The 2022 Tour de France hits crunch time Tuesday with the first of three stages across the Pyrénées that could decide who will be wearing the yellow jersey in Paris on Sunday.
Tuesday’s 178.5km 16th stage from Carcassonne to Foix features two first-category climbs in the second half of the route that will be punctuated once again by blazing heat.
On paper, a breakaway will have good chances to make it to the line to contest for the stage victory.
Sparks among the GC contenders is a guarantee even if the route finishes with a long descent to the line.
First of three stages across the Pyrénées
While many are looking ahead to Wednesday’s finale at Peyragudes and Thursday’s hors-categorie climb to Hautacam, Tuesday’s romp could still produce a few surprises.
Two rated climbs in the opening hour of race — a fourth-category at 13km and a third-category climb at 36km — should produce the day’s main breakaway.
Several teams are still looking for a stage victory, so riders like Joe Dombrowski, Thibaut Pinot or Pierre Rolland could be on the move.
Things turn steep with the Cat. 1 Port de Lers at 125km and the Cat. 1 Mur de Péguère at 151.5km that will put the peloton to the test.
A long 27.5km downhill run to the finish line in Foix might mute some of the attacks, but anyone with legs could distance their rivals, and hold gaps to the line.
Heat expected to continue unabated
Record heat is expected to continue to hammer the peloton.
Temperatures are expected to hit the low 90Fs in the valleys, with a 25 percent chance of afternoon showers building in the mountains. Wind is not expected to be a major factor, with a light northerly breeze of 5kph in the afternoon which could mean a slight headwind coming toward the finish.
Carcassonne is a Tour departure city for the 12th time in Tour history, while Foix hosts its seventh Tour stage. In 2017, Warren Barguil won a solo stage for his first career stage victory, and later won another stage over the Izoard to win the King of the Mountains jersey and most aggressive rider’s prize in Paris that year.
Neither of the two featured climbs have been part of the Tour on numerous occasions. The Port de Lers has been featured in six previous editions of the Tour, while the Péguère climb is back for its fourth Tour appearance.