Stage 17 of the Tour de France 2022 is a short but tough Pyrenean mountain stage.
The climbing begins after 53km with the Col d'Aspin. Next up is the Hourquette d'Ancizan, then the Col de Val Louron-Azet, before the summit finish at Peyragudes.
Romain Bardet won at Peyragudes on Stage 12 of the 2017 Tour de France, and could be looking to repeat the feat (if he's riding the Tour).
|Date||Wednesday 20th July 2022|
Col de Val Louron-Azet
Montée de Peyragudes
At the time of writing, the only detailed map available is one of those annoying video ones:
This is the profile of Stage 17, Tour de France 2022:
Stage 17 starts in Saint-Gaudens.
Saint-Gaudens is a town in the valley of the river Garonne. It's named after Gaudens, a young Christian who was beheaded by the Visigoths and was made a saint in the time of the Franks.
A Roman road passed close to Saint-Gaudens, and there was a rural villa here.
The Collégiale church dates from the C11th, with later alterations.
Leaving Saint-Gaudens, the riders head west south west on the D8 towards Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.
Roman general Pompey founded a colony at Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges in 72BC, and at its height it counted 30,000 inhabitants. It was destroyed by the Burgundians in 585.
Bertrand de l'Isle was appointed Bishop of Comminges in 1083, and ordered the construction of a Cathedral.
After Saint-Bertrand, the route passes caves, including the Grotte de Gargas which features prehistoric art by Cro-Magnon people. It continues on the D938 to La Barthe-de-Neste.
Now the riders head south on the D929A, in the Vallée d'Aure and alongside the Canal de la Neste.
At Arreau, they leave the valley behind and head skywards towards the Col d'Aspin.
The Col d'Aspin is a 12km climb with a fairly even gradient, at an average of 6.5%. It takes the riders from 705m at Arreau to 1,490m at the top of the Col. This is the official Tour de France climb profile:
The Col d'Aspin connects Arreau with Sainte-Marie-de-Campan in the Adour valley, although Stage 17 only descends to Lac de Payolle rather than going all the way down to Sainte-Marie.
It has been part of the Tour de France more than 70 times.
According to Cycle Fiesta, 'Col d'Aspin is one of the most famous climbs in the Tour de France...'
'The climb from Arreau is the more challenging and also the more scenic of the two sides. However, the gradient is never really steep and it is possible to get into a nice rhythm. The lower part of the climb is in forest, before several long switchbacks begin, taking you up the side of the mountain. There are nice views here down into the valley behind you and a fantastic view also awaits at the top of the climb.'
As mentioned above, the descent is to Lac de Payolle.
Immediately after the descent to Payolle, the road kicks up again towards the Hourquette d'Ancizan.
From Payolle, the race takes the D113 past the Lac de Payolle, and climbs to the Cabanes de Camoudiet, then on to the top of the Hourquette d'Ancizan (1564m).
Hourquette is a local Gascon word, deriving from the Latin furca, meaning fork. In effect, we can add this mountain pass to the various French Cols de la Forclaz, since forclaz also means fork.
The altitude at the start of this climb in Payolle is 1,148m, and at the top it is 1,564m, giving a height difference of 416m. The distance is 8.2km, which makes an average gradient of 5.1%.
In a reconnaissance of Stage 8 of the 2016 race, Vélo 101 said that the Hourquette d'Ancizan is very pretty, and should prove easy for the professionals, as the gradient isn't very steep, and there's even a downhill section.
The descent of the Hourquette d'Ancizan is 10km, to Guchen (near Ancizan), in the Vallée d'Aure. The race then takes the D929 via Guchan and Bourisp to Saint-Lary-Soulan.
Saint-Lary-Soulan - meaning the sunny place of St Hilary - is a spa and ski resort. The ski area is to the west of Saint-Lary, as far as the Lac de l'Oule, at Pla-d'Adet.
At the far end of Saint-Lary, the riders turn left on the D225/route de Sailhan to start the next climb, the Col d'Azet Val-Louron.
The climb of the Col d'Azet Val-Louron starts from Saint-Lary-Soulan (848m), and goes via Sailhan, Estensan, and Azet, to the summit at 1,580m near the ski lifts of Val Louron. The height gain is 732m, and the distance 10.7km, making an average gradient of 6.8%.
There's now a 7km descent, with lots of hairpins, to Génos, in the Vallée de Louron. Here, the riders turn right on the D25, and go past the Lac de Génos-Loudenvielle to Loudenvielle (which has thermal sulphur waters at Balnéa).
They continue on the D25 to Aranvielle, on the other side of the lake, then Armenteule and Estarvielle. (The suffix -vielle in the names of villages here comes from the Latin villa, meaning a farm or rural dwelling).
Immediately after Estarvielle, the D25 meets the D618. The riders turn right on the D618, and the final climb to Peyragudes starts here.
The Tour de France came up to Peyragudes on Stage 12 of the 2017 edition. The difference then was that it arrived from the east, over the Col de Peyresourde. This time, it comes from the west, which is more straightforward and does not involve going over the Peyresourde.
The similarity with 2017 is that the finish line is at the Altiport de Peyragudes.
This was the last kilometre in 2017:
Romain Bardet won at Peyragudes in 2017. He could do it again if he takes part in the Tour de France. In any case you'd expect the winner to be a climber - perhaps Pogacar, Vingegaard, or (as a wild card) David Gaudu.
Who do you think will win Stage 17?
Rough Guide to France.
Price £14.39 from Amazon as at 3rd March 2022.
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