An easy day after the Pyrenees as the riders leave the mountains and around the Mediterranean coast, a place where millions of French and northern Europeans migrate for the summer to profit from the sea and sunshine. The stage starts in Limoux, half-famous for its sparkling white wine that struggles for attention alongside the more famous champagne.
But the route today is inland, not by the sea and more appealing than the often over-build coastline. The race will pass by many vineyards and look out for the rugby posts in sports fields, this is the heartland of what the French call le balon oval.
For the racing it’s flat and fast. The only categorised hill of the day is 2.2km at 4.6%, almost unremarkable after the past few days in the Pyrenees. It can be windy in the area, the hills are dotted with windmills to generate electricity but the forecast looks mild.
The intermediate sprint is late in the day, after 144km and we’re likely to see the sprinters going for this to claw back points from Philippe Gilbert.
The finish is likely to be a sprint, especially since HTC-Highroad want to help Mark Cavendish keep his green jersey… but they’ll have their work cut out to both contain any moves and then set up a train at the finish. Perhaps we’ll see Lampre and Omega Pharma-Lotto joining in, especially since Greipel is in such good form.
You can see the last few kilometres here. Look at the 12 warnings before the finish, it won’t be easy but things should hopefully be calmer than the first week. The last kilometre is slightly uphill but at a 1% gradient.
Weather: normally one of the sunniest places in France, today looks like being a bit overcast and wet. 21°C (70°F) at best and a light three quarters tailwind which will be worth keeping an eye on in case it blows stronger than predicted in the last 50km where the race could split.