I’d put out a quick guide to the early stages on Sunday and promised to return with the later stages in due course. I got lucky, my predictions came true, from the crashes and crosswinds on Stage 1, to Stage 3 likely to cold as well as selective than might think. So here is the low down for the next stages. I’ve also written a quick profile on Peter Sagan in case you want more information on the 20 year old Super-Slovak.
Beautiful roads, this is the sort of stage that helps keep France as the world’s number one holiday destination. But the riders are on another type of Tour, no summer holidays for them. They’ll face sub-zero temperatures at the start and the chance of rain at the finish. Just look at the profile, specifically from 52km onewards, it is constantly upwards sloping. There’s a good chance of a breakaway today but the final two hills will be decisive. All minds will be on the finish but ignore the penultimate climb, it’s not easy. The final climb to the aerodrome above Mende is vicious, local cyclists in the area often refuse to climb it unless they are in good shape and the weather is good. No such luck today. Note that the finish will be judged close to the top, in the Tour de France they have used the airport runway to extend the finish but not this time. This should have Contador’s name all over it.
Another beautiful stage and this time the weather will be better. A light breeze, 10°C and warm sunshine await the bunch. The profile is not too hard and I suspect it’s the last chance for some teams to salvage something from a sprint. There probably won’t be big enough gaps for the GC teams to let a few flatlanders up the road.
More tourism as the bunch passes through olive groves and lavender fields but a first category climb waits near the finish. It’s long but the Col de Vence is a regular ascenscion without any steep moments. I suspect the battle could come after the summit, when the road flattens and riders will start watching eachother to see who is present. Perhaps a descender will try something on the descent. So despite the biggest climb of the race I’d keep an eye on Jens Voigt, Luis-Leon Sanchez and Nico Roche instead of Contador.
Glamour. The race will arrive in warm sunshine and the finish is on the seaside. As usual the bunch gets whittled down to the big hitters and they tend to play out the final. But this final stage could be more selective than usual, there are some big climbs and who ever is in yellow will need tactical support from team mates. The road is up and down all day and once again there is nothing steep but the speed will be high. Far from being a procession the race should provide suspense until the finish line in Nice.