Stage 16: Carcassonne - Bagnères-de-Luchon
While all the stages of this 105th Tour de France start and finish in France, stage 16 takes the peloton onto Spanish soil – albeit for 22 kilometres – while the race tackles the Col du Portillon, before what will be a thrilling 10km descent down to the finish back in France in Bagnères-de-Luchon.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme and right-hand man Thierry Gouvenou do like a downhill finish on their Tour routes, and in 2016 defending champion Chris Froome took advantage of the descent into Bagnères-de-Luchon from the Col de Peyresourde to win stage 8 and take the race lead, which he held the rest of the way to Paris, for what was at the time his third Tour victory.
The descent from the Col du Portillon is a very technical one, and comes after the difficult descents of the Col de Portet d'Aspet, where Fabio Casartelli crashed and died in 1994, and the Col de Menté, where Luis Ocaña's crashed while in the yellow jersey in 1971.
None of these climbs are considered to be in the 'high mountains', as they don't even top 1,400 metres above sea level, but their difficulty comes from the length of the stage – 218km – combined with the after-effects of the second rest day in Carcassonne. Add to that the fatigue of 15 stages in the legs and the reduction of the size of teams this year to eight riders, and it's easy to imagine how the race is now beginning to take its toll.
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