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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 any mountain stage. 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 toads. 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.
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.