126km to go: Asgreen’s lead is 1min 37sec, and the two people trying to catch him have given up and been sucked back into the peloton.
130km to go: They’re very much in the lower foothills of the Col de Port. Col is French for pass, whereas Port is Occitan for, er, pass. So Col de Port = pass of pass. It is, according to the first hit I got in a popular search engine, “one of the easiest ‘big’ climbs in the French Pyrenees”.
134km to go: On their way up the Col de Port, which they will be very shortly, they’re going to pass through the village of Saurat. On its official website, Saurat has the following warning for its residents today:
Par ailleurs, il est indispensable de maîtriser tous vos animaux (chien, chat, poule, âne etc.) le mardi 13 juillet de 8h à 18h. En cas de divagation d’un animal vous appartenant, votre responsabilité est fortement engagée.
They are, in brief, being asked to control their animals, “dog, cat, chicken, donkey etc”. Saurat also has a storytelling festival to look forward to later this month.
141km to go: A couple of riders have had enough of Asgreen getting all the attention, and set off after him. They are Casper Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven. All three have names that end in -en, which may or may not be relevant.
151km to go: Asgreen is now a full minute ahead of everyone else. He a three-time time trial champion of Denmark, don’t you know. Here he is talking about his lockdown life: “I’ve seen people taking up various hobbies, like painting, baking bread or learning new languages. We started a big project at home: renovating our garden. So yes, that kept us very busy. There hasn’t been a lack of things to do, let’s put it like that.” Asgreen-fingered, you could say.
158km to go: Asgreen has stretched his lead past 20 seconds, despite the fact that wet roads are forcing riders to hold back a little on their descent.
165km to go: Kasper Asgreen has set off on his own. The gap is short, and nobody seems very concerned about it.
169km to go: And they’re off! There’s some 35km of downhill to start the stage, before they get stuck into the first of the day’s climbs.
Everybody stops, a few hundred metres from the start, and the riders strip off some of their warmer clothes they’ve had on for the rollout.
Just 3km from the start of the stage, just enough time to ready Jeremy’s report on yesterday’s stage, won by Sepp Kuss:
Jeremy Whittle has spoken to Tao Geoghegan Hart, winner of last year’s Giro d’Italia, about his “unlucky but also really lucky” debut Tour experience:
The rollout has begun, and there is about 15km of it remaining before the actual racing gets under way.
The rest of the Tour looks like this: three more Pyrenean stages, starting with today’s, of which the last two have mountain-top finishes and at least one hors-categorie climb. Then a long, sprinter-friendly rush from Mourenx to Libourne on Friday, a time trial to wine-growing hotspot Saint-Émilion on Saturday, and the final roll into Paris.
Whether any of this will give anyone the opportunity to overhaul Tadej Pogacar, five minutes clear of his closest challenger at the top of the GC standings, remains to be seen, but the very likely answer is that it doesn’t. However, there’s plenty of potential for fun, starting with today’s stage, plump as it is with breakaway potential. Let’s see what it has to throw at us, shall we?
William Fotheringham’s stage-by-stage guide to this year’s tour had the following to say about this one:
Stage 16, Tuesday 13 July, Pas de la Case – Saint-Gaudens 169km
Five days of climbing in the Pyrenees is almost unprecedented for the Tour, and each is very different: today involves shorter, steep ascents, with the main sort-out likely to come on the Col de la Core before the final shootout on the Portet-d’Aspet. By this point in the race, each day’s breakaway will include many of the same riders, with teams getting increasingly panicked if they haven’t yet won a stage. The overall contenders will want this to be a controlled stage, but these roads are eminently suitable for skirmishing involving the likes of Alaphilippe or Daniel Martin of Ireland.