Tour de France preview: Stage 11

No French fireworks for yesterday’s Bastille Day stage but it was a day that made quite a noise. Is the race for the top step in Paris over? Today’s another high mountain stage with the Cols d’Aspin and Tourmalet, but a cat 3 summit finish means guys who want to gain time will have to pounce earlier rather than later.

Wednesday 15th July: Stage 11 – Pau to Cauterets, high mountains, 188km

Stage 11 profile: Tour de France 2015

This stage starts reasonably, with two cat 3s and a cat 4 climb in the first half. Time perhaps for those who blew on yesterday’s climb to regroup. They’ll need to, as they then tackle the cat 1 Col d’Aspin, followed immediately by the iconic Tourmalet – the highest climb this Tour. The Aspin is 12km with an average of 6.5% – the highest gradient being 9.5% almost smack in the middle of it.

St 11 Aspin

Col d’Aspin profile; Tour 2015

The Tourmalet – well, we know about the Tourmalet, don’t we? It’s not an icon for nothing. It’s 17km at an average of 7.3%, but those gradients build from a relatively easy first 5km with a pitch of 5% maximum to a hefty section about halfway up the mountain that is consistently in the 9-10% range.

St 11 Tourmelet

Tourmalet profile; Tour 2015

Neither of these are easy climbs by any means, but I wonder if it won’t be the Tourmalet descent that holds the most potential for riders looking to make up time. If they’re able to get up the Tourmalet in good shape, there could be a few great descenders who are willing to take some risks on the downhill. The finishing climb – the cat 3 Cote de Cauterets – is obviously not as arduous as the two previous climbs – or yesterday’s summit finish – and if time is made on the downhill, it might carry a rider right through to the finish line at Cauterets. It could be a heady day of racing. Let’s just hope they haven’t given up the fight yet.

Link: Official race website

Header image: The Tourmalet (via Wikipedia) 

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