If Chris Froome’s lead looks safe, the others in the top-5 are all within a minute on the overall classification and the mountains jersey is still up for grabs too. The suspense could last all the way to the finish line.
Stage 19 Review
No early attacks from the big names, instead a large move went away with the likes of Ryder Hesjedal, Christophe Riblon, Pierre Rolland and Rui Costa. Rui Costa was a worthy winner after going in the early break and turning on the power with perfect timing on the final climb to descent to the finish, a damp déjà vu copy of his win in Gap.
A long day, too long? Was the clue in the name when the stage went from Le Bored d’Oisans to Le Grand Boring? It wasn’t the best viewing but as predicted yesterday, if there were no early hostilities then it was a day for the breakaway.
Mystery of the day is Pierre Rolland. He’s changed plans several times in the race, from GC goals to the mountains jersey to stage wins and his missed them all. He’s got the ability to shine in this race but seems to have been distracted by his acquisition of mountains jersey in Corsica. He tried yesterday but his point-hunting still sees him out of the jersey and it’s hard to imagine him taking more points today. What if he’d played it steady and waited for the final climb to take the stage win? He’s got the legs but has he got the racing brain?
Don’t underestimate the team prize: if you think it’s just yellow helmets and a footnote in the results then you’re not a team manager. The prize is cherished by teams and this probably explains why Saxo-Tinkoff spent so much of the time working on the front of the bunch. Judging by Twitter this left many people perplexed and even frustrated when Alberto Contador didn’t attack. Instead it was only to reel in Radioshack-Leopard and Ag2r La Mondiale which both had three riders up the road at one point.
- Km 12.5 – Côte du Puget 5.4km at 5.9% – category 2
- Km 17.5 – Col de Leschaux 3.6km 6.1% – category 3
- Km 43.0 – Côte d’Aillon-le-Vieux 6km at 4% – category 3
- Km 51.0 – Col des Prés (1 142 m) 3.4km at 6.9% – category 3
- Km 78.5 – Mont Revard 15.9km at 5.6% – category 1
- Km 125.0 – Annecy-Semnoz 10.7km at 8.5% – category H
It’s only a 125km loop around the Massif des Bauges but fatigue after several days in the mountains every kilometre counts. A flat start to roll out of Annecy but only enough to get the legs turning. The road climbs with Côte du Puget in no time and, via a short descent, rides up the Col de Leschaux. There’s nothing hard here but the roads twist their way through woodland, ideal terrain for a move to ride away. If Peter Sagan can get away then he can secure enough points to win the points jersey, at least arithmetically before arriving in Paris.
The road climbs up to the Col des Prés, a steady road and then a fast and technical descent takes the race to the Mont Revard. This has long been an important venue for the Tour de France and Dauphiné, in 1972 the Tour had a 28km stage, surely one of the shortest road stages ever. It’s a steady climb that evens out, one that suits a team setting a tempo with ride roads all the way to the top.
A flowing descent awaits. Crucially it’s followed by a relatively flat section for 20km. This allows the race to regroup, any lone moves on the Revard can be reeled in by team work or co-operation. If ASO could landscape the Alps they’d surely reshape this portion but since it’s here it risks calming things before the final showdown of the 2013 Tour de France.
The Semnoz is known as the lung of Annecy, as if the scenic Alpine town needs any more fresh air. Instead it could well asphyxiate the riders. The road starts rising before the climb officially starts, nothing much but deceptive enough to steal energy from weakening riders.
At 10km this is a short effort, 25 minutes. The climb proper begins with some steep ramps, the profile above lists the percentages per kilometre but hidden inside these are steeper sections to get the riders reaching for their lowest gears. There are some bends but the road drags up most of the way, a rider can see ahead but there are few landmarks on the way up. It’s uphill all the way to the line.
An early break can go but behind several teams have an interest in setting a fast pace. The stage is short and any move that goes away early might struggle to get a lead before the pace accelerates for the final climb.
Chris Froome might be able to enjoy the day, perhaps he’ll even ride away for a stage win because the 25 minute climb is perfect for him. But if he’s with others I think he might let them win and besides, his sprint is not famous. The others in the top-15 have a chance to climb up the overall rankings. Nairo Quintana can win the stage and take second place overall if he distances Alberto Contador. Meanwhile Joaquim Rodriguez is climbing well and also hopes for the stage win and the podium. It means cagey riding, because these riders will only attack of they spot weakness in their rivals because if they waste energy and fail then they too could be overtake by others. In other words, if the suspense comes down to the final kilometre, the action might not happen much earlier. Look at how Michał Kwiatkowski leads Laurens Ten Dam by one second, all takes is a late move. In the future you might not remember who finished tenth but the riders will, it’s valuable.
Given all this I see Movistar setting the pace for as long as possible and then a late attack from Quintana. There’s no point in going too early, especially if Froome chases. Instead a move in the last 3km could let the Colombian win the stage, put 30 seconds in to Contador and collect the 50 points for the mountains competition. If not watch Rodriguez who can finish fast from a group.
Weather: sunny and warm with a few clouds, warm at 28°C but cooler at altitude and the chance of a heavy shower if the clouds swell.
TV: live from start to finish, from 1.30pm with an earlier than normal finish planned for 4.50-5.10pm.
Paris: as the cliché goes the riders will be able to see Paris from the Semnoz today. However, they all stay overnight in Annecy after this stage and it’s only tomorrow morning that they’re get bussed to Lyon airport for a flight to Paris.
History: the Semnoz is also known as the Crêt de Châtillon. It was on the route of the 1998 Tour de France but the stage was neutralised after a protest by riders. With the Festina team ejected, the French police investigated others and several TVM team riders and staff were involved. The peloton was shocked and refused to race. Viewed from today’s perspective it’s bizarre, as if riders thought themselves above the law. But it’s not all in the past. The TVM team doctor went to prison and was convicted. But it’s not all in the past as this convicted criminal is none other than Andrei Mikhailov, a doctor with the Katusha team.