Our time in the purgatory of transition stages is at an end and now we begin the ascent into the Alps courtesy of the joining of France and Italy in vertiginous matrimony. Stage 15 is 183km long (about 110 miles) running from Embrun in France to the summit at Prato Nevoso in Italy. On the menu are an appetizer of the HC rated Col Agnel (Colle dello Agnello "Pass of the Lambs") a palette cleanser of the Cat.3 Colle del Morte (does that really mean "Hill of the Dead Women?) and for dessert, a mountain top finish in Prato Nevoso ("Snowy Meadows"... who or whatever Prato is h/t TheFigureHead). On with the shiny graphics shall we?
(All videos added to bottom of post...)
We start in Embrun and begin heading northwest up into the mountains, first passing through an intermediate sprint at Guillestre.
Through the sprint, the peloton will continue into Château-Queyras and the first rises of the Alps begin climbing through a series of valleys from Château-Queyras to Molines en Queyras and then leaving most of civilization behind to climb to the third highest paved pass in Europe.
When the riders get to Fontgillarde, it's a slog up to the mountain pass of Col Agnel, no switchbacks to speak of, just gentle curves and not so gentle inclines.
Finally, almost within sight of the summit, the gradient peaks out over 10% after one of the few hairpins and then the road leads on to the summit at 2,744m (9000 feet elevation).
The landscape does look fairly barren.
Once over the summit, and safely ensconced in Italy, there appears to be a crazy... and I mean bug-nuts crazy, descent to Chianale
The riders who survive (I'm lookin' at you Fränk) have the typical mountain stage valley run to Casteldelfino, then another 26k beyond that to Brossasco, the feed zone and immediately following that the second and final intermediate sprint in Rossana.
From Rossana to Busca and then straight over to Poveragno, crossing the Stura di Demonte River.
After Peveragno it's Cat.3 Dead Woman Hill and a turn almost due west to head to Villanova Mondovi where we start the climb up to the Cat.1 Summit in Prato Nevoso
First it's easy...
Then not so much...
Culminating in "Oh Dear God..."
Again the wily organizers saved the max gradient for the end... 8.5% of leg breaking incline about 600 meters from the finish.
Here is the video for the Col Agnel, hot off the encoder. If you click this link, you can go to YouTube directly and watch it in "High Quality" by clicking those very words under the video. For some reason, the URL hack to allow someone to embed the video in high quality isn't working. C'est la vie.
Here is the flyover of Prato Nevoso; obviously, Chris doubled the production budget. High quality for this one is located here.