Today’s route is very scenic and passes tourist destinations, restaurants and vineyards. There’s no time for riders to stop but perhaps some will have a rest today.
The start is in Suze, a town with its own university dedicated to wine and viticulture. The race heads east and passes below Mont Ventoux. The giant mountain bullies the skyline with its presence but the race only takes the Côte du Pas de Ventoux, the “step of Ventoux” climb. There are mountains and cols all around but the race avoids these, instead sticking to scenic river valleys that wind along canyons.
It’s ideal terrain for a breakaway to finally succeed, especially if the riders are no threat on the overall. There’s 1.21 between Bradley Wiggins and Robert Kiserlovski in tenth place but there are over 100 riders over ten minutes down and if they go up the road it’s good for everyone. Alejandro Valverde must still want the time bonuses but the finish is too flat for him.
The finish: there’s a finishing circuit. The riders will pass the line in Sisteron and head out for a 19km loop which includes a small climb, 1.3km at 6.8% but it is 12km from the finish and if someone wants to use it as a launch ramp for the finish line they’ll need to be able to time trial to the finish. The last kilometre is flat.
It’s a good day for a classics specialist to test their form but many riders will fancy their chances today. It could still come down to a bunch sprint but the final climb has probably been added to deter this. That said, the final climb has an air of the Poggio about it, any sprinter who survives this climb is ready for Milan-Sanremo. Watch Tom Boonen today.
Transfer: everyone on the race faced a long transfer after yesterday’s stage, made harder by the need to traverse tough terrain rather than take the excellent autoroutes. Race organisers ASO laid on some nice hotels – Radioshack and Euskaltel even stayed in a swanky castle – but many took over fours to get there. Nobody likes this and it’ll be a feature of the Tour de France which includes several very long transfers. Not everyone got a luxury room last night. Here’s J-J Rojas demonstrating the shower next to his bed, via twitter:
Weather: warming up, we’re only a day away from Nice and the temperatures will reach 13°C under sunny skies. There will be crosswinds at the start. The area around Ventoux is notoriously windy – one stat I’ve seen says it blows at over 80km/h for at least 200 days of the year – but the riders will find shelter in the valleys.
TV: 3.00pm – 4.30pm Euro time.
Hungry? Whilst côte is a term used to describe a hill in France, the early part of the stage is Côtes du Rhône, as in red wine. The race passes other wine-producing areas and lamb is a local dish near the finish in Sisteron.