Tour de France, Stage 16

After the flat stage in the Gascogne on Monday, the riders had a day off on Tuesday. So far, they’ve cycled 2751 kilometers in a bit more than 68 hours. Bradley Wiggins has a lead of three minutes to last year’s Tour winner Cadel Evans. Four days are left until the finish in Paris.

Stage 16 of the Tour leads over 197 kilometers from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, the spa town and “Queen of the Pyrenees”. The four intervening high mountain passes – Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin und Peyresourde – are between 1489 m and 2115 m high and hold a lot of suffering.

The ascent to one of those cols would be enough to be proud of oneself, but the stage actually has four of them in a row. And it’s not only the ascents, the descents at breakneck speed aren’t for the faint-hearted either.

Stage winner Thomas Voeckler of team Europcar descends from the Col de Peyresourde in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
Chris Anker Sorensen of team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank races downhill from the Col de Peyresourde through Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Bradley Wiggins (Sky), and Christopher Froome (Sky) descend from the Col de Peyresourde in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
A gendarme watches as riders descend Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
Riders cycle in Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
Riders cycle in Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
A rider passes Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
A rider races in Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
A spectator watches as cyclists pass Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.
Fans cheer when riders cycle pass Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the Pyrenees during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012.

It’s a Long Way to the Top

Temperature was very high today, and we were sweating a lot while hiking from Bagnères-de-Luchon in the direction of Col de Peyresourde. We had parked our car at the Aerodrome next to a South African couple from Johannesburg who had been at the 14th stage at the Mur de Péguère too.

We didn’t make it to the pass, but stopped after some kilometers in Cazeaux-de-Larboust. There’s a pretty church called Eglise Sainte-Anne de Cazeaux finished in the 19th century built around a chapel of the 12th century with mural paintings inside. We had a picknick in a stubble field next to some guys from Norway who had spent the night in a tent.

When the athletes of the Tour finally appeared, they passed in a fraction of a second. To race downhill, the cyclists take a special position huddled in front of the saddle to minimize wind resistance. Pretty scaring!

The catholic church St. Anne in Cazeaux-de-Larboust in the French Pyrenees has mural paintings originating from the 15th century.

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