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The Tour de France is not an event that rewards ambivalence. Without the passion for the sport, the three-week performance takes on the role of a monotonous story with its impartial viewership becoming disinterested in the daily events. But for devoted fans of the sport, the story is nothing short of exhilarating.
As a story progresses, the plot builds, battles commence, and tragedy strikes. At the heart of this story are the hero and his crew of supporting riders who fight against the villain whose sole purpose is to defeat the hero. Understanding which riders are the heroes and which are the villains in this story is surrounded by ambiguity and remains up to interpretation depending on who you ask.
These characters in this story dance up the gradients of the high mountains; that swelter under the heat of high summer; that endure the bumps, bruises, and broken bones of high-adrenaline sprint finishes - to them, cycling is everything. But from these characters emerge our heroes and villains. They are the ones with style and panache, that go their own ways and stand out against the swelling amorphous swarm of the peloton.
The admiration and reverence we feel towards our heroes become our passion. It drives us to sit on our couches for three weeks cheering. It splits our attention at work between important tasks and important stages. It forces us to plan our summer holidays along the tour’s route, travelling across countries with our partners and families in tow and camping on the roadside of a mountain for days only to bear witness to our heroes pass by - this becomes our everything.
For us at Pas Normal Studios, it drove a group of us to venture down to the Pyrenees and experience firsthand the three most challenging days our heroes will face on this year’s Tour de France. The riders who stand out as individuals from the peloton are our heroes. Understanding how these riders can maintain their sense of individuality under such demanding circumstances is a driving force for how we aim to present ourselves. Pas Normal Studios is not a brand that rewards ambivalence. Our goal has always been to stand apart from the rest - to do things our own way and inspire those that share our same passion for the all-encompassing world of cycling.
Stage 15: Céret - Andorre-la-vieille
Taking the peloton into its first mountain stage in the Pyrenees, the 192km of tarmac traverses over four categorised climbs before a quick downhill finish. After reaching the ski resort at the summit of Font-Romeu, the road descends into the valley before transitioning into the shallow gradients that lead up to the Col de Puymorens. Another short descent gives a brief moment of respite before climbing into Andorra and up towards the Port d’Envalira. At 2,408m above sea level, this summit marks the highest point of this year’s Tour de France. From here a blistering descent commences before the final and decisive climb of the day. The Col de Beixalis delivers an immediate punch with its first-half rising at more than 10%.
Stage 17: Muret - Col du Portet
After a much-needed rest day and a Stage 16 filled with punchy hills, Stage 17 is the host of this year’s Bastille Day route and brings the riders right back into the high mountains of the Hautes-Pyrénées over 178 gruelling kilometres.
The real challenge of the day begins in the last 60km of the stage with the Col de Peyresourde, a Cat 1 climb ascending at a modest 7% gradient for over 13km. The next two climbs - the Col de Val Louron-Azet and the Col du Portet - are served up immediately in succession. The last kilometre of the Col du Portet kicks up to over 10% and marks the highest summit finish in this year’s Tour de France at an altitude of 2,215m.
Stage 18: Pau - Luz Ardiden
Marking the final day in the mountains, Stage 18 takes the riders through the undulating terrain of the foothills of the Pyrenees, slowly ramping up towards the Col do Tourmalet for the Tour’s 88th time in history.
A high-speed descent brings the riders down into Luz-Saint-Saveur before the final climb of the three-week saga. The road up to the final summit finish in the Luz Ardiden ski resort does not see an extraordinary amount of variability but it maintains a punishing 7.4% average gradient throughout its 13km ascent.