Back in March Bradley Wiggins came to visit the course ahead of riding Paris-Nice. The route has probably been on his mind since October when the route was released. For all the talk of “we’re taking this day by day“, Stage 19 and the road to Chartres has been a fixture. Except today feels like his birthday, a victory parade.
But that’s for tomorrow. Wiggins can win the stage but Chris Froome might be out to prove a point and the top-20 overall is not settled yet, many riders have personal goals to achieve. Tour founder Henri Desgrange once said that to win the Tour “il faut être moyen partout” or “you need to be average everywhere” meaning consistency was needed. But having only been marginally outclimbed by his team mate Chris Froome in the race and having dominated the time trials, Wiggins exceeds the maxim of Desgrange. A second stage win in the yellow jersey is on the cards.
The Route: flat and exposed, the course is so non-technical that it’s technical because in order to exploit the terrain for any advantage you need to work hard at taking the perfect line, observing where the wind is and getting your gearing just right, because one gear could be too big and the next could be too small.
This video featuring Dan Lloyd is very good at explaining the course.
The Race: with Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin out, the race seems open for Wiggins and Froome to duel for the stage win. In the last time trial on Stage 9 Tejay van Garderen was not far off and seems to be still riding well so he could feature too.
What about the others? Well a lot of the specialists have gone, Gustav Larsson and Sylvain Chavanel are out too and the distance today is so long that a lot of experience and expertise is needed. Arguably only Bert Grabsch is left, the German with the build of a lumberjack.
Perhaps the real battle today is for the top-10? Thibaut Pinot sits in 10th spot and Nicolas Roche is 1.08 behind him. Pinot didn’t go a great time trial in Besançon but remember this came the day after his stage win Porrentruy so he could have fresher legs, especially since Roche went on the attack yesterday, although for a shorter effort. Similarly Pierre Rolland will struggle and should be overhauled on the GC by Janez Brajkovic, the Frenchman churns a big gear which can help in the mountains but he’ll pay the price of being unable to ride high cadence on a flat course today.
Start order: riders go in reverse order of the overall classification. Lanterne Rouge and nice guy Jimmy Engoulvent is off first at midday with the riders going in narrow one minute intervals until Bert Grabsch leaves 25 minutes later and riders go every two minutes with the final riders being spaced three minutes apart. The spaces are designed to ensure riders don’t catch their rivals on the road but three minutes could be narrow for some.
Weather: a 20km/h breeze from the NW meaning a headwind and 3/4 frontal crosswind for most of the day which will prove annoying for the weaker riders. Temperatures will reach 20°C (68°F) and rain showers are possible in the afternoon but hopefully nothing too dramatic to affect the results.
TV: there should be live images from 2.00pm Euro time with Wiggins expected to arrive around 5.40pm.
Local food: it’s not a great region for gastronomy but look out for the flat terrain where large fields dominate. This is the France of agribusiness as opposed to terroir and its from these fields that the wheat is grown to make flour for the 10 billion baguettes sold every year in France.
Do: put Ian Brown and Time Is My Everything on the playlist for your warm up.
Don’t: wave the Union Jack too much. Chartres is a minor bastion of French patriotism thanks to its cathedral which houses the garment claimed to have been worn by Mary when she have birth to Jesus; as well as a religious centre its a historic place.