Stage 19: Lourdes – Laruns. 200km.

Our final day in the mountains, and we’ll be making the most of it with what Prudhomme has described as “the frightening Aspin-Tourmalet-Bordères-Soulor-Aubisque sequence”. The high point of this stage comes roughly halfway, at the top of the Tourmalet (one for all col baggers: it’s the most climbed mountain in Tour history), but the real struggle will take place in the final third, with an ascent of the picturesque but little-known Col des Bordères en route to the fiercesome Col du Soulor. This is then followed by the vertiginous balcony road of the Cirque du Litor, and finally the magnificent Aubisque. Whilst being a mighty test for pros and Le Loopers alike, the Aubisque really is one of the most exceptionally beautiful climbs: a spectacular way to say goodbye to the Pyrenees.

Stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse – Pau. 172km.

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Stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse – Pau. 172km.

A brief respite from the mountains, this stage will be a chance for the pro sprinters to get back in the game (depending on how many of them have survived the gradients of the last few days) and for us to stretch our legs and remember what ‘flat’ feels like. We’ll enjoy blasting along the warm southern tarmac, perhaps stopping for a few selfies among the fields of sunflowers as we head for Pau, a Royal town (birthplace of Henri-‘Paris is worth a mass’-IV) which the Tour loves so much that this will be the 70th visit. This stage won’t feel easy after the last couple of days but it will be a very manageable 100 miler in the glorious French southern sun.

Stage 17: Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan. 65km.

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Stage 17: Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan. 65km.

This stage is a treat in many ways. It’s the shortest stage the Tour has seen in 30 years, at 65km, and more than half of that (38km) will be uphill. What’s more, it features a brand new climb – the Col de Portet – which is not only making its Tour de France debut, but will have been especially paved for the race (it’s currently a dirt track), and is described by Christian Prudhomme as having “all the assets to become a new Tourmalet”. The unusually short parcours, whilst striking fear into the hearts of the pro peloton (who will have to cover the 3,100m of vertical gain at a near-sprint), means that we’ll be able to take this stage at a comfortable pace, enjoying the views from the Col de Peyragudes and the Col de Val Lauron-Azet before celebrating the Pyrenees’ highest ever summit finish.

Stage 16: Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon. 218km.

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Stage 16: Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon. 218km.

We’re back in the mountains today, with a 218km stage taking us across the plains of Aude and Ariège and into the Pyrenees, with a brief incursion into Spain the only time this Tour breaches France’s borders. A stage of two halves, we get a 120km peloton parade to start the day and then all of a sudden we’re in the mountains. Grimpeurs will be pleased with the triple of Col de Portet-d’Aspet, Col de Mentée and Col de Portillon. The rest of us will be glad that we tackle the final climb from its gentler side, and have an 11km descent into Bagnères-de-Luchon to end the day.

Rest Day 2 Vlog. Carcassonne 0km

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Stage 15: Millau to Carcassonne. 181km.

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Stage 15: Millau to Carcassonne. 181km.

Passing under the impressive Millau Viaduct (the tallest bridge in Europe when it was opened in 2004), today’s stage throws up some amazing geological features. We’ll get gorges, caves, cliff faces and green, green plateaux and pastures in between. It also features the Tour’s first ever ascent of the Pic de Nore – relatively gentle gradients, but topping out at 1,211m – before rolling down towards the flatter lands of the wine-growing region of Languedoc-Roussillon and our destination Carcassonne, a fully restored and breath-taking medieval city.