A great day for a breakaway. Today’s stage lends itself to an escape move but team tactics could rule the day.
The start town is Brive, host of the finish of Stage 18 of the Tour de France this July and proof of ASO’s cross-selling model. With towns queuing up for the Tour de France, race organisers are able to twist them into holding a stage of Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné. By some measures we’re now in the south of France although the cold weather feels distinctly northern.
The stage has two parts to analyse, the first 171km and the last 7km. The first part makes for good breakaway terrain, the roads twist and turn and there are some hills. Passing through causse or limestone bushland famed for its truffles, it is still big ring territory, the climbs here are not steep. The first climb to Fangas is 7.7km at 4.9%. The Côte de la Blanquie is 3km at 5.9% and followed soon by the steeper Côte de la Quotidiane, 1.6km at 6.9%. The King of the Mountain points here are valuable, the competition is lead by Thomas De Gendt of Vacansoleil-DCM and don’t be surprised to see him up the road today.
The finish could be exciting. Rodez was once a Roman and medieval fort on top of a hill. The town today is more recent in architecture but part of the town still sits on the same hill and it’s here where the finish will be judged although they use a modern viaduct to reach the old town.
The profile picture provided by ASO doesn’t quite do the finish justice, it twists and turns and kicks up to the line more than the image suggests. This is not as wild as some of the finishes in Tirreno-Adriatico which starts today, but it is the kind of finish where a single mistake in positioning or gear selection will cost you ten places. You climb to the viaduct which is slightly downhill, meaning a big effort and then a flat moment where riders will swamp the front of the bunch before the final kilometre. Doing the maths on the picture above the last kilometre has a gradient of 7.9% making it significantly steeper than yesterday’s finish. But again the graphic is not perfect as most of the climbing comes in the first third, the road kicks up immediately after the viaduct and drags uphill to the line.
Tactics: Will a breakaway be allowed to stay away? Clearly Greenedge want, and even need, a stage win and Simon Gerrans will like the finish. Intriguingly his rival yesterday Alejandro Valverde could be an ally today since Movistar will also want a sprint finish for Valverde to gain the time bonus needed to overhaul Bradley Wiggins.
Wild guess: a breakaway goes but Movistar and Greenedge lead the chase and Valverde wins again. That’s not really that wild so keep an eye on Katusha’s Spanish tandem of Angel Vicioso and Xavier Florencio.
Weather: a tailwind today with sunshine and a top temperature of only 8°C.
TV: 3.00pm to 4.30pm Euro time.
Locals: He’s not native to the region but Romain Feillu lives near the start and the early moments take in some of his training roads. The finish is where Alexandre Geniez of Project 1T4i is from.
Hungry? the limestone causse is truffle country, the underground fungus is a delicacy that commands ludicrous prices. Gourmets will note the region is famous for black truffles as opposed to the white truffles which often come from Italy. The region also skirts the foie gras area of the France, another expensive food celebrated by gourmets.