Today’s stage: Saint-Gaudens – Peyragudes (129.7 kilometers)
It will sting the calves on Wednesday, the 17the stage between Saint-Gaudens and Peyragudes, first of the two great encounters of the Tour with the Pyrenees. If, the day before, the Mur de Péguère was a great warm-up, what about the menu of the day? A short stage, only 129.7 kilometers, on the roads of Haute-Garonne and Hautes-Pyrénées. But a stage that promises to be very nervous with scheduled, in the last 76 kilometers of the race, four slopes and 4,000 meters of elevation gain.
In order, the neck of Aspin (1D category; 12 kilometers at 6.5%), a classic of the Grande Boucle (seventy-four passages), followed by the Hourquette d’Ancizan (2e category; 8.2 kilometers at 5.1%), quite undulating, from the Val-Louron-Azet pass (1D category; 10.7 km at 6.8%) and the final ascent to the Peyragudes plateau (1D category; 8 kilometers at 7.8%) where the yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard and his runner-up in the classification, Tadej Pogacar, will be able to compete in the last kilometers. And to think that, the next day, they do it again, even more rigid …
What if he killed all the suspense on this Tour, twenty-four hours earlier than expected? While everyone is waiting for the big explanation with Tadej Pogacar, on Thursday, on the ascent to Hautacam, Jonas Vingegaard place a free kick in the last kilometer, 16% of the climb, after a lot of work by Wout van Aert, the handyman of the Jumbo-Visma, at the foot of Peyragudes. Result: The Slovenian stands out in the last hectometers and retreats to the general classification. The next day, the Dane only has to stick “Pogi” to the Basques to get the final victory.
Poorly rewarded for his efforts so far, Romain Bardet escapes in the descent of Azet, very pronounced and technical, with the British Thomas Pidcock, who excels in the exercise. The two men attack the rise of the Peyragudes with a big minute ahead of the yellow jersey group. The Auvergne releases his fugitive teammate to secure the first French victory in this Tour at the station’s plateau. A success that puts him in second place overall and keeps the hope of a first tricolor victory in the Camps since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
“It never occurred to us to finish a Tour de France with three people. It’s a sad tour for us. “
Vincent Lavenu, the manager of the AG2R team, was a little disappointed on Tuesday morning at the beginning of the 16th.e stage, in Carcassonne. Two of his runners, the Frenchmen Mikaël Cherel and Aurélien Paret-Peintre, diagnosed positively by Covid-19, were forced to leave the Tour de France. His retirement has added to the abandonment of Australian Ben O’Connor, injured, and Belgian Oliver Naesen, ill, as well as the departure of Frenchman Geoffrey Bouchard on July 9, also recognized as positive.
“Fortunately, Bob Jungels won us a very good stage [à Châtel, en Haute-Savoie]. This is the satisfaction of this 2022 Tour ”he chose to philosophize Vincent Lavenu, at the same time adding this“We still have a few days to fight”. The three survivors, Luxembourg’s Bob Jungels, France’s Benoît Cosnefroy and Belgium’s Stan Dewulf know what to do.
The platoon, overwhelmed by the strong heat of recent days, could dive into it. But the crystal clear waters of Lake Payolle, which can be discovered at kilometer 73.1 of this 17e the stage, between the Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette d’Ancizan, could only be a temptation as the race promises to be nervous. Passing so close to a little paradise, without being able to taste it: torture for men who have already traveled more than 2,700 kilometers from Copenhagen.
Tour fans could find relaxation in this corner of greenery perched at an altitude of 1,139 meters, nicknamed “The Little Canada”, with the peaks of the Pyrenees in the background. The British Steve Cummings had signed, on the shores of Lake Payolle, one of the great victories of his career, winning the 7e stage of the Tour 2016, a year after having martyred the French Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot at the Mende aerodrome.
In the retro
Located near the Pyrenees, Saint-Gaudens has already been the starting city of the Tour fourteen times. On July 14, 1970, the platoon left the sub-prefecture of Haute-Garonne for La Mongie. Bernard Thévenet discovers the event at the age of 22. The driver of the Peugeot team has already shown some climbing qualities, but he is already very happy during this 18e stage to follow the Merckx, Van Impe and Zoetemelk on the final climb, especially after their fall in the early hours of the day.
But a man comes to whisper a few words in his ear. This is Robert Chapatte. Dismissed from the ORTF after the 1968 strike, the former cyclist comments on the race from the Europe 1 motorcycle. Chapatte launches the young Thévenet to attack: “Look, they’re all cooked, attack, you’ll win the stage!” » French runs – “For me, it was the same Chapatte” – and will pick up his first stage victory. Five years later, the journalist finds the microphone of Antenne 2 and comments on the first Tour won by Thévenet (which will be followed by a second in 1977).
The wagon sweeps
This Tuesday it was hot on the Tour route, but not just on the road. In Foix, the press center has taken on the appearance of a sauna under the roof of the local tennis club. Sweaty bodies, sweaty palms and overheated computers. After a meal whose quality and generosity we praised live (magnificent cooking on the barbecue of the lamb shoulder), some colleagues who were a little satisfied and overwhelmed by the heat moved tables and TVs to organize a kind of “backlighting” on the outside of the hangar.
The opportunity to follow the great victory of Hugo Houle almost fresh or to suffer with Romain Bardet, all with the river Arieja below. Some have even been tempted by a small foot bath. Foix wins the title of the most bucolic stage of this Tour of 2022 by hand on the handlebars. We promise that we will return very soon.
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