Tour de France Stage 15 Preview

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Stage 14 Wrap

Finally the breakaway stayed away… or at least one fugitive managed to slip the peloton police. Rafał Majka won thanks to his climbing and pacing skills on the final climb, he didn’t hit the start of the climb to Risoul when others were jumpy.

Behind Vincenzo Nibali attacked again. He doesn’t need to do this and since he couldn’t win the stage with Majka a minute up the road why take off? Because he can, plus it’s better to ditch his rivals with a bold attack and then climb at a steady pace rather than wait for the others to start attacking each other and be subjected to their accelerations.

Nibali found Jean-Christophe Péraud clamped like a limpet to his back wheel, wheelsucking yes but still impressive to follow. Péraud’s an interesting character, he started out in mountain biking but combined this – an Olympic silver medal in XC in Beijing 2008 – with work as an thermohydraulics engineer for French energy giant Areva. He only turned pro on the road aged 32, winning the French time trial championships and landing a contract with Omega Pharma – Lotto for 2010.

Further down the mountain and the GC had another shake-up, this time Rui Costa and Jurgen Van Den Broeck falling out of the top-10. Valverde held on to second overall but lost time, a touch of wheels with Thibaut Pinot result in a problem with his gears. Quietly Tejay van Garderen is climbing up the ranks and he wasn’t afraid to attack either, despite being on antibiotics. He seems willing to take time in the mountains and can surely take plenty in the time trial. But will he be at ease in the Pyrenees with their ever-changing gradients? Nibali’s even more secure but the next five riders are within 90 seconds of each other.

The Route
Not a categorised climb along the way. As the profile suggests it’s not flat but the climbs are gradual as the race crosses the Vaucluse. Everything about the route says breakaway, the longer the stage goes on the more the roads level out and get wider, lending themselves to a chase.

The Finish: an urban finish with the race heading into the city centre to finish outside the Arena of Nîmes, a Roman amphitheatre. The approach has roundabouts but the final kilometre is one long straight flat road although it has a pronounced camber.

The Scenario
A sprint finish. An early break will go but several teams want to set up a sprint finish. Giant-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol are the two obvious ones but Cannondale will help, Katusha, FDJ and Europcar too, there aren’t many chances left for the sprint teams. The finish doesn’t offer much chance for a joker to jump away either.

See the weather forecast below because there’s the rising chance of a crosswind splitting things up.

The Contenders
Pick a sprinter. Marcel Kittel‘s early domination is over and it’s hard to pick between him and John Degenkolb, the flat run in suits Kittel on paper but perhaps Degenkolb is fresher?

If not another German is André Greipel, a tangle with Sylvain Chavanel took him out off Thursday’s sprint in St Etienne. That day we saw Alexander Kristoff win, he’s another name. But I’m not convinced he’s the fastest.

Arnaud Démare can win a stage, he’s got the speed but hasn’t been able to show it because of his positioning. Sprinting is as much about positioning as it is power and perhaps FDJ can try to get him to the front early, he has the force to go early… but he’s been sick with stomach troubles, sometimes these things last a day. Otherwise it’s the same story for Bryan Coquard minus the illness, he is still Europcar’s best bet for a stage win.

There’s also Peter Sagan. Maybe he wins when we don’t expect it?

OPQS are likely to use Mark Renshaw, probably their fastest rider for this stage but it depends how he’s got fared in the mountains. Matteo Trentin could be fresher.

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

Weather: a day early? A good chance of a thunderstorm and a top temperature of 27°C with only a light breeze forecast. Tomorrow will see crosswinds of 35km/h gusting to 60km/h. However if the thunderstorms do get up today there’s the chance of rising wind.

10.00 am Update: it’s raining at the start and the latest forecast says there’s a bigger chance of strong winds, a 3/4 headwind for the final hour that could gust to 70km/h.

TV: the start at 12.10pm Euro time, TV starts at 2.00pm and the finish is expected for 5.20pm. Tune in to watch the sprint trains in action in the final hour.

Larry T. July 20, 2014 at 7:38 am

Does ASO figure viewers will tune in to anything on Sunday afternoon? Why not a dramatic mountain stage today? It seems Nibali’s building up a lead that will let him ride the chrono stage with a glass of bubbly in hand while Valverde’s struggling to hold onto 2nd against a lot of challengers. It’s hard not to think of MERCKX, though I wasn’t into the sport back in his day enough to have any first-hand knowledge of Eddy’s domination.

Evan July 20, 2014 at 9:18 am

definitely merckx-like to attack when you’re already far ahead

mr_poll July 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Presume sometimes the sponsors of sprint teams want a slice of the weekend TV market and perhaps ASO are giving them that chance.

The Inner Ring July 20, 2014 at 3:16 pm

ASO won’t create a route to suit Belisol or Giant. It’s more geography, they can’t always have stages in the Alps and the Pyrenees over the weekends.

It’s more Nîmes is paying for this and they’re also paying ASO for the Vuelta start in a few years.

CK July 20, 2014 at 9:20 am

It does seem an odd choice, both from a spectator and a sporting point of view. Then again, while I’d love to see another tough day in the mountains to build on yesterday and see who really has the staying power, Le Tour is a business and if the Nîmes tourist board is willing to dish out the €€€ I suppose we become a secondary consideration.

The Inner Ring July 20, 2014 at 10:37 am

I’ve updated the weather forecast above, there’s an increasing chance of a strong wind.

Tovarishch July 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm

70 km/hr. I’d be going backwards.

SG July 20, 2014 at 11:48 am

Kristoff have lost Porsev and I think that is a big blow for him since he only had three riders to help him in the finish. Positioning will be a lot harder for him and he will use unnecessary “juice” to do so.
My favorite today is Greipel.

JEB July 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Hi Inner Ring. Thanks for all the write ups and stage previews.
I have a question about the team classifications. When I add up the top 3 riders of AG2R, I get a much bigger time than the official ‘le tour’ website (after stage 14). Infact it looks to me like Belkin are 1st and AG2R 2nd, Sky 3rd, And that but are only 5min behind AG2R.
I know it says time penalties are ignored in the team classification, but they cant have attracted that many!
I looked but couldnt find any info on what time penalties had been dished out.

Thanks again for all the write ups.

The Inner Ring July 20, 2014 at 1:57 pm

The team prize is calculated by adding the time of the best three riders each day rather than the best three on GC. For example if a team has riders A, B and C make the winning break one day then their times for the stage are taken and added together. If riders X, Y and Z on the same team go up the road the next day, their times are taken. So it’s the times of a team’s best three riders on each stage as opposed to the best three riders overall.

Ed July 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm

@jeb it’s not top three riders on GC, it’s top three stage finishers each day. So yesterday it would have been Peraud’s, Bardet’s and Gastauer’s times that would have counted for the team classification; the day before it would have been, well, the same, but go back to stage 12 it would have been the items of dumoulin, gastauer and Peraud.

JEB July 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Ah, got ya. that explains it. Thanks guys.

Garuda32 July 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm

What it doesn’t explain is why the old euskatel-euskadi team didn’t have that prize locked down for years on end with a full crew of second tier climbers with no real GC threat. Any three of them on any given mountain stage, then a different three for the next day. Seems like a better TV/podium time than getting dropped when the real GC battle starts.

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