The race leaves the Vendée region to head into Brittany, passing through the heartlands of French cycling. There are more amateur races organised in this area than anywhere else in France. The course is flat if there’s a single categorised climb on the day, it is not a hill but a bridge (Cat 4, 1.1km at 4.9%). This is a day for the sprinters.
Talking of sprints, the intermediate sprint on Saturday looked like proper race finish. We had teams deploying their trains, big crowds and a wide finish. The new format seems a hit, an exciting point in the stage. Today’s intermediate sprint is wide and flat, there won’t be the gradient that caught out a few sprinters on Saturday. Here is the profile:
Once this is out of the way the rest of the stage looks straightforward. Philippe Gilbert has King of the Mountains jersey and it’ll be interesting to see if he sprints for the lone one point on the climb / bridge to keep his jersey.
The final approach into Redon is standard… but ugly as they race through the out of town retail park, the eyesore that every large French town has. It narrows at 1km to go, there could be a squeeze here. The big left hander 600m from the finish is an awkward roundabout that has a dividing island before it. There’s sweeping curve to the finish before a straight line for the last 250m but the only difficulty here is for the TV producer trying to catch the bunch around the corner. Still, the road is relatively narrow. Altogether this is a dangerous finish but in the approach, not the final. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a madcap Giro d’Italia sprint into a medieval town, it’s the 20th century road layout with kerbs, asymmetric roundabouts and more that make it tricky. One mistake and a rider can lose 30 places.
Weather: Hot. A light breeze and 29°C (85°F) means it’s a warm day but pleasant enough. Spare a thought for the domestiques who will be working by going back to the team cars, the job that is harder than it looks.
TV viewing: on paper this looks like a sprint finish. I tend to find watching a sprint requires you tune in for at least the last 20km just so you can feel the tension rise and watch the race take shape. Catching the final kilometre just isn’t as good.