The only stage outside of France this year, the race takes a classic route from France to Italy. 150 years ago the region was as one as the Kingdom of Savoy, a mostly French speaking area where the finishing town was called Pignerol. Today the differences are still subtle as both sides of the border are dominated by the Alpine peaks, indeed the start and finish towns are twinned.
The first climb of the Côte de Sainte-Marguerite is more a ramp than a notable climb but 2.8km at 7.6% is a rude warm up for the upcoming intermediate sprint in Villar Sainte Pancrace, which is itself uphill too albeit at a milder gradient. Then the climb of La Chaussée which is another ramp, this time in the middle of Briançon.
The twin ascensions of the Col de Montgenèvre and the climb to Sestrières are steady affairs, larger roads engineered to allow traffic to flow over the mountains. That’s not to say they’re easy, Sestrières has some 8% ramps. Besides, given the way the race is going, who knows who might use them as a springboard to leap up the road? But don’t pin your hopes on this given the long descent afterwards where a chase can be organised.
Note the 10.8% section near the top. It’s almost too obvious to attack here and then speed down to the finish on the other side but all the same, that’s what some will be planning. “Dirty” Danilo Di Luca used this climb and the descent to steal time on his rivals in the 2009 Giro d’Italia, before being busted for doping.
The descent is in two parts, a technical and dangerous “toboggan” into the village of San Pietro with double-digit gradients, woodland and sharp hairpin bends in town. This is enough to scary anyone. After San Pietro things continue downhill more moderately all the way to the finish line, with the final bend 1km from the line and then a very wide and long road to the finish.
I think the scenario could be similar to yesterday, with a breakaway contesting the stage win and the favourites going on the attack on the final climb but many of the big names will have their eyes on tomorrow’s giant Alpine stage. Indeed given the closeness on the overall classification it’ll be interesting to see who gambles with an attack and who doesn’t. It’s obvious but look for the Italians today.
Weather: mostly cloudy in the morning then sunny spells until clouds across Montgenèvre and Sestrières. Sunny weather will spread to the finish. A light wind in the plain and the mountain. Temperatures ranging from 17-18°C at the start, then 9°C at altitude before 26°Cat the finish in Pinerolo.