A guide to the Tour de France
Stage 19 of the Tour de France 2018 is 200.5km from Lourdes to Laruns. Christian Prudhomme says, 'there are no miracles in cycling but this stage from Lourdes represents the last opportunity to shake up the GC in direct confrontation. The series of climbs - Aspin, Tourmalet, Bordères, Soulor, Aubisque - could decide the destiny of the Yellow Jersey.' Read about Stage 19 of the Tour de France 2018 here.
Primoz Roglic won the stage, and Geraint Thomas extended his overall lead. These are the video highlights of Stage 19:
|Climbs||Côte de Loucrup (Category 4)
Côte de Capvern-les-Bains (Category 4)
Col d'Aspin (Category 1)
Col du Tourmalet (hors catégorie)
Col des Bordères (Category 2)
Col d'Aubisque (hors catégorie)
This is the official map of Stage 19.
The official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 19:
Profile of Stage 19, Tour de France 2018, © ASO/Tour de France
Friday 27th July 2018.
The publicity caravan sets off from Lourdes at 1005, and the peloton at 1205. The projected average speeds are 34, 36, and 38kmh, and depending on which is most accurate, the riders will reach the finish line in Laruns between 1732 and 1811.
The Col du Tourmalet features in Friebe and Goding's Moutain High. 'If a clue was in the name, the Col du Tourmalet seemed forever destined to become the most visited and most hallowed mountain in the sport of cycling's most famous race...Tourmalet as in 'Tour de France'. Or, literally, Tourmalet as in 'nasty detour'...'
Vélo 101 have produced a recon video of Stage 19 (and it is Stage 19, even though the commentary on the video refers to it as Stage 20).
Mark Cavendish looks forward to the Tour de France for the BBC, and names his 'one to watch' - his prediction for the stage win.
'The last big showdown in the mountains for the climbers. It's going to be a long old day in the saddle and it's going to be everyone leaving everything they have on the road. If the GC is not too close, you're likely to see a group of riders fighting it out. The likes of Rigoberto Uran, Romain Bardet, Warren Barguil, and Dan Martin. But if it is close, Team Sky are likely to throw one last firework.'
His one to watch? Chris Froome.
The stage starts at Lourdes, a small town which has attracted a large number of visitors since the Virgin Mary appeared to a girl called Bernadette here. Spring water from a source in Lourdes is associated with miracle cures.
The riders head east from Lourdes. They soon come to the first categorised climb, the Côte de Loucrup: Category 4, 1.8km at 7.2%, reaching 532m. They continue towards the spa town of Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
The phoney war - the early part of the stage before the climbing begins in earnest - continues as the riders cycle further east from Bagnères-de-Bigorre to Capvern. Between Capvern-les-Bains and Capvern is the Category 4 Côte de Capvern-les-Bains: 3.4km at 5.1%, reaching 604m.
From Capvern, the peloton turns and heads south. The route reaches the D929, which goes up the Vallée d'Aure, running between the river Neste d'Aure and the Canal de Neste to Sarrancolin. The intermediate sprint is at Sarrancolin. Further up the river valley is Arreau, which marks the start of the Category 1 climb of the Col d'Aspin.
The Col d'Aspin is a 12km climb with a fairly even gradient, at an average of 6.5%. According to bestofthepyrenees, 'Col d'Aspin, rising next to its neighbour Tourmalet, is a shorter and easier climb that is often featured in the Tour. Along with its bigger brother, it is a classic of enduring fame. Cycling Col d'Aspin is possible from very early until late in the year because it is lower in elevation than most other climbs in the Hautes-Pyrénées. Gradual and without any long sections over 9%, Aspin is a good climb for moderately fit cyclists or to ride in combination with other climbs...'
The Col d'Aspin takes the riders from 705m at Arreau to 1,490m at the top of the Col. This is the official profile from Stage 7 of the 2016 Tour de France, which finished at Lac de Payolle.
Profile of the Col d'Aspin, © ASO/Tour de France
After the summit, the riders descend past the Lac de Payolle.
They continue down to Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, where there's a statue of Eugène Christophe. (Read about Eugène Christophe, and why there's a statue of him at Sainte-Marie-de Campan).
At Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, the climb of the Col du Tourmalet begins.
Profile of the Col du Tourmalet climb, © ASO/Tour de France
The altitude at the bottom is 860m, and at the top it is 2,115m, giving a height gain of 1,255m over a distance of 17km. The average gradient is 7.3%.
The Col du Tourmalet is the highest mountain pass in the Pyrenees with a tarmacked road. (There are higher roads, and higher mountain passes, but no higher mountain pass with a road). It has been included in the Tour de France 85 times.
Velopeloton says of the climb: 'The first 4.5km are nothing, before it kicks up to over 8% for the remaining 12km...[I]t is said that this 12km is unmatched by any other climb in France for consistent steepness over that distance. There are few hairpins, but mostly long straight sections of road. The road is well shaded until 7km to go, when it opens up to the high mountain pasture land. After La Mongie [at 5km to go], the gradient eases but remains challenging all the way to the summit. The last kilometre is long and straight before an almost hidden turn to the left, and the summit magically appears.'
Where the road goes through the ski resort of La Mongie, a cable car departs for the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, a summit with an Observatory.
At the top of the Col du Tourmalet, there's a memorial to Jacques Goddet, director of the Tour de France from 1936 to 1987. The first rider to get to the top wins the Souvenir Jacques Goddet prize. There's also a silver statue of a person on a bike, called le Géant du Tourmalet. It could represent Octave Lapize, who was the first rider to get to the top of the Col du Tourmalet in the Tour de France in 1910. There'll be no time to stop at the bar and restaurant.
Over the top of the Col du Tourmalet, the descent begins through Super-Barèges, a ski resort linked to La Mongie. It continues through Barèges, and down to Luz-Saint-Sauveur (741m) in the valley. The riders lose a little more height following the Gave de Gavarnie stream down to Argelès-Gazost.
Road between Col de Soulor & Col d'Aubisque
The peloton leaves Argelès-Gazost, taking the D103 to Estaing, and climbing the Col des Bordères from the east. It is 8.6km at an average gradient of 5.8%, with the steepest pitch coming just before the summit.
Profile of Col des Bordères, Col du Soulor, & Col d'Aubisque, © ASO/Tour de France
Over the top of the Col des Bordères, the route drops down to Arrens-Marsous, in the Val d'Azun.
The foot of the next climb, the Col de Soulor, is at 889m. A very even gradient takes the riders to the top of the Col at 1,474m. (Col de Soulor isn't categorised in its own right by the race organisers, but is included in the Aubisque climb). After 2km of downhill, they climb once again via a dramatic corniche road to the Col d'Aubisque (1,709m).
Taken together, the Soulor and the Aubisque involve 16.6km of climbing at an average gradient of 4.9%. It's an hors catégorie climb.
Now only the descent to the finish remains.
There's 19.5km of downhill to the finish. The riders soon pass the ski resort of Gourette. Further down is Eaux-Bonnes, before the finish at Laruns.
This stage could suit Vincenzo Nibali, with its tough climbs, plus a descent to the finish. What's more, because it is towards the end of the Tour de France, he may benefit from being fresher than those contenders who have done the Giro d'Italia.
Update: since Nibali is out, I'm going for Adam Yates.
Stage 20 of the Tour de France 2018 is a 31-km individual time trial over a rolling route between Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle and Espelette.
Read about Stage 20 of the 2018 Tour de France.
Lourdes is a market town of around 15,000 people, but which receives 6 million visitors every year.
This site was probably inhabited in prehistoric times. There was a Gallo-Roman settlement, and some traces of Roman walls, statues, and votive offerings have been found during works to the fort. During the One Hundred Years War, the English occupied Lourdes, from 1360 to 1407.
The attraction of Lourdes comes from the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to a 14-year-old girl called Bernadette Soubiros in 1858 (Mary appeared to her eighteen times in total). Soubiros saw a beautiful lady at the Massabielle grotto, and the lady said that she was the Immaculate Conception. Soubiros reported this to her priest, Father Peyremale. The lady also told Soubiros to drink from a source. This spring still produces water, and pilgrims are able to bathe in it; it is said to have occasioned miracle cures.
There's a fort in Lourdes, originally built in Roman times; the oldest surviving parts are from the C11th and C12th. The fort houses a Pyrenean museum. The town is overlooked by three peaks: le Béout, Petit Jer, and Grand Jer. A funicular railway called the Pic du Jer goes up to the Grand Jer.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre is a town of about 8,000 people on the river Adour and in the Hautes-Pyrénées département.
It was called Vicus Aquensis in Roman times, referring to a town with waters. The present name means 'baths' (Bagnères), and 'Bigorre' refers to an ancient tribe that lived in the area, the Bigorri.
The Romans were displaced by Visigoths, who were succeeded by Franks. In the 1100s, the town belonged to the Counts of Bigorre. In 1589, Henri de Navarre, Count of Bigorre, became King of France, uniting the lands here with the French Crown.
Hydrotherapy gained in popularity in the late 1700s, and the spas in Bagnères specialised in treatment of digestive complaints. In 1828, a new Grand Thermal Spa was completed, and rheumatism was one of the ailments it was said to treat. There was a Casino too.
One of the other mainstays of the local economy was marble and slate quarrying, industries which employed 1,000 people in the late 1800s. Later, the textile industry superseded quarrying, before that too declined.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre is twinned with Malvern. British comedian Tony Hawks lives in a village near Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
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?
Sarrancolin developed around a Benedictine Priory in the C11th, and became capital of the Quatre Vallées - Aure, Neste, Barousse, and Magnoac.
The village and the Vallée d'Aure are known for marble, which has been quarried since Roman times. The marble has been used in the Petit Trianon at Versailles, the Opéra Charles Garnier in Paris, and in the entrance of the Empire State Building in New York. More recently, there has been paper and glass manufacture, and an Alcan aluminium factory at Beyrède.
Today, tourism is an important part of the economy for this area, with skiing in the winter - for example in the small resort of Nistos, east of Sarrancolin - and walking, mountain biking, fishing, and spa treatments in the summer).
Arreau is a village of 819 people,at the junction of the Aure and Louron valleys, and thus the confluence of the Neste d'Aure and the Neste du Louron. It's the historic capital of the Vallée d'Aure.
The building in the photograph is the Chateau de Ségure, with a C16th square tower, probably on the site of a C12th fortification.
Because Arreau is between the Col d'Aspin and the Col de Peyresourde, the Tour de France visits quite often.
Perhaps the most famous descent of the Col du Tourmalet was by Eugène Christophe. In 1913, he was leading the Tour de France by 18 minutes when his bike's forks broke about 10km from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan. He walked down the rest of the way, and found a blacksmith's shop, where - because riders had to do all their own repairs - he mended the forks himself, according to the blacksmith's instructions. Christophe lost a lot of time, and was penalised more, because the blacksmith's boy had pumped the bellows for him. As a result of the incident, Christophe lost his chance of winning the Tour. He finished seventh.
Luz means 'light' in Spanish. Luz-Saint-Sauveur is at the junction of three valleys, so that the rays of the sun can reach it from three different directions at different times of the day. Its position also means that it suffers from floods when the mountain streams meeting here overflow. The last time there were significant floods was June 2013. There are also earthquakes from time to time.
Luz-Saint-Sauveur has thermal baths, which have been in use since the C16th. (The person waiting for them to be free is getting pretty fed up now).
Above Luz-Saint-Sauveur, on the slopes to the west, is the ski resort of Luz-Ardiden.
Argelès-Gazost is a settlement of about 3,000 people in the Hautes-Pyrénées département of France, in a locality known as the Lavedan. It is at the confluence of the gave d'Azun with the gave de Pau. The name Argelès may signify 'clay' or 'clay soils'. I don't know what the name 'Gazost' means, otherwise I'd tell you.
Argeles had a mini-Golden Age after the construction of a railway here in 1870. It was popular as a spa resort, with its waters thought to assist with vein and pulmonary complaints.
Other than the baths and a casino, the Parc Animalier des Pyrénées is one of the main draws here.
© 2017-18 SpeedyHedgehog
Template design by Andreas Viklund