Wednesday, July 25, 9:10 a.m. – 11:40 a.m. ET
65 kilometers, three passes, in approximately two and a quarter hours — stage 17 will be a wild ride. It will start with an unorthodox format: The riders will be positioned according to their overall classification, with the top 20 lined up on a grid, as in a Formula 1 race.
The day after the first big Pyrenean stage — one that extends to 218 kilometers with three big passes — stage 17 will be the shortest Tour road stage in more than 30 years.
The distance wasn’t chosen at random. “It provides a small nod to the number of the Hautes-Pyrénées department where the whole stage will take place,” says Thierry Gouvenou. “[Tour director] Christian Prudhomme and I wanted to include a short stage that will be especially conducive to a big battle. The terrain around Bagnères-de-Luchon is ideal for this, and the opportunity to marry the stage distance with a certain symbolism was too good to miss.”
The shortest stage of the Tour could be the best of the race. Of the 65 kilometers on the day’s route, 43 will be spent climbing and 16 of them at an average gradient of more than eight percent.
“The layout of a Tour de France is like a menu where you have to mix and balance the ingredients carefully,” Gouvenou says. “After the 100-kilometer stage that featured last year between Saint-Girons and Foix, we wanted to push this formula a little further. Cycling is and must remain an endurance sport where long efforts are fundamental, but spicing that up with a little bit of the unknown really appealed to us. This will be an extremely intense stage and quite similar to the effort produced in an individual time trial.”
After climbing the Peyresourde to Peyragudes, and then to the Col de Val Louron-Azet, the route turns to the final climb of the Col du Portet, at 2,215 meters (higher than the Tourmalet) the highest point of the 2018 race. According to the particular criteria that ASO uses to determine the difficulty of the climbs, this new discovery is as difficult as Mont Ventoux.
The condition of the road meant that major resurfacing work had to be undertaken in the spring. The Tour will be the first race to ever use the climb.
Check back after the race.