Peloton set to tackle Tours unraced climb

15 July 2012 07:16

If all goes to plan on the 14th stage of the Tour de France Sunday, the peloton will close a small chapter on the race that has remained open for nearly 40 years.

On the 191 km ride from Limoux to Foix, a total of three climbs -- the Col du Portel, the Port de Lers and the Mur de Peguere -- will be tackled by the peloton.

And although the finish line lies 38.5 km downhill from the Peguere summit, that climb's brutally steep passages means a battle for Bradley Wiggins' yellow jersey cannot be ruled out.

Whatever happens, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme should be a happy man if the field stick to the race route.

The last time the Mur de Peguere featured on the race was in 1973 when yellow jersey holder Luis Ocana of Spain decided, for the entire peloton, not to descend the climb for fear of crashing.

In his quest for novelty 39 years later, Prudhomme was only too happy to re-discover the ascension which he hopes will leave a lasting memory.

"We've discovered the Mur de Peguere," the Frenchman said with a smile recently.

"Although it did appear on the Tour in the 1973 edition, the peloton refused to ride the descent. This time, they won't because we'll be going up instead of down.

"It is bound to leave a lasting impression on everyone."

On paper, the Peguere climb looks straightforward enough, if you're a professional bike racer that is: it is 9.3 km long with an average gradient of 7.9 percent.

The final 3.6 km, however, are where it gets complicated with an average gradient of 12 percent and some passages at 18 percent.

Although most of the yellow jersey favourites in the peloton -- Wiggins, defending champion Cadel Evans and Italian challenger Vincenzo Nibali -- can climb, this one is expected to test their skills to the limit.

The first climb of the day starts after 24.7 km of racing when the peloton begins the short 5.3 km hike over the Col de Portel.

The ascension of the 11.4 km climb to the summit of the Port de Lers does not begin until the 115 km mark, but after crossing the summit and tackling a quick descent the 9.3 km to the Peguere starts almost immediately.

"We've really tried to seek out new, challenging routes," added Prudhomme.

"Ones that are likely to tempt attacks. The gradient becomes so steep that, at one time or another, attacks will come and the big favourites will be involved."