Tour de France 2021: Stage 17 preview

Stage 17: Muret – Sant-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet

Date: July 14, 2021 

Distance: 178.4km

Stage timing: 11:50 - 16:49 CEDT

Stage type: Mountain

Stage 17 preview video

This is essentially the 2018 stage that first introduced the Col du Portet to the wider cycling world but with a comparatively flat 113-kilometre section replacing the F1 start grid that was the novelty/gimmick at the start of that short day that ended with Nairo Quintana taking the honours.

It starts just to the south of Toulouse at Muret and heads south-west across the plain, passing through the previous day’s finish town of Saint-Gaudens. Following the Garonne a little further into the mountains, the route finally swings away from the river to follow its tributary, the Pique, upstream to Luchon, where the intermediate sprint is located.

Once through it, the riders will quickly be onto the first slopes of the Col de Peyresourde and will have barely any flat road ahead of them before the finish. Rising at an average of 7% for a 13.1km, it’s the easiest of the three climbs crammed into the final third of the stage.

The fast descent away from the Peyresourde drops into Loudenvielle, where the riders will find themselves on the flat very briefly as they circle the lake to reach the foot of the Col d’Azet. Although not much more than half the length of the Peyresourde, its average of 8.3% makes it more challenging, especially on the steeper sections on its lower slopes. Once again, the descent is fast, Saint-Lary-Soulan arriving very quickly.

The riders will rattle through the town and out of its western side, where they’ll soon arrive at the right turn onto the final climb, which averages 8.7% for 16km. The opening couple of kilometres are a point or two higher than that mean, the road clambering quickly up the mountainside to Espiaube, where a left turn heads for the ski station of Pla d’Adet. The route heads right, though, soon reaching a narrow and steep road that climbs rapidly via a series of tight switchbacks. 

The gradient eases a little beyond these bends, the route running almost directly towards the pass, before sweeping around the top end of a high valley and into one final steep kilometre up to the line.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).

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