The longest stage of the race, when the route was unveiled last October I was disappointed with the choice. It starts with some exciting climbs but then leaves the Alps behind for a more gentle finish.
That said, we had a summit finish yesterday and there’s no need to repeat this and today’s route should offer a good battle for the stage win.
- Km 34.0 – Col du Grand Cucheron (1 188 m) 12.5 kilometre-long climb at 6.5% – category 1
- Km 80.5 – Col du Granier (1 134 m) 9.7 kilometre-long climb at 8.6% – category 1
- Km 207.5 – Côte d’Ardoix 5.9 kilometre-long climb at 3.4% – category 3
The Route: they call days like this a “transition stage” as the race heads across France. 20km downhill to start with then the first climb of the day starts.
It’s called grand but it’s not that big and this is a useful exit from the Maurienne valley. The road is reasonably wide and this climb will be crossed fast as it snakes up and down the across the Belledone chain of mountains. The descent down to the Isère valley is ok and then the race stays along the valley before the next climb.
The Col du Granier is a scenic climb, picking its way up below the limestone cliffs of wonderful Chartreuse range. It’s steep but there’s a long way to go. It could be something for the likes of Peter Sagan and Liquigas to exploit in order to drop the likes of Matthew Goss ahead of the intermediate sprint.
The Intermediate Sprint: the terrain opens up and it’s a flat and wide run to the line on a slightly downhill road.
After the race continues across flat terrain and whilst they’ve been spotted already en route, we should get the first big sightings of fields of sunflowers to make photographers and newspaper editors happy. The race crosses the Rhone river again and then they take the Côte d’Ardoix. If there’s a breakaway it’s a chance to attack but it’s not that hard.
The Finish: it’s on to Annonay for the finish, a drop down to the river valley and then climbing back up to the finish through town. There’s a series of bends and roundabouts including a last roundabout with 450m to go.
The Strategy: Peter Sagan? He could well win this as the uphill finish suits him perfectly. But the other sprinters teams might not want to chase and Liquigas will want to stay fresh to help Nibali too. Therefore the chances of a breakaway staying away look good, it’s another day for the likes of Sylvain Chavanel and Luis-Leon Sanchez plus a cast of many more.
Weather: getting warm, temperatures will reach 27°C (80°F) with a 10km/h breeze from the south.
TV: the whole stage will be broadcast live from 11.00am Euro time to 5.00pm. Note the finish is expected half an hour earlier, between 4.30pm and 5.00pm.
Do: spare a thought for Rabobank who are down to four riders and Lampre-ISD on five and we haven’t reached the Pyrenees yet. In his first year as a pro Thomas Voeckler rode the Giro d’Italia with the Brioches La Boulangère team and all his team mates abandoned. He insisted on staying in the race and finished.
Don’t: …hang about. This could be a fast stage for the riders and those in trouble on the early climbs will struggle to make the time cut during the stage.