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Tour de France Stage 8 Preview

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July 8, 2016 – On being questioned about this weekend’s two mountain stages in the Pyrénées, most of the top favorites have said that Sunday’s longer stage through Spain into Andorra will be the more decisive, especially as it has a mountaintop finish. But they shouldn’t discount this Saturday’s 184-kilometer stage 8 of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016).

#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada

It’s has the appearance of a classic Pau–Luchon stage where so much Tour history has been played out. But, as race director Christian Prudhomme points out, the classic version “has been revisited.” Indeed. Instead of the usual climbing combination of Aubisque-Tourmalet-Aspin-Peyresourde, the organizers have rerouted the stage, eliminating the early Aubisque and concentrated most of the climbing into the final 70 kilometers.

On the day’s first (and highest) col, the Tourmalet (19 kilometers at 7.4 percent), the domestiques of Movistar and Sky, on behalf of Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome respectively, will likely make tempo to put their rivals under early pressure. The front half of the peloton should regroup on the descent, but once the leaders cross Friday’s finish line at Lac de Payolle, 73 kilometers from Saturday’s finish, the action will be non-stop. The race doesn’t go back over the Aspin before the Peyresourde; instead it takes in, not one, but two climbs: the Hourquette d’Ancizan (8 kilometers at 5 percent) and the tougher Val Louron-Azet (that averages 8 percent for the last 8 kilometers). After a steep descent, the Peyresourde follows immediately with 8-percent grades for another 7 kilometers of climbing.

Whoever is at the front over the Peyresourde will likely win the stage because it’s mostly downhill for the final 15 kilometers. Last year, in a similar finish at Luchon (this image), Michael Rogers won the stage win at Luchon and took a farewell bow before his retirement. This Saturday, it would be good to see a climber such as Dan Martin, Richie Porte or Pierre Roland do well—unless the top favorites decide they want to make a statement before Sunday’s Andorra stage.

Follow @pelotonmagazine for more #pelotonshorts from John Wilcockson.
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