Stage 8: Castres to Ax 3 Domaines, 195km, high mountains
The race enters the Pyrenees and it’s going to be a tough old day. The stage rolls along until the last 50km, which are as gruelling as it gets.
The Col de Pailheres is the Tour’s first hors categorie mountain and the highest climb of the race, and coming after a long afternoon on the flat is going to make for a difficult transition. It’s an 8% average gradient to the summit, followed by a fast 20km descent. The riders then go straight into the final climb of the day, the cat 1 Ax 3 Domaines, which averages 8.2%
Anyone who has difficulty on Pailheres is not going to have enough time to make it up before the finish so if a GC contender cracks, they could lose significant time. Expect some hot and heavy attacks today as any serious contender is going to want to put the pressure on Sky (and vice versa) – we may well see Valverde, Rodriguez and Contador throwing down the gauntlet and possibly working together to try to keep Sky from breaking everyone’s spirit by setting a ruthless Death Star pace up the climb.
Bit of trivia: The Souvenir Henri Desgrange is awarded to the first rider over the highest point in the Tour. This year, whoever gets over Col de Pailheres, at 2,001m, gets a cash prize of €5,000.
Link: Official website