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Gallery: Pyrenean panorama

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The Col d'Aubisque is the second-most visited peak in the Tour's history

The Col d'Aubisque is the second-most visited peak in the Tour's history (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A helicopter gets a bird's-eye-view of the action on the Col d'Aubisque

A helicopter gets a bird's-eye-view of the action on the Col d'Aubisque (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Sky snake their way up the Col du Tourmalet

Sky snake their way up the Col du Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stunning views... shame about the ride

Stunning views... shame about the ride (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The riders get strung out on the descent of the Col d'Aubisque

The riders get strung out on the descent of the Col d'Aubisque (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A sea of humanity greeted the peloton on Stage 16

A sea of humanity greeted the peloton on Stage 16 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Sky lead the peloton up the Tourmalet

Sky lead the peloton up the Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Chalets on the way to the Tourmalet's peak

Chalets on the way to the Tourmalet's peak (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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BMC's Philippe Gilbert, a mere speck in relation to the geographical giants around him

BMC's Philippe Gilbert, a mere speck in relation to the geographical giants around him (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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There is of course, a much easier way to ascend the Col du Tourmalet

There is of course, a much easier way to ascend the Col du Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins (Sky) works his way up the climb

Maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins (Sky) works his way up the climb (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Col d'Aubisque stands at 1709m

The Col d'Aubisque stands at 1709m (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) was in too much pain to enjoy the view behind him

Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) was in too much pain to enjoy the view behind him (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The magnificent Col d'Aubisque, first climbed during the 1910 Tour de France

The magnificent Col d'Aubisque, first climbed during the 1910 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The long and windy road up the Col du Tourmalet

The long and windy road up the Col du Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A look at the thousands of fans which lined the mountainous route between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon

A look at the thousands of fans which lined the mountainous route between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simone Stortone (Lampre-ISD) claimed a top-10 finish

Simone Stortone (Lampre-ISD) claimed a top-10 finish (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Want to stake your claim on the Tourmalet? Then you'll need to camp overnight

Want to stake your claim on the Tourmalet? Then you'll need to camp overnight (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Sprinters like Tyler Farrar suffered in the heat in addition to the punishing climbs on Stage 16

Sprinters like Tyler Farrar suffered in the heat in addition to the punishing climbs on Stage 16 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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It's not a campervan convention, it's the Tour de France

It's not a campervan convention, it's the Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The valley below the Col du Tourmalet

The valley below the Col du Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The descent of the Col d'Aubisque

The descent of the Col d'Aubisque (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fans get into the spirit of the mountains

Fans get into the spirit of the mountains (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton rides up the 1489 metre Col d'Aspin

The peloton rides up the 1489 metre Col d'Aspin (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The steepness of the peaks results in erosion, with grasses doing their best to hold on amongst the scree

The steepness of the peaks results in erosion, with grasses doing their best to hold on amongst the scree (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A helicopter keeps an eye on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

A helicopter keeps an eye on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Plenty of support and encouragement for the peloton on the Tourmalet

Plenty of support and encouragement for the peloton on the Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A clear day in the Pyrenees but there is no rest on the Tourmalet

A clear day in the Pyrenees but there is no rest on the Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun) work their way through the crowds

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun) work their way through the crowds (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Col du Tourmalet in the distance

The Col du Tourmalet in the distance (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Have campervan, will visit the Tour de France...

Have campervan, will visit the Tour de France... (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Hundreds of millions of years of tectonic forces have carved their mark on the Col d'Aubisque's granite peak

Hundreds of millions of years of tectonic forces have carved their mark on the Col d'Aubisque's granite peak (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Best not to count the pedal strokes up the 2115 metre climb up the Tourmalet

Best not to count the pedal strokes up the 2115 metre climb up the Tourmalet (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The cafe in the middle of the picture is a museum dedicated to Tour de France memorabilia

The cafe in the middle of the picture is a museum dedicated to Tour de France memorabilia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Voeckler somehow had the energy to remain animated throughout the day's climbs

Voeckler somehow had the energy to remain animated throughout the day's climbs (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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And it's another switchback...

And it's another switchback... (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) en-route to stage 16 victory

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) en-route to stage 16 victory (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

It is the Circle of Death - 6882 metres of climbing on the hardest day of the Tour de France in the mighty Pyrenees.

Where life can be breathed into general classification hopes, but also where they flounder in a painful end.

Stage 16 of the 99th's edition of the Tour linked the the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde. It's a rareity, when you consider the last time that the fearsome quartet were combined was in 1998. Prior to that in 1938, 1949, 1980 and 1983.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) reigned supreme, Sky's Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome fought off the attacks of Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Cadel Evans officially said goodbye to any hopes he had of making the podium in the year of his title defence. Plenty of others just did their best to survive knowing there's only four more days until Paris.

Both beautiful and savage, we celebrate the Circle of Death. Click here for the gallery.