Again this isn’t really a mountain stage. But nor was yesterday’s route and it was still decided by the climbing. Today is as much about descending as climbing with some very steep climbs but also some tricky descents. It’s also short and promises action from start to finish, ideal since it will be televised live from the start.
- Km 20.0 – Côte de Bondeval 4.4 kilometre-long climb at 3.9% – category 4
- Km 32.0 – Côte du Passage de la Douleur 3.8 kilometre-long climb at 6.4% – category 3
- Km 50.0 – Côte de Maison-Rouge 7.9 kilometre-long climb at 5% – category 2
- Km 73.0 – Côte de Saignelégier 7.8 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% – category 2
- Km 97.0 – Côte de Saulcy 4.6 kilometre-long climb at 8.6% – category 2
- Km 130.5 – Côte de la Caquerelle 4.3 kilometre-long climb at 7.6% – category 2
- Km 141.5 – Col de la Croix 3.7 kilometre-long climb at 9.2% – category 1
The Route: the profile and the list of climbs says everything about today’s route, except that the average gradients don’t tell the full story. Note the Côte de Saulcy and the final Col de la Croix, each around 4km long and close to 9%. The Côte du Passage de la Douleur translates as the Passage of Pain, apt enough.
The destination of the stage is keen to sell itself as an accessible part of Switzerland, just 2h40m from Paris via high speed train. In other words the race might use the climbs today but it is also about business, to show the French just how close these roads are to them.
The Intermediate Sprint: uphill and on a gradual curve but still safe for the bunch to tackle at speed, although it is very likely a breakaway is clear.
The Race: the most obvious scenario is a break goes clear. This has happened every day in the race so far only this time three things will be different. First the move will take some time to form, with several attacks being chased down before finally the bunch is thwarted. Second it will include some big names, not the overall contenders but powerful riders like Sylvain Chavanel, Simon Gerrans, Jérémy Roy, Jens Voigt or Luca Paolini, perhaps allied with climbers like Sylwester Szmyd or Pieter Weening, especially a rider hunting for mountains points and don’t forget the guys who have lost hopes for the overall, like Alejandro Valverde, Robert Gesink, Lieuwe Westra or J-C Péraud. Third it should stay away, not just because it is composed of strong riders but because Sky and BMC can afford to let others win whilst the sprinters certainly won’t try to set things up today.
Of course such a scenario is likely but still, it depends on many factors. It could be that nobody is allowed to get too much of a lead by Team Sky. We’ll see, it might be possible that Sky let someone else take the yellow jersey today, providing they look likely to return it in the coming daysl for example Sylvain Chavanel. This lets the British team sit back whilst, in the example given, Omega Pharma – Quickstep defends Chavanel’s lead.
The climbs are hard and come in quick succession, the race is either going up or down for a lot of the day. The descents are worth a mention, indeed it possible the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans try to push it on the final descent to gain time, or perhaps just to test Team Sky ahead of other stages with more descending before the finish.
The Finish: the final climb is 16km from the finish, the descent is quick and once the race comes into Porrentruy it winds around several roundabouts before heading out of town to finish outside a small airport. After all the climbing today, it’s flat and the most remarkable thing is the giant dinosaur in the middle of a roundabout with 750 metres to go.
TV: it’s going to be screened live from start to finish. Obviously it’ll depend on your home channel but if not you can find a pirate internet feed. The start time is 1.oopm Euro time, your chance to see how the breakaway forms. The finish is expected between 5.00-5.30pm.
Weather: possibly a damp start after storm clears but the sun will come out as temperatures reach just 21°C (70°F). A 20km/h breeze from the south-west could creat mild problems on the climbs and will offer a headwind for the final 8.5km.
Local rider: the star of the day will be Fabian Cancellara, the race heads into Switzerland. The country is made up many cantons or areas and it makes the briefest detour into Cancellara’s home Bern canton. The Swiss Express has Italian origins but his parents settled in Bern.
Food: the fondue or “melt”. Cheese is melted down in white wine, with some garlic added and then served on the table in the saucepan with some form of heat source to keep the mix liquid. You then use long forks to dip small pieces of bread into the molten cheese. Impossible for racing cyclists and I suspect the locals don’t go for it too often, especially in summer.
Do: …speak French. The race gets close to the German-speaking part of Switzerland but remains in the French-speaking part. The country has four official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansch, each is dependent on location.
Don’t: …take your Euros with you. Switzerland is an island in the middle of Europe with its own currency, the Franc, one of the world’s last hard currencies.