With stage one taking place in the heart of the Department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, riders left Pau again this morning to compete in the longest stage of the week: a 137km race, including a summit finish at the Port de Balès.
After a good recovery, Frenchman Christian Bigay felt ready to attack this morning: “I will go slower than yesterday but I will try to climb faster on the final climb, just to test myself on a first category climb. It’s an international race and that makes it really nice. We also all help each other, give advice and ask questions, it’s great!”
With a similar profile to the day before, the participants started the second stage of the Haute Route Pyrenees with a secured convoy of 23 kilometres out to the first timing mat. They were able to enjoy an incredible sunrise as they crossed cornfields and small villages typical of the Béarn countryside.
Once the timing begun, the preceding 50 kilometres featured a hilly course, alternating between sections in the valley and small hills, up to the foot of the Château de Mauvezin. With a maximum percentage reaching 7%, the riders were able to test their climbing legs in this short climb, preparing themselves for what was to come at Port de Balès.
The riders then re-grouped, taking turns at the front of the pelotons that had formed at the beginning of the stage. As they headed towards Mauléon-Barousse, located at the foot of the challenging Port of Balès, riders took the chance to get to know each other more, exchange cycling stories and tick off the miles before the looming climb. At 19km long, this climb begins with a smaller gradient, following the Ourse de Ferrère stream. As the road climbs and curves its way through the forest, the riders face increasing percentages, approaching 8% over 12 kilometres.
Arriving panting at the top, the participants took the time to get their breath back before taking in the panoramic view and soaking in the achievement. Originally from the Pyrenees, Camille Deligny from France never tires of the beauty of this pass: “It started to be hot in the last kilometres but it’s a really nice pass, it’s beautiful. We are lucky because the view is great and with the summit finish, it allows you to take pictures and enjoy it once you have completed the stage!”
Germany’s Lina-Kristin Schink, who cycled alongside Camille all day, added: “Today, we started more slowly compared to yesterday where we attacked at the beginning and we were not so strong at the end. The climb was superb today, we were together all along, it was nice to be in good company and do it together! We are not registered in Duo but we found our pace and we cycled well in the valleys.”
At the front of the race, Italian Carlo Fino won his second consecutive stage ahead of Frenchman Pierre Carlet and American Daniel Lincoln. On the women’s side, Georgia Perry also retains first place overall and wins the stage ahead of American Alisha Myers and Camille Deligny of France. The rankings remain unchanged in the Duo category, with Carina Brao Caffe and BWCC Venom winning respectively in the Duo Men and Duo Mixed categories.
With 3,500 metres of elevation gain on the programme, tomorrow’s stage is the biggest stage in terms of climbing. After a departure from Bagnères-de-Luchon, the peloton will take on the Port de Balès from the other side before climbing the Ares and Menté cols. They will then finish a challenging stage with the magnificent ascent of Hospice de France.