A stage to reshape the overall classification. If the 2013 Tour is all about the mountains, today is the exception with a flat course that’s exposed to the wind, a route to scare the climbers.
But it’s short and the time gaps should be deliberately small in order to preserve the suspense of the race. Tony Martin is everyone’s pick to win the race but the suspense comes in seeing how the overall classification changes.
Stage 10 Review
A foreigner would be forgiven for thinking Mark Cavendish had won the stage yesterday given all the chatter. Whether in English on Twitter or in French radio phone-ins, the subject was Mark Cavendish… and the crash.
The rules of sprinting are not prescriptive except you should not deviate from your line. Foul play in a sprint is like an elephant: there’s no point trying to define it, instead you just know it when you see it.
The crash was a shame, not just for Tom Veelers leaving some skin on the road but the polemic crowded out the fact that we got a sprint royale between Mark Cavendish, André Greipel, Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel. But aside from the crash it wasn’t the perfect contest, Cavendish’s sprint train dropped him off one stop too early and Greipel seemed to wish the finish line had come earlier, caught by his bike rattling on the cobbles.
The bigger point is the issue of rider from a sprint train dropping back after placing their man. When a rocket is fired into space the booster rockets fall back to earth on a pre-planned trajectory, often with parachutes. In a cycling sprint the booster rider is left falling backwards through the bunch with no clear route. We’re saw problems when Matteo Trentin eased up in the finish of Stage 5 and provoked a crash. It’s accidental although you wonder if the act of sitting up could be used to thwart other riders, not in an excessively negative way but a block nonetheless?
Also note that Kittel’s stage wins matter a lot for the team. Yes there’s the publicity but the squad needs ranking points to stay in the top division. The points are skewed towards the GC positions rather than stage wins, a team needs multiple stage wins to match a top-10 overall place so Kittel’s success rate is vital to keeping the team in the World Tour.
Stage 11 Route
A downhill start from Avranches makes for an usual start. It’s not Alpine schuss but all the same it means pushing a very big gear at high speed all whilst negotiating the roads out of town. It’s the same for the rest of the stage, push a big gear at high speed, even the uphill sections should be taken at high speed. The first part is technical in places but still suits the big riders.
The roads are often totally exposed especially in the second half. The image above should give you an idea and it’s even more open on the final section where the race runs up the causeway to Mont St Michel and then turns around to run back to the finish line.
Tony Martin is the obvious pick to win the day. He’s so dominant in time trials that even with injuries he’s expected to win. Plus he seems happier in the time trial tuck than on his normal road bike.
Who else to win the stage? I think it could be more a question of who will finish second. There are several specialists. Starting with OPQS Sylvain Chavanel is strong. Michał Kwiatkowski can take pole position in the white jersey competition at Nairo Quintana’s expense too. Orica-Greenedge have Svein Tuft, another rider capable of pushing a big gear; team mate Cameron Meyer seems to have erratic form. Movistar’s Jonathan Castroviejo is the new Spanish time trial champion and had been a specialist over short distances but impressed with fourth place in the Dauphiné time trial. Other outsiders could include Lieuwe Westra but he spent yesterday in a breakaway.
Moving to the GC riders and Chris Froome is the easy choice. He was ahead of the others in the Dauphiné, only Tony Martin beat him. So it should be a question of how much he can extend his lead in the race. Richie Porte will be worth watching, can he take back time… or is something up with the Sky team, an illness perhaps? In the Dauphiné Edvald Boasson Hagen did a good ride too.
Saxo-Tinkoff’s Roman Kreuziger and Mick Rogers could be there but Alberto Contador will be the most interesting to watch. Struck by allergies in the Dauphiné, we’ll see how he’s doing in the Tour. Another team performance to watch is BMC Racing, normally Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen could make the top-10 with ease but they’re not having an easy time.
Belkin have Bauke Mollema in third place. What can he do? Scanning past results he’s not a consistent performer but has been able to pull out a result when required. I think he’d settle for top-20 and can hope to save his third place overall but Kreuziger will look to pick him off.
The route will leave smaller riders floundering like fish out of water although the little guys get their revenge in a week’s time. Remember half the field will not be racing hard, it’s a day off and the aim is to complete the course in a respectable time and therefore save energy. But this still means a solid effort, don’t get ideas of riders coasting along.
Weather: a breeze coming from the north-east means a tailwind for some of the course, a bonus for the smaller riders who will be able to get the course over and done with faster. Mild temperatures and sunshine.
TV: live from 2.20pm Euro time. Time trials never make for good TV although this is often a failure of creative production techniques, we get to see a man pedalling a bicycle rather than the relative story of who is riding fast and who is going slow.
Riders go in reverse order of the general classification with last man Chris Froome expected to arrive around 5.30pm. Watch the last hour to see how the GC guys perform relative to each other.
Mont St Michel: one of France’s most popular tourist destinations, this is a tiny island off the coast connected by a tidal causeway. Originally a monastery, the religious aspect remains but is overwhelmed by commerce with shops selling tourist souvenirs. The Tour is no stranger to the place as it visited for a sprint won by Johan Museeuw, his first success before going on to claim several classics. The Belgian was part of the Lotto team which is still going today of course.