Published by Lyn on 20 May 2015
Local cyclist Simon Stay has sent me this preview of Stage 11 of the 2015 Tour de France from Pau to Cauterets. (Thanks Simon!)
- Tour de France 2015: Stage 5 - Arras to Amiens
- Tour de France 2015: Stage 6 - Abbeville to Le Havre
- Tour de France 2015: Stage 8 - Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne
Stage 11 from Pau to Cauterets is a challenging 188km mountain stage. The previous day will have seen the first mountain top finish of this year's race at La Pierre-Saint-Martin, so there may be some leading GC contenders looking to recover lost time. With two big climbs en route it may also be a day for a breakaway to pick up some significant points in the race for the polka dot jersey.
The start of the stage is in Pau, one of the most frequently visited places for the Tour in recent years. The initial run to Lourdes is pretty flat with the first sharp climb of a couple of kilometres to the Cote de Loucrup arriving on the way to Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
After the climb out of Bagnères, the TV coverage will no doubt take the opportunity to showcase the old abbey at Escaladieu and the chateau at Mauvezin.
The terrain is undulating as they head for La-Barthe-de-Neste in the Vallée d'Aure, which leads to the first big challenge of the day, the Col d'Aspin. The climb to the Col d'Aspin starts at the picturesque village of Arreau. The climb itself is 11.5km long, peaking at 1480m, with an average gradient of 7%.
One of the difficulties of this stage is that the descent from the Aspin leads immediately in to the start of the Tourmalet from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan. The climb is initially through the woods, but from the ski resort of La Mongie, the road is completely exposed and on a hot day can be brutal.
From this eastern side, the climb is just over 17km in length at an average gradient of 7% and goes over the Col du Tourmalet at an altitude of 2115m. The descent off the Tourmalet will be hair-raisingly fast down through Barèges to Luz-St-Sauveur. Even after that it continues downhill for more than 10km to Pierrefitte-Nestalas, before the final turn on to the climb to the finish at Cauterets.
This final climb will be fast, as after the first kilometre the gradient is rarely above 5% except for the new hairpins, which have replaced the old road washed away in the 2013 floods.
The last couple of kilometres to the finish in the centre of Cauterets are almost flat, which will no doubt be a relief after a day when they will have climbed around 3000m in total.
Where to watch Stage 11
During this stage there are a couple of opportunities to see the race go past twice. If you go to Lourdes, where they will come through within the first hour of racing, you can then take a leisurely ride down the old railway cycle track to Pierrefitte-Nestalas to see the no doubt spread-eagled field head for the finish at the end of the afternoon.
Alternatively, watch the race go through Bagnères-de-Bigorre and then cycle to Ste-Marie-de-Campan to see them start the climb of the Tourmalet.
If you want to be on either the Aspin or the Tourmalet, the roads are likely to be closed to cars a considerable time before the race comes through. It is always best to cycle to these viewing points. Cyclists are normally allowed through until quite late, but once the publicity caravan is approaching, you will be told to dismount.
On the road up to Cauterets there are few places to park a car or a campervan, but from past experience, expect this road may be closed to traffic the night before. Again, cycling up there is the best option, although getting away at the end along with the team cars and buses, press, police etc can be pretty chaotic.
Details of road closures will be available nearer the time on www.inforoute.cg65.fr
Simon is a local cyclist who lives at Arrens, just off the road to the Col du Soulor, which leads on to the Col d'Aubisque. He's just 15km from the climb upto Cauterets and knows these roads well. He runs the bike-friendly Les Artigaux Gites.