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Tour Stage 15 Preview: Pontarlier - Verbier

Stage 15 :: Sunday July 19, 2009
207.5km :: Pontarlier - Verbier

Finally, a stage that is un-flat. Four Cat.3 climbs (such as they are) the Cat.2 Col des Mosses and a summit finish in Verbier. The Alps are upon us and now we'll see the GC contenders shake the rust off and start to climb for well and true. Quite a few of our Cafe members are going out to the Alps, so keep your eyes on the pavement for the occasional \o/ chalked out.

So, tell me... You sick of the flat stages and slow rolling breakaways? Ready to see the sprinters fall through the back of the peloton and form the grupetto? Want to see a bunch of guys who have been non-descript for the majority of this race since Monaco suddenly come into their own? Are you ready to see your favorite GC rider either grow wings and annhilate their competitors with a cadence you can only dream of or leave it all out on the course and crack utterly, the front wheel going side to side as they struggle, mightily, to maintain even the barest breath of momentum?

I thought so :)


It's late on Saturday morning, Gavia, help me out here so I can finally get around to cleaning up my climbing gear...

The Tour visits Switzerland during this stage for the second mountain-top finish of this year’s race. Setting out from Pontarlier, the course travels east passing by Lac de Neuchâtel and climbs six categorized climbs. The finishing climb to the ski resort town at Verbier, which has a category 1 rating, makes it’s début at the Tour de France this year. This stage suits the climbers and offers one of their main chances to chase yellow. Time gaps should open up by the finish, though the main contenders will likely remain close on time in Verbier.

Situated approximately 20 kilometers from the Swiss border, Pontarlier was recently designated one of the 25 most beautiful cities in France. Since I’ve never been there, I’ll have to take their word for it. During the nineteenth century, Pontarlier became known as the capital of Absinthe, the favorite drink of artists like Charles Baudelaire, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, and Oscar Wilde. Absinthe was hugely popular in France until its ban in 1915. Many of the old distilleries still stand. Not into the "Green Fairy"? Pontarlier was also home to pioneers of aviation in the early years of the twentieth century.

Courtesy of Gavia's Stage 15 Preview at


We start in France, but that doesn't last long as it's straight into Switzerland.  Within the first 25% of this stage, the riders will go over all four of the Cat.3 climbs...

  • Côte du Rafour at 3.7 km averaging a gradient of 5.1 %
  • Col des Étroits at 1.5 km averaging a gradient of 5 %
  • Côte de La Carrière at 6.3 km averaging a gradient of 4.4 %
  • Côte de Prévonloup at 4.5 km averaging a gradient of 4.7 %

Quite a bit of higher end rolling terrain to ride over, but one can hope it will provide a nice warm up for everyone.

Just after the Cheesing Station in Gruyères, it's time for a real climb, the Cat.2 Col des Mosses. It is 13.8km long while averaging a 4% gradient over that length. It's nice to finally start seeing double digit distances for the rated climbs instead of those little 2.7km long 2.3% Cat.4 speed bumps from earlier this week.

The finale of the stage is the summit finish at the Verbier ski village. The climb is 8.8km long averaging 7.5%. The intermediate sprint at Martigny lies at 501m, with this summit finish being at 1468m, an increase of 967m.