The quick and relatively easy way to get from the sparkling wine-producing town of Limoux in the Aude valley to Foix, capital of the Ariège, involves a rolling 40km ride through the Pyrenean foothills; today’s stage takes the longer and tougher way round, heading into the high mountains with climbs of the Category 2 Col du Portel and Category 1 Port de Lers and Mur de Péguère, the latter crested a little under 40km out. It’s a tough climb; the final 10 kilometres or so have an average gradient of 8 per cent, with a brutal 18 per cent section. Foix has hosted a stage finish once before, in 2008, when Kurt Asle Arvesen took the sole Tour de France stage win of his career.
Never a stage town until last year, when it hosted the start of Stage 15, Limoux this year celebrates the rare distinction of a second consecutive visit by the Tour. Meawhile Foix, the historic town where today’s stage finishes, is known to generations of French schoolchildren through the rhyme:
Il était une fois / Une marchande de foie / Qui vendait du foie / Dans la ville de Foix
Elle se dit ma foi / C'est la première fois / Et la dernière fois / Que je vends du foie / Dans la ville de Foix
Geraint Thomas says: It’s still a long way to the finish from that last climb, it’s a long way to go on your own especially once they get organised behind, and you still have a good 20-odd kilometres on the flat. But if there’s a GC guy who is having a bad day and gets dropped, then you could see the other GC men really going for it. It should be a breakaway day and the GC guys will just be thinking about getting through and not losing time rather than somewhere where they gain it, to be honest.
To find out more about the stages in this year's race check out our full 2012 Tour de France Preview with analysis of each stage and tips from Team Sky's Geraint Thomas
The Fantasy Cycling Stage 14 transfer window closes at 11.20 (UK time) on Sunday morning
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