Stage 15 Limoux-Foix: Prat d'Albis
Date: July 21, 2019
Distance: 185 km
Stage type: Mountain
A day on from a finish on the Tour's most visited climb, the riders will be heading for its newest ascent, the Prat d'Albis, which overlooks the Ariège departmental centre of Foix and presents spectacular long-ranging views across the flatlands to the north and, nearer its summit, into the heart of the Pyrenees.
Although there isn't a super-category ascent on the route, the constantly undulating roads between the start in Limoux and the new finish deliver a cumulative altitude gain of close to 5,000 metres. The first ascent is the Montségur pass, above which a ruined Cathar castle is perched. Another 40km pass before the climbing begins in earnest with the first of three consecutive first-category tests.
These commence with the Port de Lers, at 1,517 metres the high point on this stage. After the fast descent into Massat, the riders will start to climb again on the first half of the Col de Port, which they follow for six incessantly weaving kilometres until they fork left and rudely upwards onto the Mur de Péguère. The best that can be said about it is that it gets easier the further it goes on, but that glosses over what is a ferocious examination of climbing ability. This tiny road through dense woodland averages 12% over 3km, the first kilometre two notches above that mark. The summit is a point-bonus, offering a further incentive for the mountain goats.
The long descent to Foix may allow a regrouping at the front before the road turns towards Prat d'Albis. Steady initially, it becomes far more exacting after 3km, stepping very precipitously upwards at regular intervals, before easing off as it enters the open section towards the top. With the second rest day to follow, this stage provides the opportunity for an obvious hierarchy of pretenders for the centenary yellow jersey to emerge.
Today's one-off leader's jersey features the image of Miguel Indurain, the last five-time winner. Will four-time champion Chris Froome pull on that jersey at Prat d'Albis and move a significant step closer to joining that illustrious club?