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.
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.
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.
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.
|Marcel Kittel-John Degenkolb|
|Alexander Kristoff, Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Démare, Peter Sagan|
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.