Pau is a Tour de France staple. The town in the foothills of the Pyrenees hosted 65 stage starts and 62 stage finishes.
The first half of the race is played on flat roads. While the climbing in the 2020 Pau-Laruns stage commenced on the Col de La Hourcére to continue onto the Col de Soudet, the latter is now tackled from Sainte-Engrâce. This way, the ascent is 15.1 kilometres long and averaging 7.2%. The first part is relatively easy before a section at 12% appears after 5 kilometres. It levels out a bit, only to bounce back to double digits before continuing at around 8%.
The riders descend towards a flat section, which leads onto the Col d’Ichère. The 4.2 kilometres climb at 7% precedes the last obstacle of the day. The Col de Marie Blanque is killer, but it opens in a friendly disguise. The gradients hardly exceed 5% in the first 3 kilometres before Marie Blanque shows her ugly teeth. The last 4 kilometres go up at, respectively, 10%, 12%, 13%, and 10%. The ascent totals 7.7 kilometres and the averag gradient sits at 8.6%.
The first rider at the top is far from sure to win the race. As Marc Hirschi might tell him. In 2020, the Swiss rode solo at the front from the Col de La Hourcére onwards. He crested the Col de Soudet 5 minutes ahead of the peloton, a gap that was down to 20 seconds to the first chasers at the Col de Marie Blanque. The chasers – Tadej Pogacar, Primoz roglic, Egan Bernal, Mikel Landa – caught Hirschi with 2 kilometres remaining before Pogacar took the spoils in the sprint of five.
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Tour de France 2023 stage 5: route, profiles, more
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