• Crowds 'R' Us... The fans don't get much bigger (or wilder) than those in the Pyrénées. (AFP)Source: AFP
If you don't know Pau - and no, not Poh the chef! - by now, then clearly, you don't know Le Tour...
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15 Jul 2015 - 4:30 PM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2015 - 4:44 PM

This year marks the 67th occasion La Grande Boucle will come to the third most visited town (behind Paris and Bordeaux) in Tour de France history, population c. 85,000.

By contrast, Cauterets - a town where, like the bar Cheers, everybody knows your name - population c. 1,200 inhabitants, has been honoured with a Tour visit only once before; a spa town and ski resort in the region of Midi-Pyrénées in south-western France, Cauterets held its first-ever stage finish in 1953 edition of the Tour.

Like this year, the day also began in Pau. And on the first of seven high mountain stages in the 40th edition of the race - comprised of 22 stages over 4,479 kilometres - Jesús Loroño let his intentions be known with a win, thus taking the lead in the mountains classification (there was no polka-dot maillot till 1975, however). The Spaniard would keep his advantage till Paris, where he finished well clear of Louison Bobet, the Frenchman posting the first of three consecutive overall wins. Four years later, Loroño would triumph in his home tour, with victory in the 1957 Vuelta a España.

With the Col d'Aspin and Col du Tourmalet to be tackled, today, like Stage 10 of the '53 Tour, could reveal the ultimate wearer of le maillot à pois.

It should be noted the climb to Cauterets goes further than where it ends today; at 1,330 metres' altitude, Cauterets-Cambasque (Cambasque literally meaning 'Basque land'), is a further 416 metres higher than the popular Pyrenean ski village.

Cauterets-Cambasque was the stage finish of the 1989 Tour, where five-time winner Miguel Indurain won his first stage, and, tragically, in 1995, when Richard Virenque's Stage 15 victory atop the 15km ascent was all but forgotten when news broke that Fabio Casartelli had died while descending the Col de Portet-d'Aspet (to be climbed Thursday). In honour of the fallen 1996 Olympic road champion from Italy, the stage was cancelled the following day.

Even today, a subtle reminder that even the greatest of champions are not infallible...

Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:

"At the heart of the three-day Pyrénées chapter of the Tour, the Col d'Aspin and the Tourmalet will have to be climbed by the peloton on the way to Cauterets-Vallée de Saint-Savin. The stage could give riders having struggled on the previous day a good opportunity to hit back and move back up the GC."

Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, says:

"Today is one of those days which could work in a breakaway, or we could see a key group of GC guys battling it out for the win again. It all depends on the mood of the bunch, and there's a lot of racing prior to work out the different moods of the teams. It could go either way.

"A lot has been said about the make-up of our team this year versus previous years. I'm really not interested in having anyone on GC this year. The Yates' are too young - they're 22 years old. It would be pretty irresponsible for us to put that sort of pressure on guys who are second-year pro. Those guys, they're at a stage in their development as pro's where they're not ready for GC at the Tour de France quite yet.

"Like I've said before, they've got the ability to win stages at the Tour; we've seen that in certain rides they've done in other WorldTour stage races. But I don't care if I'm car number 22 when we come to the Pyrénées. We're all about trying to win stages - not about finishing 20th on GC."

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