The Spin: Stage 17

Stage 17

The only stage outside of France this year, the race takes a classic route from France to Italy. 150 years ago the region was as one as the Kingdom of Savoy, a mostly French speaking area where the finishing town was called Pignerol. Today the differences are still subtle as both sides of the border are dominated by the Alpine peaks, indeed the start and finish towns are twinned.

The first climb of the Côte de Sainte-Marguerite is more a ramp than a notable climb but 2.8km at 7.6% is a rude warm up for the upcoming intermediate sprint in Villar Sainte Pancrace, which is itself uphill too albeit at a milder gradient. Then the climb of La Chaussée which is another ramp, this time in the middle of Briançon.

The twin ascensions of the Col de Montgenèvre and the climb to Sestrières are steady affairs, larger roads engineered to allow traffic to flow over the mountains. That’s not to say they’re easy, Sestrières has some 8% ramps. Besides, given the way the race is going, who knows who might use them as a springboard to leap up the road? But don’t pin your hopes on this given the long descent afterwards where a chase can be organised.

La Côte de Pramartino

Note the 10.8% section near the top. It’s almost too obvious to attack here and then speed down to the finish on the other side but all the same, that’s what some will be planning. “Dirty” Danilo Di Luca used this climb and the descent to steal time on his rivals in the 2009 Giro d’Italia, before being busted for doping.

The descent is in two parts, a technical and dangerous “toboggan” into the village of San Pietro with double-digit gradients, woodland and sharp hairpin bends in town. This is enough to scary anyone. After San Pietro things continue downhill more moderately all the way to the finish line, with the final bend 1km from the line and then a very wide and long road to the finish.

I think the scenario could be similar to yesterday, with a breakaway contesting the stage win and the favourites going on the attack on the final climb but many of the big names will have their eyes on tomorrow’s giant Alpine stage. Indeed given the closeness on the overall classification it’ll be interesting to see who gambles with an attack and who doesn’t. It’s obvious but look for the Italians today.

Weather: mostly cloudy in the morning then sunny spells until clouds across Montgenèvre and Sestrières. Sunny weather will spread to the finish. A light wind in the plain and the mountain. Temperatures ranging from 17-18°C at the start, then 9°C at altitude before 26°Cat the finish in Pinerolo.

13 thoughts on “The Spin: Stage 17”

  1. You say:

    “The first climb of the Côte de Sainte-Marguerite is more a ramp than a notable climb but 2.8km at 7.6%”

    I’m curious as to the formula for categorizing climbs, not least because I live in an area in the Lot where it’s impossible to do a reasonable ride of around 50-80km without doing two or three climbs of 4-6 km.

    However, I have no means of knowing what I’ve done except for a couple of climbs that were part of this year’s tour which were categorized as cat 3 and cat 4 respectively.

    There’s also a nasty little climb that I do (tout à gauche) on a mountain bike when I’m out with my dogs that’s about 1km at 15%. I’d be curious to know what that counts as.

    Needless to say, given my age and build, it’s a case of going up in one’s own time when riding with the club, and saying thank you to the other guys (and girls) who are kind enough to wait at the top.

  2. No one can hide on this stage – the knives came out yesterday and by the looks on the faces of the Leopard they were totally unprepared for Alberto’s blitzkreig. Cadel went well but he may have to make a move of his own in the three days to come if Contador has found his legs again. While some think Ivan is a dark horse in this one, I personally cannot see him taking yellow before Sunday.

  3. It was a difficult stage yesterday with some very fast riding. I think Contador will be on the offensive again but the troops of Frandy will be more alert this time. Look out for Chavanel, Kreuziger & other Astana boys to try for the breakaway

  4. We’ll be there in Pinerolo. Wouldn’t say the differences between France and Italy in this region are so small — caffe done correctly (guess on which side of the border?) as well as properly cooked pasta are not subtle to us…but of course we are horribly biased in favor of things Italian. We hope to be able to see things on TV as well as live at the finish. Tomorrow we return to the land of the Big Gulp and Big Mac.

  5. Like yesterday, I wouldn’t be surprised if something happens in Pramartino. I don’t think the effort would be too much in the face of tomorrow (which is, by the way, too short to qualify as “giant”).
    Good writing, anyway. Keep it going!

  6. Big descents should mean a few cards will go Cadels way at least – although Sammy is no slouch either. Frank & Andy will lose more time going downhill and possibly even some on the way up too. Ivan? Can’t see it to be honest. Alberto may dance up the road but I beleive Cadel will grimmace and take his wheel everytime. Tommy V may hand over the yellow tonight. Should be a great stage.

  7. Any descent involving even the slightest soupcon of moisture could effectively end Andy’s claim to the yellow in Paris if yesterday’s display of “descending like a lopsided bag of spanners” is anything to go by.
    Cadel ALWAYS has a bad day and Bertie’s only getting stronger.. I expect some obscene attacks from Contador over the next few days with Cadel, Frank & TV Tommy unable to take the pace. Predictions for Paris??.. too early for that?

  8. I think the other GC contenders would be bonkers not to attack the Schlecks again given how uncomfortable they were on the descent yesterday. If Andy has decent form on the big alpine climbs then he could still put serious time into Evans there. Evans should take advantage of these stages that suit his strengths better.

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