Tour de France Stage 12 Preview

Thursday, 17 July 2014


A repeat of yesterday’s stage? It looks similar with third and fourth category climbs late in the stage before a descent to the finish. But the geography is very different and it should make for a different kind of stage.

Stage 11 Wrap

A win for Tony Gallopin. He tried a late attack on the final climb only to get caught once the descent was over. But he found only a few riders caught him: Peter Sagan, Michał Kwiatkowski and Michael Rogers. The riders were obviously marking Sagan and he jumped away again, presumably pulling out a short lead as the others weighed up “he can’t last, he’s been on the attack” vs “I’m not going to chase just to take Peter Sagan to the line.” In the time it took you read those two thoughts Gallopin was gone. Another loss for Sagan but what can he do? If he’d sat in the bunch then Gallopin’s solo move on the descent would have probably last longer, perhaps to the line.

Otherwise it was a very active last hour with the Tour diverting onto some small and steep roads, chapeau to ASO for taking the time to explore new possibilities. Many found it tough. Rui Costa fell out of the top-10. But it was Andrew Talansky who had it hardest. He punctured with around 90km to go and couldn’t get back the bunch, his legs would not let him. Without much else happening in the race the cameras dwelt on his struggle until he stopped, gave up his bike and sat down on a guard rail. Give up? Not The Pitbull who kept going with support from Garmin-Sharp DS Robbie Hunter. It was impressive because he “only” lost 15 minutes in the final 40km, something a healthy rider left to themselves would struggle with.

The Route

  • Km 58.5 – Col de Brouilly, 1.7 kilometre-long climb at 5.1% – category 4
  • Km 83.0 – Côte du Saule-d’Oingt, 3.8 kilometre-long climb at 4.5% – category 3
  • Km 138.0 – Col des Brosses, 15.3 kilometre-long climb at 3.3% – category 3
  • Km 164.0 – Côte de Grammond, 9.8 kilometre-long climb at 2.9% – category 4

It’s a pity the riders have to eat gels and other processed foods. Today’s start in Bourg-en-Bresse is famous for its chickens and then the first climb of the Col de Brouilly passes many fine vineyards, a gourmet delight. Just don’t confuse it with Mont Brouilly from Paris-Nice, the col is much lower down.

Yesterday’s stage crossed the Jura, a proper mountain range and if the race didn’t take the biggest climbs it took the smaller ones that stung. Today sees the race cross the Beaujolais, a softer and less spectacular landscape.

The Col des Brosses is long but the 3.3% average gives the game away, it’s a long drag up and on a big wide road that’s exposed for most of the way up. Big ring, the opposite of yesterday’s steep and narrow climbs. The gradient does vary in places but the change is slow, a flat section three quarters of the way means a steep finish to the col but it’s not hard. The hardest part is the road surface, it’s that rasping granular surface often found in rural France.

It’s a similar story for the Côte de Grammond which snakes its way up at a gentle rate. Someone who’s tired and on a bad day can get dropped here but the sprinters should find they can sit on the wheels. The race then drops down via a steeper descent that’s probably the most technical section of the day with 7% downhill and a series of sweeping bends; nothing wild but send a bunch racing to the finish and it can be nervous.

The Finish: a long finishing straight that’s up and down and with a slight rise to the line. St Etienne’s an industrial town but they’ve managed to pick a charmless location for the finish.

The Scenario: a bunch sprint seems probable. It’s not 100% certain, it never is but today’s course suits the sprinters and we should see several team working to set this up.

We might see some breakaway attempts and watch to see who goes up the road. If it’s just wildcard wildcats then the sprinters will be relaxed but if some tough guys go up the road – think Sylvain Chavanel, Niki Terpstra, Tony Martin – then events might just turn out different.

The climbs could be used by some teams to put some of the sprinters in difficulty. Europcar and Cannondale have more than green kit in common, they can both try to go full gas over the Col des Brosses and the Côte de Grammond hoping to put some of the other sprinters in difficulty. But easier said than done, these climbs are the kind where a rider sitting on the wheels can benefit from the slipstream of others. Plus some of the sprinters cope fine with these climbs.

The danger is the wind, there’s nothing severe forecast but the roads are often exposed and with riders on the limit on a climb it could crack a few. But the forecasts vary, see below.

The Contenders: André Greipel is the prime pick. I’ve got “you always mention that” comments for pointing out that André Greipel was once German hill climb champion but it’s a clue that he can scale a climb or two and we’ve seen it before in the Tour. He’s got a team on a roll and the finishing speed to win.

With Giant-Shimano it’s hard to make the call between Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb. Normally Kittel is the faster but he’s seemed off the pace later while Degenkolb was second yesterday and seems to be over his injury. This gives the team more options but since I can’t know which one is the designated sprinter neither are the first choice.

Peter Sagan has it simple today, just sprint for the win. There’s no need to play poker, he just needs to fight for position, pick the 11 sprocket and go. Maybe we will see his team try to soften up the race, it’s needed given he must be tired after making efforts yesterday.

Bryan Coquard and Arnaud Démare should do well. Coquard made it over most of the climbs with the front group yesterday, only the last one got the better of him. Démare has the raw power for the finish and will love the slight rise to the line.

Finally among the sprinters you might have forgotten about Alexander Kristoff but what if he won?

For the breakaway riders once again it’s a lottery to pick names but for fun: Sep Vanmarcke, Daniele Bennati, Sebastian Langeveld as each ride for a team with the need for revenge or publicity.

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André Greipel
John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan
Marcel Kittel, Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Démare
Trentin, Renshaw

Weather: hot with 34°C and blue skies. A light wind of 10-15km/h will blow from the east but on the climbs some forecasts say it could blow at 20-25km/h which is just enough to fan the bunch across the road.

TV: the racing begins with KM0 at 13.05pm Euro time. The finish is planned for 5.30pm. Tune in for for the final 90 minutes to see the race tackle the last two climbs.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Augie March July 17, 2014 at 6:33 am

To carry on the Sagan discussion from yesterday, I wonder if his winless status in this year’s Tour should be more attributed to the weakness of his team as well as Sagan’s own tactics and the posture other riders take towards him. Yesterday we saw Cannondale setting the pace for 100km, yet Sagan was isolated in the finale, and this has happened before. Contrast this with another rider who wins out of reduced bunches, Simon Gerrans. In Liege this year, Greenedge put riders on the front into the final kilometres to keep the pace high and discourage the sort of last minute attacks that, as Gallopin showed, often win races, thus allowing Gerrans to sprint for the win (leaving aside for the moment questions about Dan Martin).

And this is from a team that is built completely around Sagan. If the rumours are correct and he is moving to Tinkoff next year, he would once again be in a top GC team, but unlike in 2012 he won’t be allowed to set up the sort of victories he enjoyed when he was a lesser known quantity. If he lacks the raw strength to win solo then he really does need a new tactic if he’s to remain a top contender for stage wins (or he could just keep sitting in Marcel Kittel’s wheel on the flat stages and continue racking up those points).

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Ewen July 17, 2014 at 9:42 am

Cannondale seem to start working too early, reel in the break and then Sagan is on his own for the finale. He needs a team mate to cover the Gallopin-esque moves. I wonder who decides when they start working. Is Sagan calling for it early or does the DS tell them to start riding? Maybe it’s a result of his “independent streak” that means the team isn’t cohesive around him yet.

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Fletch July 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

Cannondale are a bit weak so it’s not certain that even if they don’t work early that anyone would be strong enough to able to help in the finale.

But excluding that their hand has been forced on these “Sagan” stages as no other team is willing to work with them. The Cycling Podcast team reported that the Cannondale DS went up and down the line of cars asking for other teams to commit riders to reeling in the break and found nobody willing to help. They just don’t want to pull Sagan to the line.

Maybe his only option is to be willing to lose. Call the other teams bluff and let the break go on stages that suit him. He and the team will still be pilloried afterwards but at least the long term pay off will be that the other teams will know they can’t rely on Cannondale to reel in the break on this type of stage.

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tourdeutah July 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

It’s funny how us amatuers constantly criticize. Sagan has been in the Green Jersey since stage two and we feel he doesn’t deserve it. Really ?

The last time I checked, the points jersey rewards the most consistent finisher.

Even with the weighting of points towards the sprinters he has proven to be the most consistent rider. He has finished second on five occasions and finished in the top five on the first seven stages. A feat not accomplished since 1930.

Yeah, dude is having a horrible Tour and should be relegated to a second division team.

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StevhanTI July 17, 2014 at 7:36 am

I was having similar thoughts about Cannondale / Sagan, they seem to be in the position OPQS have found themselves in so often. Carrying the weight of the chase the whole day and finish empty handed b/c the effort has taken the best of them. As for Sagan’s future, Sporza claims Astana is the chosen team: http://sporza.be/cm/sporza/wielrennen/Tour/140716_Sagan_richting_Astana_bron reuniting Sagan & Nibali.

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The Inner Ring July 17, 2014 at 8:02 am

His agent’s since denied this. It’s said to be Tinkoff-Saxo instead. Either way he should find a stronger team, he needed it in the classics and needs it now. Especially with a lieutenant who can alter the numbers so he and his team have two options in yesterday’s finish. But would Tinkoff or Astana want to play this game and allocate resources when they’re racing for yellow?

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Augie March July 17, 2014 at 8:09 am

True, but even without their star Cavendish OPQS have won two stages, and barring a crash or illness Tony Martin looks almost certain to win the TT. This shows the class and depth of their squad. Cannondale on the other hand seem to be a one trick pony, and if Sagan can’t get up for a win then they’ll likely leave empty handed.

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tourdeutah July 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Alessandro De Marchi is a solid break away rider and KoM competitior.

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paul July 17, 2014 at 9:37 am

white jersey classification.

am i wrong in thinking kwiatkowski can win this in paris? sure he is 1m 38s down on bardet and 52s down on pinot. but in the 2013 33km time trial into mont-st-michel he finished 5th and took almost 2 minutes off pinot and over 3 minutes off bardet. and this years ITT is 54km so could he pull out even bigger margins?

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The Inner Ring July 17, 2014 at 9:42 am

So far his weakness seems to be the high mountains, he’ll find Pinot and Bardet are likely superior. But as you say he can expect to bring back time in the final TT. The French pair are in good shape but have a lot of media and pressure to deal with each day.

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paul July 17, 2014 at 11:39 am

cheers mr ring. I see he lost 90s to bardet on alpe d’huez last year. pinot didnt start that stage after losing so much time up mount ventoux. they do both look strong this year tho.

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Souln July 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm

IMO his attacks seems bit desperate, he is trying to gain some time before high mountains where he will lose a lot of time, also think that he will be already cooked before TT

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KB July 17, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Agreed. He’s riding aggressively and it’s fun to watch. He is one of my favourites, and I follow him pretty closely, but I think he’s looking a little overraced – he had a brilliant spring, made significant progress, so any results now are just icing on the cake in my view. He faded in the third week last year; the Mont St Michel ITT was stage 11 as well. No doubt he will put in a good TT in the penultimate stage, but I don’t think he’ll be back in white again (Bardet to keep it for me).

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Simon July 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

@The Inner Ring, where do you see Sagan ending up? And Edvald Boasson Hagen? Do you think EBH is teams second choice if they can’t land Sagan?

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The Inner Ring July 17, 2014 at 10:01 am

Everyone says Tinkoff for Sagan; for Boasson-Hagen it’s said he’s going to BMC Racing.

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Eirik July 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

On Norwegian tv 2 last night BMCs Ochowicz was interviewed and he claimed that EBH to BMC was not happening as they did not have room for him.

They did also interview Brian Holm who was open to the idea of EBH to OPQ and Vinokourov who said that they had talked about him, but that he was too expensive for them.

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The Inner Ring July 17, 2014 at 11:34 am

It seems he could stay too. There’s always lots of speculation, he needs to find the right team and perhaps still work out what type of rider he is and wants to be.

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Bundle July 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

He’s a classics specialist until he improves his motivation and time trialling to start to think of stage racing. So he shouldn’t go where there are other classics specialists, BMC of all places (he’d play duo with Van Avermaet on the cobbles, but would be superseded by Gilbert almost everywhere else). Lampre or Europcar could change his atmosphere, while giving him freedom to target the classics he might prefer.

PT July 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Didn’t I read somewhere (?cycling tips?) that the Lotto mechanic was about to build up a Ridley for a Norwegian champion? The only Norwegian I know of who is currently in their roster is Vegard Breen…is he the champ of Norway? Or is it for EBH perhaps?

Eirik July 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm

@PT

You might have read that a Lotto mechanic was building the bike, but i doubt it. The Norwegian champion is non the less getting a Ridley bike because the Norwegian champion, Tormod Hausken Jacobsen, is riding for the Norwegian Conti team Team Øster-Hus Ridley.

Shawn July 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I don’t doubt that Tinkoff will pay $$$ for Sagan but I wonder if it’s a good team for him. They don’t have much support for him in the classics and the team will have to split resources in LeTour btwn. Contador & Sagan.

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PT July 18, 2014 at 12:57 am

@Eirik. I think you’re right. I just checked and its not in the article but a comment in the section below this piece on CyclingTips. Its not the Lotto mechanic but someone else named Mark.

http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/07/lotto-belisols-ridley-bikes-at-the-tour-de-france-3/

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Ankush July 17, 2014 at 10:18 am

On Tour Talk, James said that at St Etienne its never a field sprint finish. It will be interesting to see what happens today. A repeat of yesterday please :-)

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Bundle July 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Inrng’s analysis of why the sprint is most probable is very credible (if you see things from the sprinter’s side), but something tells me it won’t be the case today.

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The Inner Ring July 17, 2014 at 5:53 pm

St Etienne’s surrounded by hills, even small mountains, but they took a relatively steady approach into the city.

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Larry T. July 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

“It’s a pity the riders have to eat gels and other processed foods.” Too true, but what escapes me is why those who don’t have to eat this stuff ape the pros by eating this crap instead of real food. Some of our tour clients show up with boxes of this stuff, but (happily) most of it goes home with them uneaten after they discover the pleasures of real food with us.

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MD July 17, 2014 at 11:25 am

I was under the impression that quite a few of the riders suffer from gut rot – and actually eat rice cakes / small sweet cakes/ waffles etc and usually have a power gel or other with caffine etc in close to the end of a stage – and probably for sponsor reasons. I have seen a lot of silver foil surprises on eaten by bike riders this year – but this tends to be earlier on the stage.
There are lots of chefs pushing for less gels and more real food energy, the Tinkoff chef, Sky chef, Garmin chef and Belkin chef – all of whom are online, I am sure there are more.

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Anonymous July 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Typically they go for real food earlier on and closer to the final they move into the ‘technical’ foods of gels, shot blocks etc.
The technical stuff just gets in quicker, real food doesn’t there will always be a need for the technical stuff.

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