Tour de France 2022, stage 16
Start location: Carcassonne
Finish location: Foix
Start time: 11.30 BST
Finish time (approx): 15.58 BST
Gaston III, the Count of Foix, who lived between 1331 and 1391, was one of the most influential rulers of this part of the world. He was a heroic, courageous warrior and accomplished huntsman, and the French mediaeval historian and writer Jean Froissart wrote of him, “I have, in my time, seen many kings, princes and knights, but I have never met such a good-looking and well-formed man, which such a fine figure and such a pleasing and attractive face.” However, according to the writer Matthew Carr in his book The Savage Frontier, the count was also prone to violent rages and paranoia. He murdered his own cousin, and put his only son in prison. He adopted as a motto, in his native Oc language, ‘Toquey si gauses’ (touch me if you dare).
The current leader of the Tour de France, Jonas Vingegaard, has a few things in common with Gaston III, good-looking and well-formed as he is. There has been less evidence of bad anger management, however. Therefore, while historically, nobody dared touch Gaston III, the Danish yellow jersey can fully expect to be attacked from all sides for the rest of the race, starting today.
Stage 16, which kicks off week three of the 2022 Tour de France, is part one of a Pyrenean trilogy of stages, and while it is on paper the easiest of the three, it is still very challenging with a backloaded route. The early part of the stage rolls across the Aude and Ariège départements, and passes within a few kilometres of Foix at the halfway point. However instead of heading straight to the finish town, the Tour will head out on an almost circular route into the Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariègeoises, where the peloton will tackle two tough climbs, both rated category one.
The first is the Port de Lers, which is 11.4km long, with an average of seven per cent, and a mainly quite steady gradient, save for a couple of steep sections at the bottom and three quarters of the way up. The second is the Mur de Peguère, which is a more complicated climb. It has a relatively easy start, but the final kilometres are very steep indeed, with pitches up to 18 per cent. The top comes with 27km to ride. In previous eras, a downhill finish often neutralised mountain stages, at least as far as the GC riders were concerned. However, it’s likely that we’ll see the break detonate either before or over the two climbs, and given the aggressive riders of the GC riders in general during this Tour, it would be no surprise to see them trying to do some damage to their rivals here.
Tour de France 2022 stage 16 map and profile
Straight back to racing after the final rest day of this year’s Tour de France, stage 16 offers very little warm up for the riders to ease back into things. The first categorised climb of the day comes after just 13.7 kilometres of racing, the Côte de Saint-Hilaire (1.5 kilometres at 6.6% average gradient) and this is where we could see a breakaway established. There is little respite for the riders from this point, as they are slapped with the 5.3km Col de l’Espinas just over 30 kilometres later. Although not classified, the Col du Bac which comes straight after l’Espinas is another stinging climb which could be the final death knell to any sprinters still hanging on at this point.
After these opening 43.1 kilometres of climbing action, the peloton will have to navigate through around 70 kilometres of rolling terrain until they hit the opening first category climb of the day. The Port de Lers is a 11.4 kilometre ascent with an average gradient of 7% and will serve as the perfect springboard for attacks from riders who want to go for a long effort, or don’t think they can handle the steep gradients of the final climb of the day which follows.
The Mur de Péguère stage 16’s finale. While the first six kilometres of the 9.3 kilometre climb stay at relatively calm gradients, things kick up for the seventh kilometre which averages 13%, its steepest sector topping at 18%. The gradients then are unrelenting until the top of the climb which takes the riders up to 1,375 metres.
The final 20 kilometres of stage towards Foix include a descent and flat run-in to the line, which could give any sprinters the chance to regain contact with the front of the race if they haven’t lost too much time already. This long approach to the finish means that it could be difficult for attacks which go on the climb to stay away, and a sprint from a small group is likely.
Tour de France 2022 stage 16 contenders and prediction
The Tour de France has raced on this exact finale in Foix twice before and the breakaway has triumphed on both occasions here. Luis León Sánchez took victory here in 2012, while Warren Barguil came out on top in 2017. It’s clear from the area’s history that it’s terrain for climbers, especially those who can pack a punch at the finish.
We’re expecting a big breakaway to go clear on this stage, and it has a chance of making it to the line. Dylan Teuns of Bahrain Victorious is a rider who will relish the steep gradients on the final climb and he’s shown his finishing speed already this season with his win in La Flèche Wallonne. Lennard Kämna of BORA-Hansgrohe has also been active in breakaways during this race and will fancy his chances on the hilly terrain. His teammate Aleksandr Vlasov may have also now lost enough time on GC to go for stage wins in this Tour, so the two combined could make for a formidable duo.
Thibaut Pinot would delight French fans if he could take the win here, and the Groupama-FDJ rider has come close to victory already on multiple occasions in this race. Neilson Powless and Alberto Bettiol of EF-Education EasyPost are also both partial to a day in the break and have the finishing speed to win a reduced sprint into Foix. Benoît Cosnefroy of AG2R Citroën Team has a good chance on these hilly parcours too.
Marc Soler of UAE Team Emirates could be a rider who will go for a stage win here if he’s allowed to by his team who may want to keep him in the bunch to help Tadej Pogačar. Tom Pidcock of the Ineos Grenadiers finds himself in a similar situation, he is well-suited to this stage but may need to help his team’s GC leader Geraint Thomas instead of going for the breakaway himself.
We should also expect a GC battle on the final two climbs. It may be that the likes of UAE Team Emirates want to use this as an opportunity for Pogačar to go for a stage win and gain time on his rivals. If this happens, Jumbo-Visma and Jonas Vingegaard would be forced to react and it could put an end to the chances of the breakaway.
Rouleur predicts: We think that the GC men could fancy their chances in this stage and predict that Tadej Pogačar will take the spoils.