Tour de France 2016 Stage 8 preview: Pau - Bagnères-de-Luchon, 183km

There are several candidates for the hardest stage of the 2016 Tour. Stage 9 to Andorra has more climbs than this one, as does stage 15 to Culoz. Stages 19 and 20, finishing in St Gervais-Mont Blanc and Morzine, have the same number of climbs as this, and the same designations – an HC, two first-cats and a second-cat.

But stage 8 to Luchon still stands out as a uniquely tough challenge. Firstly, the climbs are packed together, while all the other stages except stage 15 have a bit of breathing space between the climbs. Secondly, while stage 15 only breaches 1,000m altitude once, this stage has four climbs above 1,500m, including the Tourmalet at 2,115m. This is the most intense stretch of mountain climbing in the 2016 Tour.

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