Tour de France 2022, stage 17
Start location: Saint-Gaudens
Finish location: Peyragudes
Start time: 12.15 BST
Finish time (approx): 15.50 BST
The writer and critic John Sturrock, in his book The French Pyrenees, compared France’s southern mountain range favourably to the Alps, which he felt were showier and more geared to tourism. “The Pyrenees have a great honesty about them,” he wrote. “You could say that they are the democratic version of the Alps.”
There’s a similar honesty about stage 17 of the 2022 Tour de France. The profile shows the four major climbs that the race will tackle in the second half of the stage: the first-category Col d’Aspin, the second-category Hourquette d’Ancizan, the cat-one Col de Val Louron-Azet and the final cat-one ascent to Peyragudes.
However, there’s nothing democratic about this route: all riders will theoretically have an equal chance of winning, but realistically this is a stage for the climbers. None of these climbs stand out for their difficulty, and they’re climbing by far the easier side of the Hourquette d’Ancizan. None are hors-catégorie. However, it’s the repetition that will get the riders, along with the fact that we are now deep into week three of the race, and the final part of the stage, the climb from the Col de Peyresourde up to the altiport at Peyragudes, is one of the hardest pitches of the entire Tour, with the final few hundred metres averaging 13 per cent. This is a relatively new addition to the Tour, having first appeared in 2012, however the road over the Col de Peyresourde, now known as the D618, is one of the oldest roads in the Pyrenees, conceived and built in the 18th century by a local administrator, Antoine Mégret d’Étigny, who aimed to create lateral links in a region which at the time had hardly any. The Tour de France has a lot to thank d’Étigny for,
The start town, Saint-Gaudens, is the home of Jacqueline Boyer, the chanteuse who won the 1960 Eurovision Song Contest for France with the deathless Tom Pillibi. France enjoyed considerable success in the early years of Eurovision, winning three out of the first seven, and then a couple more times through the 1960s and 1970s. However, they have not won since 1977, which is an even longer victory drought than the home riders are enduring at the Tour de France.
Saint-Gaudens is not the only part of the route with a history of pop culture. Parts of the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies were filmed at Peyragudes. The filming was a large-scale operation, with exciting scenes and dramatic explosions. Hopefully it’s a good omen for the visit of the 2022 Tour de France.
Tour de France 2022 stage 17 map and profile
Stage 17 is defined by four huge Pyrenean climbs packed into less than 130km, the last of which Peyragudes, will provide the first of two back-to-back summit finishes. The Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette d’Ancizan will thin out the bunch but will be unlikely to provide a point of action for the GC contenders.
The penultimate climb, the Col d’Azet, which peaks at 110km ridden, could provide the first launchpads for attacks and, if a breakaway is up the road, see the first decisive splits or attacks for the stage win.
The stats of the final climb, Peyragudes, 8km with an average gradient of 7.8%, don't do the difficulty of the climb justice. The final 3km really begin to ramp up, with the final kilometre the sting in the tail. At an average of 13% the final kilometre gets as steep as 16% and could see some significant time gaps if one of the GC contenders begins to suffer.
Peyragudes profile, Tour de France 2022 stage 17
Tour de France 2022 stage 17 predictions and contenders
If stage 16 was the Pyrenean amuse-bouche, stage 17 is the first half of a huge main course. The breakaway looked like dead cert with stage 16's downhill finish, but stage 17 is the first of two savage summit finishes.
At 129.7km in length, expect an aggressive race and a breakaway to attempt to go from the gun.
It will be difficult to establish a huge time gap given the distance and the GC group could also race hard from the outset.
That means, once again, this Tour de France stage is difficult to predict.
We think the GC contenders will battle it out this particular stage win, as they did the last time the race finished here in 2017, albeit on a more than 200km stage.
The steep finish to altiport on Peyragudes will suit the fast-finishing Tadej Pogačar than it will the current yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard, and there could be a repeat of stage seven's finish to Super Planche des Belles Filles on the cards here.
Romain Bardet, who won here in 2017, will hope to muster some of the form from that particular year, but looked out of sorts on stage 16, losing significant time to the other contenders. If he can regroup, he's unlikely to be a marked man in the finale and could salvage something from this Tour.
Nairo Quintana looked like something closer to his old self on the climbs of stage 16, sticking to Pogačar and Vingegaard. If he can go long on Peyragudes he perhaps stands a chance of being allowed to stay away for victory, unlike when he attacked earlier in the Alps on Col du Granon.
The Ineos pair of Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates still look someway off being able to match the punch of Pogačar and Vingegaard, so a win from that team seems very remote on a finish like this.
Rouleur predicts: We think Tadej Pogačar will win the stage, but Jonas Vingegaard will hold onto yellow.