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The 2018 Tour de France will enter its final week on Tuesday, and Stage 16 will take the riders into Spain for the first and only time this year.
It will only be a short trip into Spain, as the finish line is in the French village of Bagneres-de-Luchon, where Chris Froome made his decisive move in 2016.
With plenty of climbing still to come in the Pyrenees in the coming days, this stage should be about two things: A tribute to Fabio Casartelli, who tragically died on the Col de Portet d’Aspet in 1995, and the final descent toward the finish line.
Route: From Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon
TV Info: Eurosport, ITV (UK), NBC (U.S.)
Live stream links: Eurosport Player, ITV Hub, NBC Sports App
Expected time of finish: After 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET
Le Tour de France @LeTour
🕒 Find below the schedule for tomorrow stage between Carcassonne and Bagnères-de-Luchon.
🕒 Retrouvez le programme pour l’étape de demain entre Carcassonne et Bagnères-de-Luchon.
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Most of the action for the overall standings should take place in the second half of this stage, and for breakaway riders hoping for a stage win, this could be the final chance to grab it. The lengthy lead-up to the Col de Portet d’Aspet should give a group the chance to put minutes between them and the peloton, who should save up some energy for what’s to come.
The Col de Portet d’Aspet is a well-known climb for most cycling fans, but unfortunately it’s not remembered for legendary battles or the unique challenge it offers. This was the site of the last fatal accident in the Tour’s history, when Olympic champion Casartelli crashed on the descent.
A memorial for the Italian was erected on the mountain, and expect many riders to follow Dan Martin’s example when the peloton rides past:
Dan Martin @DanMartin86
1 of my earliest Tour de France memories is sadly seeing Fabio Casartelli lying motionless on the descent of Col de Portet d’Aspet. After racing past the memorial numerous times, I finally took the opportunity to stop and pay my respects. RIP Fabio. #tdf2018 #recon https://t.co/sxH2qqbFK4
Two more first-category climbs will follow the Col de Portet d’Aspet, and in all likelihood we’ll see plenty of attacks for both the stage win and the general classification. The ascents themselves aren’t particularly steep or long, but after 15 days of hard racing, a rider could still crack on these slopes.
The real challenge will come once the riders cross the summit of the Col du Portillon, however. The final descent is a technical one, and perfectly suited for a scenario similar to the one we saw in 2016.
Froome shocked everyone by launching an attack in the final descent, grabbing the overall lead and striking a mental blow his rivals never recovered from:
He could try a similar approach, although this descent is a lot more technical―such a move would carry huge risks. Primoz Roglic has some time to make up and could decide the risks are worth it.
This stage will be followed by a brutal Stage 17, a mad dash toward Saint-Lary-Soulan across two first-category climbs and the HC Col de Portet, so a good result on Tuesday could be the momentum-changer that takes a rider to more success in the Pyrenees.