A Ridiculous Day Over Six Mountains with Two *HC* Passes
Stage 19 begins in Lourdes, a town where the Virgin Mary is said to have made a miraculous appearance. The route then crosses over Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet, Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque. These traditional passes through the Pyrenees include an altitude difference of 4,700 meters along a demanding course.
The picture at top shows an HC pass over Col du Tourmalet. The area is a ski resort in the heart of the Pyrenees. You can see gondolas moving at considerably steep angles, and yet it will be bicycles climbing the mountain road. The route ascends to an altitude of 1,250 meters from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan at the mountain’s foot. A prize of €5,000 goes to the winner on this pass. The award is named after Jacques Goddet, the second director of the Tour de France.
Can We Expect a Miracle on the Final Mountain Course?
The goal on this day is downhill from the final pass over Col d’Aubisque. After ascending two passes that begin at an altitude of 448 meters and finally end at 1,709 meters, the riders will suddenly race down to 482 meters.
Many mountain roads in France lack guardrails. As we can see from the background of photos, low stones and blocks are all that mark the cliffside boundary. This is the kind of road contestants navigate down toward the goal. And they accelerate with great momentum, their pedals spinning about furiously. Some cyclists exceed speeds of 100 km/h.
In fact, the world record for the fastest downhill descent on a bicycle is 223.3 km/h. It was set on a snowy mountain by a rider on a special bicycle and wearing special clothes designed for minimal air resistance.
After this mountain, all that remains is the individual time trial and then the final day of racing. This is when we find out who will wear the maillot jaune. Can we hope to witness a miracle?