With its medieval fortresses Carcassonne is a popular tourist attraction and the town receives some three million visitors annually. The knights of the road saddle their steel horses to head in southwesterly direction.
The first half of the route is played out on flat to rolling roads, but things change in the last 70 kilometres. Firsty, the Col de Portet d’Aspet, which is climbed from Aucazein, thus accounting for 5.8 kilometres at 6.8%. A gentle warm-up.
On descent the riders pass the monument in honour of Fabio Casartelli, who died in a crash on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet in the 1995 Tour de France. Once in the valley the road immediately goes back up again, this time to head for the summit of the Col de Menté. This is a 7 kilometres climb at 7.8% with, early on, steepest sectors of up to 10%.
A descent with a lot hairpins, especially in the first part, takes the riders to the valley of the Garonne. Momentarily the Tour de France dips its toe into Spain before the closing climb makes its appearance. The Col du Portillon is an 8.3 kilometres ascent with an average gradient of 7.1%. No steep slopes, it’s a fairly regular climb.
The summit of the Portillon lies 10.5 kilometres before the finish. Fast descenders can take advantage of the drop to the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon. The winner follows in the footsteps of Thomas Voeckler (2012), Michael Rogers (2014), and Chris Froome (2016).
That last victory was startling. People always thought of Froome as a poor descender, but when all GC-favourites reached the crest of the then last climb Peyresourde together, he dropped down like a rock and won the race 13 seconds ahead of his opponents.
Tour de France 2018 stage 16: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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Route and profile 16th stage
Climb details Col de Portet-d’Aspet and Mente
Climb details Col du Portillon
Profile 16th stage
Carscassonne and Bagnères-de-Luchon at Google maps