The third week of the Tour de France opens with a transition stage of 178.5 kilometres to Foix. The town in the foothills of the Pyrenees has been the end station of successful breakaways on several occassions.
This century has seen three Tour de France stage finishes in Foix. In 2008, Kurt Asle Arvesen took the spoils; in 2012, it was Luis León Sánchez who turned out on top; and in 2017 Warren Barguil outgunned Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa. On all occasions, the winner came from the breakaway.
The finale of the last two races to Foix was identical. After cresting the Mur de Péguère, a 9.3 kilometres climb at 7.9%, the riders fly down a 27 kilometres descent to the line in Foix. The Mur de Péguère peaks out at 1,375 metres and the finish lies 1,000 metres lower.
The Mur de Péguère is a killer in a cunning disguise. The first six kilometres are nothing special, but then all hell breaks loose with one kilometre at 13% and a steepest sector at 18%. What comes next is hardly any better and it’s only at the top that the riders will be out of their misery.
So that’s an attractive finale. And the good thing is that we’ll see a carbon copy of it in on Tuesday 19 July.
Just prior to the Mur de Péguère there’s a climb to pep things up even more. The Port de Lers is a 11.4 kilometres ascent with an average gradient of 7%. But, obviously, the race will come down to the steep parts of the Mur and the ensuing descent to the line.
That is, in terms of the stage victory. In the first part of the race we’ll see a number of climbs that will be of interest for the composition of the breakaway. After 13 kilometres the riders hit the Côte de Saint-Hilaire – 1.5 kilometres at 6.6% – and 30 kilometres up the road the Col de l’Espinas – 5.3 kilometres at 5% – precedes the Col du Bac. The Bac is 3 kilometres long, averages 4.7%, and is crested after 43.1 kilometres of action.
The first three riders on the line gain time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds.