The Pyrenees will figure for one last time in Tour de France 2014 in Stage 18 on Thursday. Rafal Majka of the Tinkoff-Saxo team registered his second triumph in this year's edition in the previous stage. Vincenzo Nibali of the Astana team remains the yellow jersey holder.
In stage 17, a distance of 145.5 kilometres will be covered between Pau and Hautacam. Riders have to contend with four mountain climbs in the short distance with the well-known Col du Tourmalet figuring prominently in this stage.
As the stage commences at Pau, flat territory lies before the riders. This is in keeping with the previously held mountain stages where flat areas were seen before the climbs.
The flat portion should please the contestants as it gives them a chance to go into the lead early. However, retaining such a lead will be easier said than done. Two mountain climbs feature in the initial 78 kilometres; these, though, should not pose too many problems. The Cote de Benejacq comes at 28 kilometres and then the Cote de Loucrup at 56 kilometres.
An intermediate sprint will be on view in this stretch itself. From here an upward trail ensues as the contestants make for Sainte-Marie-de-Campan. It is here that lies the starting point of the Col du Tourmalet. Contestants have to be at their sharpest as they have to ride no fewer than 17.1 kms here. Col du Tourmalet belongs to the hors categorie (HC). After the 5 km mark the very gruelling parts appear as every ounce of energy will be tested here.
The top appears 50 km before the ending point. From 18.5 kms, riders start descending from the uppermost point of the stages in the Pyrenees. After 17 more kms, the contestants head toward Hautacam, the finishing point. Here lies the last mountain climb which incidentally is another HC ascent. The second stretch of this climb is said to be rather hard, reported CyclingQuotes.com. This climb lasts 13.6 kms.
The concluding kilometre contains sharp turns as the ending 50 metres are straight. Rafal Majka, who remained calm in the last gruelling stage, will be looking to repeat his success here. Vincenzo Nibali, with all his experience, will hope to strengthen his hold on the overall lead.
Where to Watch Live:
Ten Sports Day 18
7-45 PM To 9-15 PM (IST) Thursday