HILLS! MOUNTAINS! CHEESE!
WHERE ARE WE?
The middle of nowhere. Mende is the capital of Lozère, the most sparsely populated département in France, although the population trebles in the summer, with outdoor sports types jumping off cliffs and describing things as "gnarly".
WHAT'S ON THE ROUTE?
Unmitigated nastiness — narrow, twisty, gravelly roads, difficult climbs, baking temperatures, and one of the steepest finishing hills in cycling. The Suc de Montivernoux comes in the middle third of the stage — it's not steep, but it involves 20 kilometres of uphill. Then there's 100 kilometres of rolling roads through the southern Massif Central. This area specialises in the optical illusion where the road looks like it's descending, but is actually climbing. Then there's three kilometres of impossible steepness up to the aerodrome above Mende, before a short, flat run-in to the finish.
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