Tour de France 2014: Tourmalet torture marks end of Pyrenees climbs

The 17-kilometre slog is nasty enough, but it’s the Col du Hautacam that will really put a rocket under the day’s racing

Thursday’s stage is the final day in the Pyrenees for an increasingly beleaguered bunch of riders. Unfortunately for their tired limbs, it might just be the hardest and most dramatic of the race so far.

Two enormous climbs stand between the peloton and the salvation of flatter lands to come — the fact that those peaks of the Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam are bundled into only 145 kilometres of racing is both a blessing and a curse. There may be fewer hours in the saddle to endure for those fast losing the fight to go on climbing – yet those hours will be more furiously ridden as a result.

Hiding places are difficult to find on a stage like this. The 17-kilometre slog up the Tourmalet is nasty enough, but it’s the Hautacam that will really put a rocket under the day’s racing.

Consistently steep with occasional ramps of over 10 per cent, it is a climb that has consistently acted as the maker and breaker of yellow-jersey dreams through the modern history of the Tour.

In 1996 Bjarne Riis launched a memorable attack here that became infamous as the years went by. Riis’ turbo-charged assault turned out to have been fuelled by EPO – as was Lance Armstrong’s equally blistering attack four years later which brought him the second of seven consecutive Tours.

The 2014 race has been refreshingly clear of those type of scandals. Look out for one of the rejuvenated Frenchmen to make a telling move – Romain Bardet, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot are locked in a tricolore rumble for the last spot on the podium.

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