A trip on the D118 road that links Saint-Girons and Foix is only 44km long, and the Tour de France route planners haven’t expanded much on that short trip. This 101km stage is a continuation of a recent trend in the Grand Tours for short, sharp days in the mountains.
We haven’t yet reached the point of the Tour’s 1972 experiment with a mass start stage up a single mountain, Mont Revard, in the Alps, but it’s a step in that direction. Despite the short length, three cat-one climbs have been shoehorned into the route, and if previous similar outings are any indication, the stage will be exciting.
The stage starts in Saint-Girons, twinned since 1995 with the Italian town of Albese con Cassano, where Fabio Casartelli lived. The Italian crashed and died on the nearby Col du Portet d’Aspet in the 1995 Tour. After the start, the race heads south to the Col de Latrape, within 10km of the Spanish border. Next, over the Col d’Agnes and Mur de Péguère, the route heads northeast.
Both climbs have a short history with the Tour. Agnes appears for the sixth time – in previous years, Robert Millar, Marco Pantani and Michael Rasmussen have led the race over the summit.
Meanwhile, Péguère has endured a more difficult relationship with the Tour. In 2012, the climb’s debut was marred when dozens of riders punctured after tacks were thrown on the road. Hopefully the culprit won’t make a return visit this time.
Any escapees will hope to have a good lead before the descent, which is fast and untechnical. From then on it’s a softer downhill to Foix, a town overlooked by a 1,000-year-old castle. Foix has hosted a Tour finish on two occasions in the past - both won by the break.
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Scott Sunderland says
"101 kilometres for today's stage with three first category climbs. Following the previous stage of 214km with six categorised climbs, today will see the shortest ever stage in the history of the Tour since the decision to only have one stage per day.
"This stage will be nothing short of being spectacular and exciting to watch. I expect attacks from the start by audacious and fearless climbing specialists racing for victory in today's stage and while doing so, either stamping their authority on this year's Tour or possibly failing while trying valiantly on this exceptionally short but extremely tough 13th stage."