Stage 11: Eymet - Pau
Possibly the last nailed-on sprint stage of the Tour de France before Paris, this flat day lies in stark contrast to the following stages.
The peloton will set off from Eymet, a small town in the Dordogne. Eymet has a large British expat population, meaning the Team Sky bus should be busy in the morning. Ex-pro and four-time Tour stage winner Pierrick Fédrigo lives nearby, and triumphed the last two times the race visited Pau. In 2012 he outsprinted Christian Vande Velde, a companion from the early break, as the peloton trailed 12 minutes back.
July will mark the 59th time Pau hosts a finish of the Tour. It’s one of the race’s most-used cities and is often the Tour’s gateway to the Pyrenees. Paying a visit to the mile-long Boulevard des Pyrénées and its protected views will give a preview of what’s in store over the next few days.
In between Eymet and Pau lies a landscape even flatter than the stage before, with just a single sprint and classified climb to interrupt the smooth progress of the day’s breakaway as they plough onwards through the plains of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie regions. However, the status of the break will move from ‘doomed’ to ‘possibly successful’ if the peloton tires of chasing every single day.
On the route after 100km: the village of Labastide d’Armagnac. Labastide’s chapel, the Notre-Dame-des-Cyclistes, was restored in 1959 to become a shrine to cycling, inspired by the Madonna del Ghisallo in Italy. Today dozens of jerseys line the walls, with the likes of Merckx, Hinault, Simpson, Anquetil all having donated theirs. The chapel has featured on the Tour route four times, even hosting a stage start in 1989.
Scott Sunderland says
"As the Tour approaches the base of the Pyrenean mountains, the GC contenders will have one thing on their mind: to conserve as much energy as possible.
"Typically, we will see aggressive attacking from the non-climbing riders at the start to get into an early breakaway on this rather flat stage. Then it will be up to the sprinters' teams to take charge, bring back order and prepare the final for their sprinters. I expect a mass sprint into the city of Pau.
"GC riders and teams will, however, need to stay vigilant as the westerly winds could decide to blow across the south of France on this day!"
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