Tour de France Stage 14 Preview
Saturday, July 10
Pyrénées I: Cathar Country
Probably for the first time in Tour history, no less than five stages are being raced in the Pyrénées. This first one doesn’t have any high peaks, but with three Cat. 2 climbs and two Cat. 3s, all of them packed into a tight corner of so-called Cathar Country, it’s as challenging as most mountain stages. The Cathars were a medieval religious group that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and built castles or repurposed other battlements to protect their towns. This stage starts in the shadow of one of those fortified cities at Carcassonne and passes another on the tough Cat. 2 climb at Montségur. The first 60 kilometers are flat so it’s easy to imagine a long battle taking place before the right breakaway comes together. After that, the route is constantly up and down on narrow back roads. The Col de Saint-Louis, 17 kilometers from the finish, gets steep once the road crosses the spectacular viaduct at its foot. This could be the setting for a great battle between the breakaway riders for the stage victory, while the GC leaders will have to be vigilant. Quillan, a town of 3,300 that promotes a famed annual criterium, is hosting a Tour stage finish for the first time. With the afternoon temperatures again in the mid-80s Fahrenheit, another five hours under the sun in difficult terrain could produce some surprises. This could mean a rider in the top 10 on GC—such as Pello Bilbao of Bahrain Victorious, Guillaume Martin of Cofidis or Enric Mas of Movistar—slipping into a big breakaway group and forcing other well-placed teams to chase.
After a 12km descent and 3km in the streets of Quillan, at the end of a 300m straight on the 19.6 feet wide Boulevard Charles-de-Gaulle.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT)
Ceremonial start, Place du Général de Gaulle, Carcassonne, 6:25 a.m.; start on D119 (after 6.4km neutral to km0), 6:40 a.m.; Col du Bac (cat. 3, 166.8km to go), 7:50 a.m.; Lavelanet (sprint, 107km to go), 8:26 a.m.; Col de Montségur (Cat. 2, 94.7km to go), 8:48 a.m.; Col de la Croix des Morts (Cat 2, 73.4km to go), 9:21 a.m.; Côte de Galinagues (Cat. 3, 57.4km to go), 9:33 a.m.; Axat (37.5km to go), 9:57 a.m.; Col de Saint-Louis (Cat 2 + bonus, 16.9km to go), 11:41 a.m.; Quillan (finish, 183.7km), 11:36 a.m.
Analysis by Thierry Gouvenou and John Wilcockson.