A guide to the Tour de France
A guide to Stage 8 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 8 of the 2016 Tour is from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, via Coarraze, Lestelle-Bétharram, Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre, Lourdes, Ayros-Arbouix, Esquièze-Sère, Luz-Saint-Sauveur, Barèges, la Mongie, Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, Lac de Payolle, Guchen, Saint-Lary-Soulan, Loudenvielle, and Saint-Aventin. The distance covered is 184km. This is the main French Pyrenean mountain stage, with climbs of the Col du Tourmalet (hors catégorie), the Hourquette d'Ancizan (Category 2), the Col de Val Louron-Azet (Category 1), and the Col de Peyresourde (Category 1). There's an intermediate sprint before all the climbs, at Esquièze-Sère. Read about Stage 8 of the Tour de France 2016 here.
Read the Stage 8 race report.
In conversation with the BBC's Peter Scrivener, Geraint Thomas analysed each stage of the 2016 race. This is what he thinks about Stage 8:
'We've been to see some of the finishing descents but we've done nothing special. Going downhill is part of bike racing and I don't think these two days of descents to the finish will cost you the Tour unless you make a big mistake. I don't think the race will be blown apart today, although it will be tough with four climbs.
Who does Thomas tip for the stage? 'Thibaut Pinot. The Frenchman is among the best when the road starts going up. His time-trialling skills have improved but he probably needs to make up time in the mountains to keep in touch.'
Thomas might want to re-think his tip, now we've seen the results of Stage 7. Pinot had a terrible day, and lost 3min04 on Froome and the other favourites. While a stage win later in the race can't be ruled out, it seems highly unlikely that he will be able to recover in time to have an impact on Stage 8.
Meanwhile, Froome looks ominously strong. After Stage 7, he said, 'We've got a really big weekend coming up and there's a lot of hard racing to come. It's better to save a little bit in the tank. I'd imagine we'll see bigger time gaps tomorrow. There should be some tired legs as today wasn't an easy day.'
What do think? Add a comment below.
|Sprints||Esquièze-Sère (after 67km)|
Col du Tourmalet (hors
Hourquette d'Ancizan (Category 2)
Col de Val Louron-Azet (Category 1)
Col de Peyresourde (Category 1)
There's an official map of Stage 8, Tour de France 2016.
This is the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 8:
Stage 8 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers
These are some of the Stage 8 timings (based on the medium estimated speed of 36kmh):
|Départ fictif in Pau||1200|
|0||Départ réel Pau - Bizanos||1220|
|86||Col du Tourmalet (hors catégorie)||1447|
|120||Hourquette d'Ancizan (Category 2)||1539|
|148||Col de Val Louran-Azet (Category 1)||1631|
|168.5||Col de Peyresourde (Category 1)||1705|
|184||Finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon||1723|
See the full timings for Stage 8 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 38, 36, and 34kmh.
This video by Vélo 101 shows a reconnaissance of Stage 8 by a little team of cyclists. There's analysis of the route (in French), and views of the route and the countryside.
Stage 8 starts in Pau. It seems from the city's website and the Tour de France itinerary that the Tour de France Village will be set up at Stade Philippe Tissié. Outside the Stade, there's an open-air museum dedicated to the Tour and its champions, called le Tour des Géants. The riders set off from outside the Stade on avenue Gaston Lacoste at 12 noon, and do a procession through Pau, passing the Palais Beaumont, the Eglise Saint-Martin, and the Chateau de Pau.
The exact route after avenue Gaston Lacoste is avenue Napoléon Bonaparte, avenue Léon Say, rue Louis Barthou, allée Alfred de Musset, boulevard des Pyrenées, rue Adoue, rue Henri IV, rue Gassion, rue du Maréchal Joffre, place Clémenceau, rue Serviez, rue Montpensier, rue d'Orléans, rue Bordelongue, rue du Maquis de Béarn, rue Bayard, and rue Marca. The route goes over the Gave de Pau on pont du 14 juillet, takes avenue de Gélos to Gélos, and continues to Mazères-Lezons. Here, it takes the D802/100 rocade back over the Gave de Pau, close to the Chateau de Franqueville and through des Chataigneraies, and the D938 out of Pau, heading south south east.
The départ réel, when the racing starts, is on the D938 near Bizanos at 1220.
Leaving Pau, the race route is on the D938, which follows the course of le Lagoin, a tributary of the Gave de Pau (meaning the torrent or rushing stream of Pau in the local dialect). The D938 also runs parallel to the Chemin Henri IV, a walking, mountain biking, and horse riding track. At Coarraze (where Henri IV grew up in the Chateau de Coarraze; the current chateau dates from 1755), the D938 returns to the Gave de Pau, and crosses over it, then passes the village of Igon.
The road becomes the D937 after Igon, and continues to Lestelle-Bétharram.
(Lestelle is a ville bastide created in 1335, with freedoms and fiscal advantages for its residents. It is a place of Catholic pilgrimmage, because at an unknown date, a young girl was about to drown under the bridge, when the Virgin Mary appeared and held out an oar for her to take hold of, and thus saved her life. Bétharram means 'beautiful oar' in Béarnais. The village has a Calvary and Way of the Cross, the C17th Notre-Dame chapel, and the St-Jean-Baptiste church; there are also caves which can be visited. The current bridge dates from 1687).
The riders cross the bridge over the Gave de Pau at Lestelle-Bétharram, and continue on the D937. They leave the département of the Pyrenées-Atlantiques, and enter the Hautes-Pyrenées before the village of Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre. (Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre is a village of 1,211 people. The church of Saint-Pierre includes the remains of a Benedictine Abbey; there's also a chapel of Saint-Marc. The river here has a nice mix of rapids and calm waters, making it ideal for kayaking and canoeing).
From Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre, the race route continues via Peyrouse to Lourdes. The riders go into Lourdes on the D13/route de Pau, passing the Carmel de Lourdes and the Eglise Sainte-Bernadette, with the Basilicas of the Immaculate Conception and Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire, and the Grotte de Massabielle, just across the river.
This is the place to insert your own joke along the lines of, 'I hope [choose suspect rider] hasn't been drinking from their own miraculous spring source'/'Let's hope that [rider you'd like to see win the Tour] doesn't need a miracle in order to get to the top of the standings'. Come on, there's no need to hold back...after all, the TV commentators won't.
The route goes south on the D914 through Lourdes, past the Eglise du Sacré-Coeur, and the place Peyramale, with the fort a little further away on the right hand side.
The riders then leave Lourdes on the D921B/côte des Courriers, with the funicular up to the Pic du Grand Jer to their left, and the Gave de Pau, and the Voie Verte des Gaves, to their right. By old slate quarries near Lugagnan, the D921B becomes the D13 and continues past Ger and Geu to Boô-Silhen. The next villages are Ayros-Arbouix, Préchac, and Villelongue (which has picturesque windmills).
The route goes left on the D921, up the wooded Gorge de Luz, where there was a rockfall onto the road on 17th May 2016 - yet another reason for cyclists to wear helmets ;-).
The next village is Esquièze-Sère, where the day's intermediate sprint takes place.
The race crosses the stream, le Bastan, from Esquièze-Sère to the adjoining village of Luz-Saint-Sauveur.
In Luz-Saint-Sauveur, the riders turn left on the D918 towards Esterre and Barèges. The ruins of the C10th Chateau de Sainte-Marie (which belonged to the Counts of Bigorre then the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem) are on their left. This is the start of the ascent of the Col du Tourmalet, the first and most difficult of the day's climbs.
Starting from Luz-Saint-Sauveur, the climb of the Col du Tourmalet is 19km long. The altitude at the start is 705m, and at the top it is 2,115m, giving a height gain of 1,410m, and an average gradient of 7.4%. This is the official Tour de France climb profile:
Climb profile for the Col du Tourmalet, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers
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 84 times. In 2015, Rafal Majka was first to the top.
Velopeloton says, 'The climb to the Col du Tourmalet is characterised by long, straight stretches of road climbing at 8%. There are a few steeper sections and also less steep sections down to 5%. Overall, the gradient does not change very much, and the difficulty of the climb is it's length and altitude.'
The road up to the Col du Tourmalet goes through Barèges, a village which is a spa and ski resort. The ski lifts start from Tournaboup, a little further up the road. Shortly before the top of the Col du Tourmalet are the ski lifts at Super Barèges. (Barèges and Super Barèges are connected to the La Mongie ski area on the other side of the Col).
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.
Also at the top of the Col du Tourmalet, there's a bar and restaurant. To the riders' left is the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, which has an Observatory on its summit.
The riders now start the descent of the Col du Tourmalet, going through the ski resort of la Mongie, then continuing towards Sainte-Marie-de-Campan.
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.
Sainte-Marie-de-Campan is at the bottom of the descent. Here, the riders start the next categorised climb, the Hourquette d'Ancizan.
Hourquette d'Ancizan, by Velopeloton with kind permission
In Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, the race route turns right, crosses the Adour de Gripp stream, and starts to climb next to the Adour de Payolle. It passes through the hamlet of la Séoube on the way to Payolle. At Payolle, it forks right past the Lac de Payolle, and climbs to the Cabanes de Camoudiet, then on to the top of the Hourquette d'Ancizan (1564m).
Hourquette is a local Gascon word, deriving from the Latin furca, meaning fork. In effect, we can add this mountain pass to the three cols de la Forclaz in the 2016 race (including two cols on Stage 19), since forclaz also means fork.
The altitude at the start of the climb is 859m, and at the top it is 1,564m, giving a height difference of 705m. The distance is 17km, which makes an average gradient of 4.1%.
The Tour de France passed over the Hourquette d'Ancizan in 2011 for the first time; it did so again in 2013, when Dan Martin was first to the top. On both occasions, the riders came from Ancizan, to the south east - the opposite direction to the 2016 edition.
In their video (near the top of this page), Vélo 101 say that the Hourquette d'Ancizan is very pretty, and should prove easy for the professionals, as the gradient isn't very steep, and there's even a downhill section.
Hourquette d'Ancizan summit (looking north - the riders will arrive from the north)
The descent of the Hourquette d'Ancizan is 10km, to Guchen (near Ancizan), in the Vallée d'Aure. The race then takes the D929 via Guchan and Bourisp to Saint-Lary-Soulan. (Saint-Lary-Soulan - meaning the sunny place of St Hilary - is a spa and ski resort. The ski area is to the west of Saint-Lary, as far as the lac de l'Oule, at Pla-d'Adet).
At the far end of Saint-Lary, the riders turn left on the D25/route de Sailhan to start the next climb, the Col d'Azet Val-Louron.
The climb of the Col d'Azet Val-Louron starts from Saint-Lary-Soulan (848m), and goes via Sailhan, Estensan, and Azet, to the summit at 1,580m near the ski lifts of Val Louron. The height gain is 732m, and the distance 10.7km, making an average gradient of 6.8%.
In the 2014 Tour de France, Joaquim Rodriguez was first to the top of the Col d'Azet Val-Louron.
There's now a 7km descent, with lots of hairpins, to Génos, in the Vallée de Louron. Here, the riders turn right on the D25, and go past the Lac de Génos-Loudenvielle to Loudenvielle (which has thermal sulphur waters at Balnéa); they continue on the D25 to Aranvielle, on the other side of the lake, then Armenteule and Estarvielle. (The suffix -vielle in the names of villages here comes from the Latin villa, meaning a farm or rural dwelling).
Immediately after Estarvielle, the D25 meets the D618. The riders turn right on the D618, and the next climb, the Col de Peyresourde, starts here.
The altitude at the bottom of the Col de Peyresourde is 1,017m, and at the top it is 1,569m, giving a height gain of 552m. The distance is 7.1km, which makes an average gradient of 7.8%.
Col de Peyresourde climb profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers
The Col de Peyresourde has featured in the Tour many times since Octave Lapize was first to the top in 1910. In 2014, Vasil Kiryienka led over the summit. (Kiryienka was trying to win a stage, because Sky's GC challenge had ended when Chris Froome abandoned the race; Rafal Majka of Tinkoff won that day, Stage 17 of the 2014 Tour).
At the top of the col, the ski lifts of the resort of Peyragudes are to the right.
Stage 8 descends from the top of the Col de Peyresourde to the finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon in the Vallée de la Pique, a distance of 15.5km. When the riders pass the summit of the col, they cross into the département of the Haute-Garonne.
This map shows the descent from the Peyresourde to the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon:
On the descent, the road passes through Garin, Cazeaux-de-Larboust, Castillon-de-Larboust, and Saint-Aventin. The riders get into Bagnères-de-Luchon, and they turn right on the D125/boulevard Charles de Gaulle. 2.5km further on, where boulevard Charles de Gaulle becomes boulevard Edmond Rostand, they cross the finish line.
This is the profile of the last 5km of Stage 8:
Profile of the last 5km of Stage 8, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers
This is the 2016 Tour's main French Pyrenean stage, and it will be a tough test. The final climb, the Col de Peyresourde, isn't the very longest or steepest the riders will encounter in the race, but with three cols already in their legs, it'll be a difficult challenge.
This is what Christian Prudhomme says: 'The great classic of the Pyrenees has been reconsidered for this 2016 edition of the Tour. After the Col du Tourmalet, the race will, for the first time, head up the Hourquette d'Ancizan from a different side, before taking on the Col de Val Louron-Azet and Peyresourde! A battle with several levels where anything and everything can happen.'
Stage 9 of the 2016 Tour de France is 184.5km from Vielha Val d'Aran to Andorra Arcalis. It's a mountain stage in Spain and Andorra, with five categorised climbs, finishing with an hors catégorie climb to Andorra Arcalis. Read about Stage 9, Tour de France 2016.
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.'
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 th C16th, as residence 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 uderstand all things to men, a special smell, this translation glorious twelve and a half.
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.
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 used since the C16th.
Above Luz-Saint-Sauveur, on the slopes to the west, is the ski resort of Luz-Ardiden.
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).
© 2015-16 SpeedyHedgehog
Template design by Andreas Viklund