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. The climbers stretch the legs on the Côte de Fanjeaux (2.4 kilometres at 4.9%) and Côte de Pamiers (2.3 kilometres at 5.8%), although attackers undoubtedly will want to do more than just stretch the legs – they want to go clear on the Fanjeaux. The hill is crested at kilometre 25, so it is a perfect place to break away.
The route continues in undulating fashion and after 124 kilometres the riders enter a long false flat, which is getting steeper along the way until Col de Portet d’Aspet is crested at kilometre 155.5. The actual climb is 5.4 kilometres at 7.1% with its steepest section approximately 1 kilometre before the top.
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. Back 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 6.9 kilometres climb at 8.1% with, early on, some intimidating double digit stretches.
A descent with a lot of 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 and on rolling roads the route continues to the base of the Col du Portillon. The fairly regular closing climb is 8.3 kilometres at 7.1%.
The summit of the Portillon lies 10 kilometres before the finish. Fast descenders can take advantage as it’s almost all downhill after the top. Three hairpins in short succession with 5 kilometres out could be tricky – and on it goes on a probably rainy descent. The last kilometre is played out on the flat. 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.
The first three riders on the line win time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds. The intermediate sprint (at kilometre 124) does not come with a time bonus, it’s a sprint for green jersey points.
Tour de France 2018 stage 16: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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Climb details Col de Portet-d’Aspet and Mente
Climb details Col du Portillon
Profile final kilometres
Route final kilometres
Carscassonne and Bagnères-de-Luchon at Google maps