The Spin – Stage 18

Friday, 20 July 2012

A classic transition stage, this might head through rural areas but sticks to large roads to bring the race north towards Paris. A sprint finish would be likely but several teams seem reluctant to chase any breakaways so this might be last chance for the majority of teams without a stage win to make amends.

  • Km 67.5 – Côte de Saint-Georges 1 kilometre-long climb at 10.3% – category 3
  • Km 117.5 – Côte de Cahors 1 kilometre-long climb at 7.8% – category 4
  • Km 180.5 – Côte de Souillac 2.2 kilometre-long climb at 4.7% – category 4
  • Km 212.5 – Côte de Lissac-sur-Couze 1.9 kilometre-long climb at 5.7% – category 4

The Route: the profile looks up and down and has several climbs but much of the road uses wide roads, a lot of the stage uses the old main road from Toulouse to Paris before the autoroute was built, up and down… but the sort of roads that a large truck can cope with, so it should not worry André Greipel and other sprinters. The hardest part comes at the end when the roads begin to twist and turn more but after the Pyrenees this should still feel flat.

The Finish: the race goes through Brive, an urban finish. A few twists and turns, a sharp right at 1600m to go, another at 600m to go. It’s not mentioned by the organisers but there’s a roundabout with 300m to go if you look at the satellite images… presumably this has been removed for the race and it won’t cause a nasty surprise for the riders.

The Race: bunch sprint or breakaway? Normally I’d say a sprint as the roads roll but few teams seem willing to chase. Greenedge refused the other day – they’ve done a lot of work for Goss but it hasn’t worked; maybe they will try today given he’s survived the mountains? Cavendish has been showing signs of fatigue. André Greipel has coped well too and will be a prime candidate for the win.

But many other teams need to get in the breakaway and make it stick. On a 222km stage, whilst the breakaways fly in the first hour it’ll be hard for Lotto and Greenedge to chase all day. Team Sky must be tired, Liquigas too and they’ve bagged the green jersey.

Weather: top temperatures of 25°C (77°F) but getting cooler as the race goes north. There will be a slight headwind from the northwest.

TV: coverage starts from 2.00pm Euro time with the finish expected early between 4.15 and 4.45pm. The action from the start will have passed so tune in for the finish.

Local rider: the stage starts right by the city of Toulouse, home of Ag2r’s Blel Kadri. Kadri’s mother runs a small convenience store in town and before turning pro, Kadri belonged to a club in the start town of Blagnac, the same club that his team mate Péraud, Europcar’s Arashiro once rode for too as well as David Moncoutié who crashed out earlier in the race. Later on the race passes through the village of Moncoutié which isn’t far from the actual village where the Cofidis rider grew up.

Local food: where to begin? Ok, the stage starts just north of Toulouse and heads past the Frontonnais vineyards and then onwards past Cahors and its dark Malbec wines before passing over the Quercy plateau where truffles and foie gras are plenty going near Rocamadour and its goats cheese before finishing in the Limousin region, famous for its red cattle and their tender beef.

Do: attack. With the Champs Elysées and a near certain sprint awaiting, today is the last chance for many riders to try something.

Don’t: crash. Every rider has survived the Pyrenees and will start this stage with their fingers crossed hoping they can make it to the finish because a time trial awaits and then the victory laps of Paris.

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{ 14 comments }

grumpyoldman July 20, 2012 at 9:57 am

For any culture vultures out there, if the race gets boring, it may be worth staying tuned for the inevitable flyover shots of the fortified pilgrim town of Rocamadour whose dramatic setting makes it look as if it belongs in a scene from in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

Backed up against a cliff, its outer walls that look out over the valley are reputed to be 3 metres thick in places.

And the goats cheeses are excellent.

Matt July 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Agreed. I was in Rocamadour last week, actually spent 10 days to the east of the Toulouse-Brive highway, whereas the race is sticking (I believe) to the west side.

If they don’t do a flyover of Rocamadour, they’re crazy.

Another notable feature of the region is the vast network of caves, which came about due to the porousness of the limestone base. Some of the oldest cave paintings in the world are at Lascaux.

Some photos of Rocamadour and cycling in the area on my website, here:
http://mjr77.tumblr.com/

Ankush July 20, 2012 at 10:08 am

Looks like everyone except Inrng are tired after yesterday. I think a breakaway should take this one, I wonder if the entire Euskaltel team will be in there

Sam July 20, 2012 at 10:10 am

I lament the loss of HTC. In stages such as this, HTC would lead a charge to catch the breakaway for a bunch sprint. It was great watching the peloton fly towards the end whilst the breakaway fights to the death to stay away.

This year it seems that the sprinters teams to not want to work. Teams like Lotto-Belisol and Liquigas have GC ambitions with Van De Broeck and Nibali respectively, but have shown early on that they do not apply the team to this. Since it is only their leaders in the high mountains (or another) the rest of the team might be better applied to leading a sprint out to aim for more stage wins as Greipel and Sagan have shown themselves capable.

The most disappointed team must be Greenedge, I think I read that their aim for the tour was to get stage wins (sprint or a breakaway), not thinking about GC standings. Goss has not performed close to the level of the other sprinters, and I’ve not seen any of their team within the breakaways.

For me this tour has not been boring, but the lack of willing of other teams (or willing to let Sky boss it around) has certainly made it a little more stiffled. You would expect Sky to play defensive, it’s the team with the yellow jerseys job (to try and keep it), it’s the other teams that have to come out to play.

The Ladder July 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

Totally agree, I suspect Mr Cavendish might lament the loss of HTC also. The Greenedge tactics (or lack of them) the other day totally bemused me, ok they may be tired of doing the set up work only to miss out on the line, but surely it is better to try and fail than to not try at all?

I sincerely hope today is not another procession for the breakaway, this tour seems to have done a lot to dispel the myth that breakaways rarely succeed; during the second half of this tour, they virtually all have.

ChrisHol July 20, 2012 at 11:14 am

I wrote almost exactly this to a friend a couple of days ago; well put!

The only thing I added was that as Greenedge are an Australian team, you would expect them to be getting amongst it and competing (sorry for the crude national stereotype, but they do play it up), but they haven’t really competed on any level in this Tour.

Matt July 20, 2012 at 11:30 am

Totally agree.

Lotto got a few stage wins early. As did Liquigas. When Sky brought the break to 5min with 50k to go on stage 15, nobody was interested in working for a sprint. Greenedge know that Goss isn’t good enough to compete at the moment.

Rico July 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

More local trivia. The start is in Blagnac. Anyone who has flown into Toulouse to begin a great cycling trip in the Pyrenees knows that is where the airport is located. The TLS airport is home to the Airbus Industries factory, where, among others, the double decker superjumbo A380s are built and where they had their maiden flights. It isn’t unusual to see a lot of test flights of generic painted planes flying in and around TLS/Blagnac.

The Inner Ring July 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

The A380 will make a special flight over the race before the start, accompanied by the Patrouille de France jets with their tricolore smoke trails

Rico July 20, 2012 at 11:29 am

that’s cool. I flew over here on one a couple of weeks ago. the LH configuration (SFO-MUC) has a downstairs lavatory, making it actually a three deck superjumbo. massive plane.

HOH July 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Oh Well, looks like sky’s confident enough to let Boasson Hagon into the escape and change their website banner into yellow.

AndrewAlpen July 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Yeah, Greenedge have certainly delivered less than expected.
I do wonder however, how much Gerrans and Goss are now preparing for the olympics rather than actually competing here.
To be fair though, Goss was quite present in the sprints before the Commissars decided the battle for the Green Jersey.

ave July 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Greenedge is the new HTC, but they are not as good, simple as that.
Actually I like it that there’s no HTC anymore. 5-6 stage wins for the same guy is just not good.

Barodeur Billy July 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I wish someone would tell Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin that Blel Kadri’s first name is not “Biel”. They keep reading it wrong, apparently.

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