The Spin: Stage 16

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Stage 16

The start is near the foot of Mont Ventoux in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, which means St Paul Three Castles. Tourist brochures feature lavender fields, vineyards and the views towards Ventoux. It certainly is a pleasant place… except for the vast nuclear power station on the edge of town. With its four reactors, the plant produces 6% of France’s electricity and one day the town will be renamed St Paul Quatre Réacteurs.

Look at the profile and it’s uphill all day. But it is not severe, the pace should be high as a breakaway tries to go clear near the start. The race follows the river Eygues up a gorge with predictably impressive scenery. The intermediate sprint is tricky with a couple of roundabouts on the way in and some speed bumps, before the final kick to the line with an uphill of around 4%.

Col de Manse Gap

The Col de Manse is the main obstacle of the day and comes in two parts: the climb and the descent. The climb is steady and on a wide road, some six or seven metres wide and with a few bends but long straight portions. The gradient is good for an attack but it’s not the ideal terrain for a rider to ambush his rivals. If someone gets away it’s likely to be by brute force than by surprise.

Then comes the descent. Factually the riders will descend the Col de Manse for a moment and then join turn right onto the descent of the Col de Rochette. This is perhaps infamous as the scene of Joseba Beloki’s crash, memorable for Lance Armstrong’s offroad excursion. It’s a very tricky descent, much narrower than the climb that preceded it. Riders will be aware, more so since they managed the descent without incident last year when Sérgio Paulinho of Radioshack took the stage.

Overall the stage could be a day for a breakaway. I can’t see Europcar wanting to chase if there’s no threat up the road and HTC-Highroad won’t want to work too hard given the Col de Manse isn’t for Cavendish. If there’s a move away the final climb should see riders jostling for the win because whoever gets over the top of the last climb first can – if they are fearless – win the stage.

Weather: rain showers, some heavy with temperatures ranging from 13°C to 18°C (55°F-64°F). This is very unseasonal, normally you’d expect the temperatures, in Celsius, to be double: 26°C-36°C are more the norm for this time of year.

The only bonus is that the tarmac isn’t melting. It’s common for this to happen in the summer heat when the tarmac temperature can reach 80°C and riders go into a corner to discover portions of the road are like treacle.

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{ 14 comments }

Ankush July 19, 2011 at 8:36 am

Could it be another win for Thor? The usual suspects FDJ will have a rider in the break, and I suspect Movistar and Saur-Sojasun to be in the mix too. Allez breakaway!

Bundle July 19, 2011 at 9:15 am

Watch out for a Vanendert-Gilbert manoeuvre near the top of the climb. With Sánchez pretending he won’t break away in the descent. And watch out for the clumsiest of the favourites (Fränk?)

Raouligan July 19, 2011 at 9:43 am

Oooh this kind of has Cunego written all over it, if he goes for it on the climb he should easily gap all the rest of teh favourites on the descent I’d have thought although saying that Basso can follow a wheel downhill just…

LeonG July 19, 2011 at 9:53 am

A wet stage and a slippery descent into Gap will not suit the Schlecks at all. Their moaning about the lack of support from other teams is risible and reminds me of the fact that thanks to the kindness of the peloton last year they were not left behind out of the general standings after the crashes early on in that tour. They sound increasingly like spoiled brats the older they get. Evans is right to be pragmatic – it is hard for everyone so why should BMC do the pulling for the Leopard Trek? The Schlecks want yellow then they should stop complaining and put the money where the mouth is. If they attack and it fails who will they blame this time? Winning the Tour is not a right.

Rooie July 19, 2011 at 10:22 am

Looks like the first hour will be really fast and really tough. Every team and rider that comes here only to win a stage wants to be part of the breakaway. Getting in the breakaway itself thus already becomes a price alone.

If the breakaway does not hold riders of FDJ, Saur, QuickStep, Lampre, Cofidis and Vacans, the breakaway will never stand a chance.

Albyp July 19, 2011 at 10:24 am

Well said LeonG!

The Inner Ring July 19, 2011 at 10:39 am

I think this is a stage for a breakaway but with heavy-hitters, not the usual small fry hoping for the 1/100 chance of getting lucky. I could be totally wrong but don’t be surprised to see the likes of Gilbert, Chavanel, Boasson Hagen or L-L Sanchez up there today.

Johnny July 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

Do we think Tommy V will try to jump at the top? If he weren’t in yellow I’m sure he’d be off on a stage like this, and 20 seconds could mean the difference between podiuming and not.

Outside bet today – Nico Roche – he snuck away into Gap last year and ag2r need something to make the Tour worthwhile.

Bundle July 19, 2011 at 11:09 am

I don’t know why we are always assuming that none of the favourites will ever try anything in unusual situations. Índuráin won his first Tour attacking downhill, and Guimard (how we miss you) teams attacked on pretty much any occasion (feeding zones, urination stops, storms, punctures). Aren’t we getting used to bad, conservative cycling. Just like we criticize the Schlecks for letting two wonderful Pyrenean stages go to the garbage, we should criticize the best descenders (Voeckler, Sánchez) of they don’t try today to confront the others with the choice of of losing half a minute or experiencing the quality of French healthcare.

cthulhu July 19, 2011 at 11:47 am

I’m with you inrng. I expect Gilbert et al. to try to get on the break, too. Especially Gilbert to keep his chances for green alive, if they are capable to ride Cav off in the following days.

LeonG July 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm

What a wonderful stage it was. The Schlecks got what they wanted – a fight. More to come. It will be difficult to sleep tonight.

LeonG July 19, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Characteristically, Andy Schleck was critical that the Col de Manse was included in today’s race. You can always tell a leopard by its spots.
Cadel was really on form today and, of course, Alberto is back. Sanchez is still there while Frank looks in better shape than his brother – I hope he will be a good sport if he loses.

PT July 20, 2011 at 2:45 am

Great win by Mr Hushovd. Nice to see Cadel hanging in there with aplomb too.

PT July 20, 2011 at 4:34 am

Actually, more than hanging in there. Just watched the replay and he really seized the advantage on a stage which didn’t seem to offer much. Great downhill ride after toughing it out uphill.

Are Andy, Ivan & Frank really that far off the pace or just foxing?

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