Sandwiched between yesterday’s surprise “gone with the wind” action and tomorrow’s Bastille Day Mont Ventoux bonanza, today’s stage might struggle. But it’s got all the ingredients of a good stage with a varied route, some late hills and even crosswinds too as it makes its way to Lyon.
As well as the preview of all the action, there’s also a short film below that shows the reality for many an ex-pro once they retire from the sport.
Stage 13 Review
Never has being wrong been so enjoyable. When writing the race overview a month ago I said “If you had to skip a stage this would be it… but the race could always bring a surprise” and only yesterday morning the weather forecast suggested a breeze but no more. But if the stage took you by surprise, imagine being Alejandro Valverde who slide down the overall classification like a workman falling off a ladder.
It’s said crosswinds split a race but we saw it was the riders doing the work. The bunch split and at first the only loser was Marcel Kittel, caught out in part thanks to a mechanical. There were others, for example Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Mikkel Nieve and Igor Anton plus Ag2r’s Romain Bardet. But the scenario when Alejandro Valverde needed to change his rear wheel. Did Belkin accelerate or where they already on the front? Either way .
Better still it was a bloodless gain for Team Sky and Saxo-Tinkoff. Valverde was being ejected from the top-10 and they only had to sit on the wheels whilst Belkin and OPQS drove the pace. But this relative rest meant Saxo-Tinkoff had energy to spare and must have had Oleg Tinkov bouncing on his sofa. His team powered away in a team time trial mode with only a few able to follow. Bauke Mollema, Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish amongst them. Cavendish won the stage but others gained plenty of time and the race as a whole gained excitement.
Cavendish started the day with L’Equipe saying he was history but finished the stage by making history. With the win Cavendish moves up to third place in the list of Tour de France stage wins, his total of 25 equal to André Leducq who rode in the 1930s. Comparisons across history are hard and those black and white images of riders on single speed bikes make the past seem very far away. But history is not always about the past and we’re seeing Cavendish doing things that will earn him places in the history books and nostalgic features.
Stage 14 Preview
- Km 66.5 – Côte de Marcigny 1.9 kilometre-long climb at 4.9% – category 4
- Km 98.5 – Côte de la Croix Couverte 2.6 kilometre-long climb at 5.3% – category 4
- Km 113.0 – Côte de Thizy-les-Bourgs 1.7 kilometre-long climb at 8.2% – category 3
- Km 126.5 – Col du Pilon (727 m) 6.3 kilometre-long climb at 4.4% – category 3
- Km 161.0 – Côte de Lozanne 2.5 kilometre-long climb at 4% – category 4
- Km 176.0 – Côte de la Duchère 1.6 kilometre-long climb at 4.1% – category 4
- Km 181.5 – Côte de la Croix Rousse 1.8 kilometre-long climb at 4.5% – category 4
The race starts in a wine-making town and heads through the Beaujolais. Crossing a viticultural region is not just something for wine buffs or alcoholics, it normally means the terrain is hilly but not mountainous. So it is with the succession of climbs throughout the day with only the Côte de Thizy-les-Bourgs presenting a steep challenge. The other climbs are all tackled quickly and won’t advantage the climbers.
A long finishing straight… but only after the Côte de la Duchère and the Côte de la Croix Rousse climbs. La Duchère is a gradual climb but the Croix Rousse has a series of hairpin bends. Wide but still a place to attack, to exploit the momentum.
The more fatigued riders might think they’re in Paris. The Croix Rousse has a small steel tower that resembles the Eiffel Tower. But it’s on a hill and the city has a different feel to the French capital.
Everyone is saying a breakaway will make it. I think this is the most likely scenario. However if the gap is small then the sprinters’ teams will chase hard because despite two hills in the final kilometres, the approach to the finish is fast and furious.
Yesterday was a hard stage and it’ll be interesting to see how Peter Sagan has recovered. On paper the hills should mean he can eliminate rival sprinters but he’s both tired and his Cannondale team might struggle to reel in any breakaways. If not then look to the baroudeurs, the breakaway specialists and classics contenders. I’m thinking Ramunas Navardauskas, Simon Gerrans or Sep Vanmarcke but there’s a good list of others, pick Pierrick Fédrigo or Jens Voigt for strongmen but remember a fast finish is needed for the finish line in case a group arrives. Also watch John Degenkolb as the last time a race went over the Croix Rousse, he won. It was a stage of the Dauphiné in 2011 and his first World Tour win.
Doubting Thomas: Normally Thomas Voeckler would be a candidate but despite good form in the Dauphiné and the Route du Sud he’s been hesitant and self-doubting in the Tour so far, his attacks in the Pyrenees were designed to see how he was going rather than to get going.
Weather: warm and sunny with a crosswind for much of the day until a tailwind in the finish. The wind is expected to reach 45km/h which could split things up again but the terrain is more sheltered and varied.
TV: Live coverage starts at 2.20pm Euro time but depends on your local channel too. It’s the possibility of a breakaway sticking that makes this an enticing stage so tune in early to see how this evolves. If nothing is happening then you’ll get the scenery as consolation. The final two climbs are expected from 4.45pm onwards with the finish predicted for 5.10pm.
Calzati, Contract Cleaner
Sylvain Calzati was a pro for several years with most of his career spent with Ag2r but he was a member of Team Sky when the team started. He’s from Lyon and is now working as an industrial cleaner – “we’re specialized in staircases, we do all sorts of cleaning and taking out the trash” – living the life of a small businessman in France. The video below is in French and by Nicolas Loth and the LaBordure website. He speaks of his time as a pro, the idea of a team comprised of ex-pros given a second chance as well as the prosecution of Lance Armstrong. Whilst the Tour oozes glory, money and dreams, this clip shows the reality for many an ex-pro.