It’s only Wednesday but today is the last chance for the sprinters in this race. Look at the graphic above and once the climbs are out of the way there’s a nice run to the finish. But crunch the numbers and yesterday’s stage was for slated the punchers and climbers with 2,900 metres of vertical gain yet today features a comparable 2,600 metres. A sprinter must be able on the ascensions to be fresh for the finish.
Still, the climbing is concentrated early and things get easier for the finish. This suggests a breakaway will go away on the early part of the stage and should be reeled in for the finish. Boring? Perhaps but the script is not written in advance and anything can happen. Even if you’re the sort who regrets seeing breakaways derailed by the sprint trains, note this is probably the last time it’ll happen in the race.
The finish: after a cobbled roundabout 1300m from the finish the race bends past a scenic lake a gradual curve until 450 metres to go when it is straight to the line. This looks like a finish for the pure sprinters. Saxo Bank’s J-J Haedo quit the race yesterday meaning there are even fewer sprinters in the race, look to John Degenkolb (Argos Oil – Shimano), Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ – BigMat) and Gerald Ciolek (Omega Pharma-Quickstep). Plus Tony Gallopin of Radioshack-Nissan is hungry for a result; once seen as a sprinter he’s become more versatile.
Local hero: former Dauphiné and Tour winner Bernard Thévenet was born 4km from the finish in a village called Le Guidon which translates as “The Handlebar”. Talk about destiny. He is the man who dethroned Eddy Merckx in 1975, the first to stop the Belgian in the Tour de France. An irregular rider he won the Tour again in 1977 but did not win many other races. Retired, he works for ASO during the summer is currently working on the Dauphiné.
Weather: rain in the morning followed by a bit of sunshine later. Top temperatures of 20°C (68°F). There will be a 20km/h wind from the South-East, meaning a tailwind at times but for some moments a crosswind too.
TV: the finish is expected between 4.00pm and 4.30pm Euro time but tune in at least half an hour before to watch the finish take shape. As ever cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the places to go to.
Food: steak. Watch the race on TV and you are bound to see white cattle grazing in grassy pastures. These are Charolais. Bred for their succulent steaks and named after Charolles, a town just up the road from the finish. The cattle are naturally muscular and lean, if they could pedal they’d be classics specialists. The meat is sold across France, for example visit a Parisian café and the menu often won’t just say steak but bifteck charolais or Charolais steak.
Language lesson: the finish is in La Clayette. For some reason it is not pronounced as you’d read it. Instead it’s “La Klet”.