201km and the first of the Alpine stages. The Col de Manse is the highlight, one of the rare mountain passes celebrated and feared for its descent rather than the climb. Several riders have come undone here.
Stage 15 Review: a fast start saw a large group go clear and Katusha missed the missed and chased. They covered 47km in the first hour despite the uphill start. Several riders were dropped including Mark Cavendish and Arnaud Démare as Katusha continued to chase. The Russian team mimicked Giant-Alpecin’s ride to Rodez, working on the front all day but left without a result. André Greipel took his third stage win with a powerful long sprint to hold off John Degenkolb’s furious headbutting style. It’s his ninth stage win all together, of all the riders in the race only Mark Cavendish has more. Talking of impressive, Peter Sagan wowed again, in the breakaway all day and then fourth in the sprint.
- Km 130.0 – Col de Cabre (1 180 m), 9.1 kilometre-long climb at 4.6% – category 2
- Km 189.0 – Col de Manse (1 268 m), 8.9 kilometre-long climb at 5.6% – category 2
The Route: after riding past yesterday’s finish of Valence the race rides up the Drôme valley. The road rises constantly before starting the Col de Cabre, “goat pass”. It looks pointy on the profile and sounds scary but is just a long drag. More main roads take the road into Gap where the race doesn’t cross the finish line but just before it climbs up.
The Finish: it doesn’t look like much and it’s all on a wide and open road. The profile above is an old one and the early kilometres are a bit steeper. One reason it’s so selective is because the descent is so feared, riders want to speed up the climb because they know a gap can be preserved on the descent.
In fact the descent is really part of the Col de Rochette but the Manse label has stuck. Tthe two most memorable incidents are Joseba Beloki’s crash in 2003 when a heatwave meant melted tarmac helped provoke his crash whilst cold rain undid Andy Schleck in 2011. In 2013 Chris Froome came a cropper. The descent is notorious but nothing outrageous, it’s more its proximity to the finish which incites riders to take risks and pressure their rivals. Things ease with 4km to go and the race takes a main road into town via several roundabouts.
The Contenders: it’s likely a breakaway goes away and stays away as long as it contains the right ingredients and a team or two is not forced to pull it back for hours. It’s hard to pick names from the breakaway lottery but remember names we’ve seen up the road are those feeling good and we’re likely to see them again. Think of Jacob Fuglsang, Thomas De Gendt, Wilco Kelderman, Adam Yates, Rigoberto Uran, Jan Bakelants or Romain Bardet as riders we’ve seen trying already and who can all do something on the final climb but these are a handful of names among others.
The GC teams will force the pace to the foot of the climb which could endanger a weak breakaway. Vincenzo Nibali is being tipped by many because of his mean descending skills and he’s desperate to save something from the this race. But descending takes skills, confidence and power and if he’s got the first the second two aspects aren’t on show, he’ll need to believe in himself and have the power to sprint out of the corners faster than the others. Tony Gallopin should find this finish suits him, especially if he can sprint from a small group into Gap where Alejandro Valverde is an obvious rival.
|Alejandro Valverde, Tony Gallopin|
|Rodriguez, Fuglsang, Kelderman, Nibali, Pauwels,|
Weather: hot and sunny with tarmac-melting temperatures of 33˚C with a light 10km/h tailwind from the west.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.20pm Euro time and the Col de Manse is expected to start around 4.5pm. If you can’t find it on TV, you’ll find it online with Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.