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Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: L'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle

Col d'Aspin

Col d'Aspin, by Tourisme Grand Tourmalet, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

A guide to Stage 7 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 7 of the 2016 Tour is from l'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle, via Samatan, Lombez, Boulogne-sur-Gesse, Castelnau-Magnoac, Trie-sur-Baïse, Chelle-Debat, Bordes, Tournay, la-Barthe-de-Neste, Sarrancolin, and Arreau. The distance covered is 162.5km. This is classified as a mountain stage - the race reaches the Pyrenees towards the end of the day, and its climax is the Col d'Aspin (Category 1) a short distance before the finish. The other climb, earlier in the stage, is the Côte de Capvern (Category 4). There's an intermediate sprint at Sarrancolin. It's likely that any breakaway riders will be caught on the 12km climb of the Col d'Aspin, and the stage will be won by a climber and/or GC contender. Read about Stage 7 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read the Stage 7 race report.

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 7 of the Tour de France 2016 is 162.5km from l'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle.

Stage classification Mountain
Distance 162.5km
Sprints Sarrancolin (after 137km)
Climbs Côte de Capvern (Category 4)
Col d'Aspin (Category 1)

There's an official map of Stage 7, Tour de France 2016.

This is the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 7:

Profile of Stage 7, Tour de France 2016

Stage 7 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the Stage 7 timings (based on the medium estimated speed of 40kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in l'Isle-Jourdain 1310
0 Départ réel  l'Isle Jourdain 1315
14.5 Samatan 1336
18 Lombez 1342
49 Boulogne-sur-Gesse 1428
60.5 Castelnau-Magnoac 1445
76.5 Trie-sur-Baïse 1509
103.5 Tournay 1550
117 Côte de Capvern (Category 4) 1610
122.5 La-Barthe-de-Neste 1619
137 Sarrancolin (sprint) 1640
155.5 Col d'Aspin (Category 1) 1708
162.5 Finish at Lac de Payolle 1719

See the full timings for Stage 7 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 42, 40, and 38kmh.

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: video of the route

This video by Vélo 101 shows a reconnaissance of Stage 7 by a little team of cyclists. There's analysis of the route (in French), and views of the countryside.

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: the start at l'Isle-Jourdain

Bell tower, Collégiale St-Martin, l'Isle-Jourdain

Bell tower of Collégiale St-Martin, l'Isle-Jourdain, by Campanophile, Licence CC BY-SA 2.5

Stage 7 starts in l'Isle-Jourdain, where 25,000 spectators are expected for the festivities, and the start of Stage 7 at 1310. The riders will gather in the area in front of the Collège Louise Michel. Their route is boulevard Armand Praviel, boulevard Carnot, and then rue Charles Bacqué, which takes them out of town, across the N124, and off towards Samtan.

The départ réel, when the racing starts, is at 1315.

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: l'Isle-Jourdain to Trie-sur-Baïse

Bradley Wiggins in Samatan, 2012 Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour de France, Stage 15 of the 2012 race in Samatan, by Robert King, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Leaving l'Isle-Jourdain on the route de Lombez/D634, the race heads south west alongside a stream called the Save. A short distance away to the right is the Chateau de Caumont. The route passes through the village of Labastide-Savès, then leaves the D634 to go into Samatan. 

Samatan view

Samatan, by Raphael Isla, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

(Samatan calls itself a town of foie gras and well-being - presumably the well-being is for the people, not the ducks and geese. It has a population of 2,401. As well as foie gras, there's arable farming around Samatan, and a lake with sandy beaches. Samatan once belonged to the counts of Comminge, who had a castle here, of which nothing remains. There is, however, a chateau dating from 1697 just outside Samatan, Chateau de La Tour). 

Samatan hosted the start of Stage 15 of the 2012 Tour de France, when Bradley Wiggins was leading the race, and went on to win.

Lombez Cathedral

Cathedral in Lombez, from Chapelle Saint-Majan, by Syndicat d'Initiative de Lombez, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

From Samatan, Stage 7 takes the D39 the short distance to Lombez. 

(Lombez is a town of 2,070 people. Ceramic objects from the Gallo-Roman period have been found here. The Abbey of Notre-Dame de Lombez was founded in 793, and Lombez had a bishop from 1317 until the French Revolution. In 1940, when Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by the Germans, families fled from a place called Retonfey and were welcomed in Lombez. The Cathédrale Saint-Marie dominates Lombez. It started out as an abbey church in the C12th, was modified in the C14th, and its striking bell tower was added in the C15th and C16th. The Chapelle Saint-Majan overlooks the town. Today, Lombez is home to many people who commute to Toulouse. On a clear day, the Pyrenees are visible from here).

Chapelle Saint-Majan, Lombez

Chapelle Saint-Majan, Lombez, by Syndicat d'Initiative de Lombez, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

From Lombez, the race route continues south west on the D632. It leaves the Gers département and enters the Haute Garonne just before a crossroads at le Lias, then continues alongside the river Gesse to Boulogne-sur-Gesse. 

Town hall and church, Boulogne-sur-Gesse

Town hall & church, Boulogne-sur-Gesse, by Paternel 1, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

(Boulogne-sur-Gesse took its name from Bologna in Italy. It was founded as a new town, a ville bastide, in 1286, by Nizors Abbey. It has a C14th church, of Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption).

The riders leave Boulogne on the D632 route de Tarbes, soon crossing the Gimone river, where they also cross into the Hautes Pyrénées département. They pass through Thermes-Magnoac and cross the river Gers on the way to Castelnau-Magnoac. 

Collegiate church, Castelnau-Magnoac

Collegiate church, Castelnau-Magnoac, by Florent Pécassou, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

(Castelnau-Magnoac means 'the new castle of a person called Magnon or Magnus'. It's a village of 768 people on the edge of the Plateau de Lannemezan. It has a C14th collegiate church, with a military-style bell tower that was once also a defensive tower in the ramparts of the village. There's a lake, formed by a barrage of the Gèze, where there are water sports in the summer).

Lake, Castelnau-Magnoac

Lake, Castelnau-Magnoac, by Florent Pécassou, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The route passes the village of Larroque, then goes to Puntous. After Puntous, the riders go through the Forêt de Campuzan, and past the Lac de Puydarrieux on their left. They continue to Trie-sur-Baïse.

Church at Trie-sur-Baïse

L'Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, Trie-sur-Baïse, by BollyStolly, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016:  Trie-sur-Baïse to the Col d'Aspin

Arreau, Vallée d'Aure

Arreau, Vallée d'Aure, at the foot of the Col d'Aspin, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The riders leave Trie-sur-Baïse, still on the D632, heading west to the hamlet of Vidou. They cross the Bouès, one of the many streams that runs across the Plateau de Lannemezan, then continue to Osmets, and Chelle-Debat on the river Arros. 

(Chelle-Debat is a village of 214 people. The name Chelle probably comes from the Latin cella, referring to a Roman or later sanctuary. Debat means en bas in French, or 'low'. According to local legend, Chelle-Debat was founded by St Martin of Tours. It developed in the Middle Ages, when it was a possession of the nearby Abbey of St-Sever-de-Rustan. It was at the edge of Gascony, which was English at the start of the One Hundred Years War, and it seems that part of the village was occupied by the English, and the rest was French. As a result, to this day, the local people are sometimes referred to as 'les Anglais de Chelle'. There's said to be a miraculous fountain in the woods near the village, which enabled young girls to fall pregnant).

From Chelle-Debat, Stage 7 takes the D14/route du Val d'Arros south alongside the Arros river, through Cabanac and Bordes (a name which means barns or rural dwellings) to 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])

The race leaves Tournay on the D817 to Ozon and Lanespède, then crosses over the autoroute A64. Here, the road goes up, and it's the start of the first categorised climb, of the Côte de Capvern.

Côte de Capvern (Category 4)

The altitude where the D817 crosses the autoroute is 327m, and at the top of the climb in Capvern, it is 594m. This gives a height difference of 267m, over a distance of 8km, and therefore an average gradient of 3.3%.

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?)

Pic du Midi de Bigorre

Pic du Midi de Bigorre, a Pyrenean peak south west of Capvern, by Vasse Nicolas, Antoine, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Arriving in Capvern, the race takes the D211 route de la Vallée d'Aure, which becomes the D938, and leads to Poutéou d'Avezac and la Barthe-de-Neste.

la Barthe-de-Neste

La Barthe-de-Neste, by Sotos, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

(La Barthe-de-Neste is a village of 1,203 people on the plateau de Lannemezan. The name la Barthe comes from the Gascon word barta, meaning heathland of shrubs and bushes. The settlement has existed since the C12th, when it was the capital of the Counts of Aure, due to its strategic position.)

The race leaves la Barthe-de-Neste on the D929, going up the Vallée d'Aure to Hèches and Rebouc. The road runs in between the river Neste d'Aure and the Canal de la Neste. The riders reach Sarrancolin, where the day's intermediate sprint takes place.

Profile of intermediate sprint at Sarrancolin

Profile of the intermediate sprint at Sarrancolin, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers


Sarrancolin, by France64160, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

(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, Vallée d'Aure

Arreau, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The riders continue on the D929 to Arreau, where the climb of the Col d'Aspin begins.

Col d'Aspin (Category 1)

Top of the Col d'Aspin

Top of the Col d'Aspin, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The Col d'Aspin is a 12km climb, with a fairly even gradient, at an average of 6.5%. It takes the riders from 705m at Arreau to 1,490m at the top of the Col. This is the official Tour de France climb profile:

Col d'Aspin climb profile

Col d'Aspin climb profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

The Col d'Aspin connects Arreau with Sainte-Maire-de-Campan in the Adour valley, although Stage 7 finishes at Lac de Payolle rather than descending all the way to Sainte-Marie. It has been part of the Tour de France more than 70 times, with Thomas Voeckler first to the top in 2012, and Dan Martin leading the way in 2015.

Col d'Aspin

Looking back towards Arreau from the Col d'Aspin, by JLPC, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

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...'

Col d'Aspin

Col d'Aspin, by Kévin Veau

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: the finish at Lac de Payolle

Lac de Payolle

Lac de Payolle, by Tourisme Grand Tourmalet, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

When the riders reach the top of the Col d'Aspin, they've done 155.5km of the total of 162.5km. That leaves a 7km descent to Lac de Payolle. Christian Prudhomme says, 'The climb to the Col d'Aspin will be the only theatre of battle on the day...in terms of climbing! But the descent, as splendid as it is technical, heading to the Lac de Payolle, will also be a decisive exercise.'

(The Lac de Payolle is an artificial lake which usually freezes over in winter. There's cross-country skiing and dog sledding in the winter, and fishing and water sports in the summer, as well as walking and mountain biking in the forest around the lake).

Lac de Payolle, dog sledding

Dog sledding at Lac de Payolle, by Tourisme Grand Tourmalet, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

This seems a rather low-key, transitional stage, with not much of significance before the climb of the Col d'Aspin. I could imagine one of the big teams such as Sky or Tinkoff applying pressure on the way up the Aspin, perhaps mopping up breakaway riders, and leaving a reduced bunch at the top. It's conceivable that a good descender such as Nibali or Contador could slip off the front for a stage win, and a gain of a few seconds, at the Lac de Payolle.

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: Robert Millar's view

Robert Millar

Robert Millar, by Eric Houdas, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Robert Millar discusses Stage 7 in a blog for Cycling News, entitled 'How to beat Chris Froome at the Tour de France.'

His analysis is that Froome's rivals have to be prepared to let Sky do more work in chasing down breaks by the other GC contenders. The pattern Millar has identified in Froome's Tour wins to date, is of Froome putting time into his rivals on the first mountain stage, then allowing the others to fight each other for the minor places. 

On this analysis, the Col d'Aspin would be crucial, because it's the first major ascent of the Pyrenees, and this is where Froome would seek to gain time in the GC. As Millar puts it, in past Tours, on the first big climb '...Froome has delivered a 15-minute burst of power that no-one could match', and he has been able to dictate after that. 'Hopefully [the others] will learn, otherwise Stage 7 [Millar says, Stage 8, but the Aspin is on Stage 7] and the climb of the Col d'Aspin could be the end of many a favourite's hopes.'

Stage 8, Tour de France 2016: Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon

Col du Tourmalet

Stage 8 of the 2016 Tour de France is from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon. It's the main French Pyrenean stage of the 2016 race. The race heads from Pau via Lourdes to the mountains. There are four categorised climbs - the Col du Tourmalet (HC), the Hourquette d'Ancizan (Cat. 2), the Col d'Azet Val-Louron (Cat.1), and the Col de Peyresourde (Cat. 1). The day ends with 15.5km descent to the spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon. Read about Stage 8, Tour de France 2016

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: l'Isle-Jourdain

Collégiale St-Martin, l'Isle-Jourdain

Collégiale St-Martin, l'Isle-Jourdain, by ww2censor, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

L'Isle-Jourdain is a town of 8,012 people on the little river Save, and in the département of the Gers, with the motto hospes atque fidelis (welcoming and faithful). 

It got its name because the local lord went to the Middle East on a Crusade, and whilst there, baptsised his son in the river Jordan (Jourdain, in French), and called him Jourdain; this town in the marshes of the Gers reminded the lord of an island in the river Jordan, so he called it l'Isle-Jourdain.

One of the older buildings is the Collégiale St-Martin. There has been a church on the site since 1177, but the oldest remaining part is the clock tower, which dates from 1318. The rest of that church was destroyed during the Wars of Religion, and the current edifice was built from 1779 to 1785.

This is an agricultural area, with a lot of grain grown locally. Ecocert, an organisation which certifies organic produce, has its headquarters in l'Isle-Jourdain. More relevant to the Tour de France, the head office of Cyclelab bike shops is here.

Rugby union is popular here, and the local team is US Isle-Jourdain. L'Isle-Jourdain also has a wake-boarding lake.

There's a booklet with information about Tour de France arrangements in l'Isle-Jourdain.

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: Trie-sur-Baïse

Church at Trie-sur-Baïse

L'Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, Trie-sur-Baïse, by PierreG_09, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Trie-sur-Baïse is a settlement of 1,062 people. It takes its name from Jean de Trie, seneschal of Toulouse. He represented the King in signing the paréage which set up this ville bastide in 1323. 

Trie-sur-Baïse was besieged and pillaged by the Black Prince in 1355, during the One Hundred Years War, then rebuilt from 1363. 

The Carmelites founded a monastery here in 1365. The monastery was burnt by the Protestants in 1569, during the Wars of Religion, and only the monastery church survived; the rest of the monastery was rebuilt, but dismantled during the French Revolution, again leaving only the church.

The main church in the village is the Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (pictured above), which was begun in 1444.

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: Arreau

Arreau, Vallée d'Aure

Arreau, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Arreau is a village of 819 people,at the junction of the Aure and Louron valleys, and thus the confluence 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.

ArreauBell tower, LombezLac de Payolle

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