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The Daily Race: Tour de France Stage 15

Tour de France Podium Cafe

Stage 15: Pamiers — Bagnères-du-Luchon

What is it? More mountains! Mad men descending finish.
Got Climbs? Yes, and the final climb of the day is the hors catègorie Port de Balès.
Yellow Jersey Battle: No time like the present.
Ideal Rider: David Arroyo. At the Giro d'Italia, Arroyo fought a desperate battle to hold his race lead against Ivan Basso. On the wet, technical descent off the Mortirolo, Arroyo took over a minute out of his Italian rival in a fab display of crazy descending skillz. This stage begs for a downill ace like Arroyo to attack on the tricky drop from the Port de Balès.
@Gavia: Mountain top finishes make for more time gaps, but I can never resist a descending finish. Drag race!

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The Climbs
Col de Portet-d'Aspet
Col des Ares
Port de Balès

The Tour continues its jaunt about the Pyrénées with this stage between Pamiers and Bagnères-du-Luchon. Four categorized climbs enliven the proceedings and the final hors catègorie Port de Balès summits with 20 kilometers left to race. The descent off the Port de Balès is fast and technical, and only the daredevils will look forward to this finish. As Arroyo showed us at the Giro, a good descender can gain a big advantage on a technical descent. Samuel Sánchez is smiling.

The big climbs come at the end of this stage, and the race covers around 90 kilometers of rolling terrain before reaching the Col de Portet-d'Aspet. The Aspet is short and steep at 5.8 kilometers with a section at nearly 11%. There are scarcely any flat kilometers from the Col de Portet-d'Aspet to the finish, as the riders climb the Col de Buret and the Col des Ares on the way to the final ascent of the day.

The Port de Balès is a nasty piece of work. It's a 19.3 kilometer slog to the summit. The average gradient is a relatively kind 6.1%, but there are multiple sections of road in the 10% and 11% range. The climb stairsteps, alternating relatively easy stretches with steep ramps.Tour de France Podium Cafe Col de Ares The pure climbers will eat this one up, though they may need their parachutes to get to the finish. The descent is a tricky business and only the good descenders will enjoy it.

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Photo: Doug Pensinger, Getty