Que l'ambition perd les hommes.
Si je pouvais trouver pourtant
Deux jours sur la fin de l'automne...
Mon Dieu que je mourrai content,
Après avoir vu Carcassonne !
Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, pardonnez-moi
Si ma prière vous offense ;
On voit toujours plus haut que soi,
En vieillesse comme en enfance.
Ma femme avec mon fils Aignan,
A voyagé jusqu'à Narbonne :
Mon filleul a vu Perpignan.
Et je n'ai pas vu Carcassonne !
Ainsi chantait, près de Limoux,
Un paysan courbé par l'âge.
Je lui dis : 'Ami, levez-vous,
Nous allons faire le voyage'
Nous partîmes le lendemain ;
Mais - que le Bon Dieu lui pardonne -
Il mourut à moitié chemin.
Il n'a jamais vu Carcassonne.
Il ne verra pas Carcassonne.
Pamiers is the largest city in the Ariège (but not the capital of the département - that's Foix). The seat of the Bishop of Pamiers is at the Cathedral.
The name of the city may come from Apamea in Syria, where Roger II of Foix took part in a battle during the Crusades. He named a castle here after Apamea, according to this theory.
Three bell towers mark the skyline of Pamiers. The main square is called place de la République, and it is paved with red marble. Farmers' markets are held there three times a week.
The composer Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was born in Pamiers.
La Grotte du Maz-d'Azil is a large cave which was hollowed out by the action of the river Arize. A road (the D119) passes through the main part of the cave.
The remains of animals that lived in the cave in prehistoric times have been found, including mammoths and woolly rhinos. There are also traces of prehistoric people who inhabited the cave from 17,000 to 12,000 years ago.
Saint-Girons is a town in the Ariège département. It is on the river Salat, at its confluence with le Lez.
Historically, the town belonged to the Viscounts of Couseran.
Saint-Girons is in the region of 18 valleys. It is 2km from Saint-Lizier, which belongs to the association of the most beautiful villages in France.
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).
Bagnères-de-Luchon is sometimes called 'the Queen of the Pyrenees'. It's a spa resort, and has a ski resort, Superbagnères.
When Pompey was in the area in 76BC, one of his soldiers who was suffering with a skin complaint came and bathed in the thermal waters here, and after 21 days, he was right as rain. In 25BC, the Romans built three baths, which were called balneum lixonense post Neapolitense primum (the best baths after those of Naples).
The baths were relaunched at the end of the 1700s, attracting European royalty and aristocracy. The arrival of the railway in 1873, and the opening of a casino in 1880, increased the popularity of Bagnères-de-Luchon.
Bagnères-de-Luchon has the priviledge of being twinned with Harrogate, North Yorkshire (UK).
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