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The Spin – Stage 15

One week to Paris, a rest day tomorrow and only 158km for today, things look easy, no? Except time is running out for several teams to shine in this race. Liquigas, Lotto-Belisol and Sky have monopolised the race so far with three stage races each and the arithmetic means many teams will leave the race empty-handed.

Consequently many will want to make the breakaway in the hope the move stays away, all whilst Orica-Greenedge want to bring any escape back so they can set-up Matthew Goss for an elusive stage win.

  • Km 107.0 – Côte de Lahitte-Toupière2.1 kilometre-long climb at 5.3% – category 4
  • Km 123.5 – Côte de Simacourbe1.9 kilometre-long climb at 6.3% – category 3
  • Km 129.0 – Côte de Monassut-Audiracq1.5 kilometre-long climb at 5.4% – category 4

The Route: in two words scenic yet awkward. The race traverses the gentle Gers area with its rolling hills, the roads rise and fall but there’s nothing too technical. Instead it’s a route lined with sleepy villages, fields of sunflowers and goose farms. It gets hillier towards the end but a well-placed sprinter should not have to worry before the race reaches Pau, the Pyrenean city that has been visited by the Tour more often than anywhere else. But those rolling hills do roll and there’s almost 2,500 vertical metres of climbing today.

The Intermediate Sprint: completely straight and flat.

The Finish: a flat urban finish into Pau with its wide roads. A few twists and turns in town but there are no real obstacles.

The Race: time is running out for teams to win a stage so expect a furious start with many riders and teams wanting to be in the breakaway. The stage is short meaning the pace should be intense until the elastic finally snaps, either figuratively or when Wiggins pulls down his shorts for a pee, the sign of a patron indicating it’s time to stop chasing.

Orica-Greenedge are still trying for the stage win but there’s only two more possible sprint stages to come, with Stage 18 far from being a sprint and Stage 20 in Paris could be a parade where Bradley Wiggins leads out Mark Cavendish. Playing Armchair Directeur Sportif I think they could put a rider into the breakaway. Yes it’s a wagon less for the sprint train later but the rider could sit tight and save his legs for the finish, insurance against André Greipel overtaking Matthew Goss in the sprint. A bunch sprint seems likely and the Australian team has several fast finishers.

Weather: 23°C (73°F) and a mild breeze, the weather won’t be tactically significant.

TV: all day live coverage from start to finish. The first hour could be the best part of the stage for viewers so tune in at 1.40pm.

Local Rider: Pierrick Fédrigo’s training routes overlap today’s stage. The FDJ-BigMat rider has a big engine but remains an unpolished diamond despite a long career. A keen hunter, he picked up a parasite two years ago which ruined his 2011 season.

Local Food: sauce béarnaise is one of the fundamentals of French cooking involving clarified butter, eggs and herbs. It’s named after the region but apparently comes from the court of a king in the past.

Do: eat local. The race arrives in Pau for the rest day and coincidentally the Astana team ends up in the same hotel, the Novotel as they stayed in 2010 when Contador, then an Astana rider, claimed he ate his rogue steak imported from a Spanish butcher.

Don’t: get bored with Pau. The unmissable city of the Pyrenees, it has featured in the Tour more often than any other place in France. In reality it is nothing special, although it’s a student town and more lively than most places in the area. On a good day there are scenic views of the Pyrenees and the town is also home to motor-racing, look carefully and when the bunch rolls out on Wednesday and you’ll see the painted kerbs and crash barriers.

Stage 14 standings

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Frogboy Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:45 am

    Hopefully Matthew Goss won’t try to pull a Ferrari again and stay in his lane… It’s pay back time for the work he put in in the mountains, Sky will set up Cavendish beautifully and he’ll take the win. Or Pierrick Fedrigo could win by a nose.
    The Bearnaise sauce is a variation on the Hollandaise sauce named in homage of King Henry IV (he of the wonderful quotes: “Paris is well worth a Mass” and “Until I turned forty, I thought it was a bone”) who came from the Bearn region. The fictional character D’Artagnan also comes from this area, stuck between the Pays Basque and Gascogne.

    • dan alpin Monday, 16 July 2012, 11:39 am

      ‘by a nose’ i see what you did there!!!

  • Jjlowden Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:46 am

    Going to be able to see the finish from my balcony today… There are a couple of 90 degree corners in the last km with one of them at 300m from the line. The road is quite wide though so shouldn’t be a problem

  • Mattias Monday, 16 July 2012, 9:08 am

    I just Hope That Kessiakoff han remain at the top At the best climber all the way to Paris

  • Ankush Monday, 16 July 2012, 10:12 am

    Pau is a likeable name and makes the town sound welcoming. I thought Pau will be a residence for many French cyclists given it’s proximity to the Pyrenean climbs.

  • grumpyoldman Monday, 16 July 2012, 10:20 am

    “Paris could be a parade where Bradley Wiggins leads out Mark Cavendish”

    Is Cavendish happy with the way things have gone this year?

    It always seemed to me that joining the Sky project might not be the best way of defending his green jersey, and that’s how it has panned out. Even if he hadn’t crashed, he’d have been hard put to it to beat Sagan.

    That said, maybe he really is focusing on the Olympics this year and is content with his role as glorified domestique?

    • Anonymous Monday, 16 July 2012, 1:14 pm

      I still remember reading the interview with Cav where he explained that as he didn’t win an Olympic medal on the Track, he wasn’t given the free upgrade on the British Airways flight home. His sense of injustice/disappointment was palpable. “Brits-in-the street” are finally catching up with International Cycling, but as a nation put a high value on Olympic success. I’m sure he’d dearly like to have this in his palmares.

      I also seem to remember Brad was “blamed” for a while on this, as it was a Madison medal that Cav was after, but they kissed and made up. He was strangely subdued in the interview that Eurosport carried out with him and aired yesterday. Mind elsewhere?

      HTC earned him his green jersey. HTC wasn’t an option for 2012. Look what his Sky/GB colleagues have already won (with) him (stripes!) and I think you can be sure that the Olympics are his key objective. Time to stay on message, despite the fact that he could easily have said “they could have sent someone back for me” on Saturday’s cross-wind torn stage.

  • Limoncello Monday, 16 July 2012, 10:24 am

    May be a silly question, but where can I view the total vertical meters for each stage? Eg you say today has 2500m. I would love to see this for all the stages. Long live inrng.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 16 July 2012, 10:35 am

      Normally the Tour organisers provide the info but this time I worked it out by mapping the route. I knew the roads are rolling all day and whilst this is a sprint stage, I wanted to measure the climbing.

  • Toby Monday, 16 July 2012, 10:30 am

    Sky seems to be keen on rewarding domestiques for their hard work – Wiggins leading out EBH, Froome took a stage – so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sky letting Greenedge and Lotto chase all day, then forming a strong leadout for Cav in the last 4 or 5km to hopefully set him up for the win. It would really cement their authority on the race – if it hasn’t already been done – and would result in a good team spirit. Plus, with the rest day tomorrow, a strong exertion today for a lead-out train shouldn’t be too detrimental for their recovery for the remaining stages.

  • jcoxbar Monday, 16 July 2012, 10:37 am

    Question for inrng – not sure where to ask it but looking at the profile for this stage it seems appropriate here. I’m already thinking ahead to the Olympic road race which all the journos say Cav has made his priority for this year. However, it has a 9? loops of box Hill in the middle. Showing my ignorance here but how hard will 9 such loops be for Cav. I noticed he was at the front for a good part of the climbs yesterday until it got really steep on the “Mur” one. Is the sort of climbing required today similar to what will be needed at the Olympics?
    On a different point with all these loops at the Olympics is there any chance of a small breakaway or individual catching up the main field and getting a tow up ?

    • stuartrc Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:26 pm

      Boxhill is part of my regular sunday run and I quite often use it for hill repeats. Even a fat non-racing cyclist like me can go up it at around 17-18 kph so I really do not think the climb is going to present a challenge for Cavendish.

      A lot is made of the fact it is going to happen nine times however, the boxhill climb itself it about 1.8 km at 6-7% and once you get to the top there is a further 2 km of false flat 2-4% gradient. after that coming back to the beginning if the loop is a twisty descent with lots of off camber turns.

      So my view is the hill is not selective enough to drop Cav and even if it is there is plenty of scope for a good descender to chase back on for very little energy cost. If you are in the peleton then the downhill part of the loop is all recovery until you are back at the base of the climb.

      I think we will see Cav, Greipel and Goss contest a sprint finish.

      Its going to be hard for a breakaway to succeed at the route back into london is usually against the wind so the peleton will have a huge advantage chasing down a break.

      • jcoxbar Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:45 pm

        Thanks for the info Stuart. Sounds like Cav should not be troubled and will be in it for the final sprint

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:28 pm

      The London climb is 5% average, the kind of climb where positioning matters so you’re on the right wheel but you can hopefully get up with the help of team mates. We’ll see, certainly if you’re a fan of Cavendish you might have more concerns than a Greipel or Sagan fan but don’t forget Cav is fighting by himself, in the Olympics he’ll have a small team for him.

  • new kid Monday, 16 July 2012, 10:46 am

    If I may go back to yesterday’s stage, was Mur de Péguère as big as monster as we were led to believe? Watching Sagan keep up with the first 4 breakaways who I assume weren’t dawdling up the climb made me wonder. The peloton didn’t seem to shell out the big numbers I expected. Maybe the straight ahead direction of the climb compared to the switchbacks you see on many killer climbs meant it was hard to “see” its steepness watching it on TV?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:26 pm

      That was what I was hinting at in yesterday’s preview. The organisers called it a “Mur” and said it was 18% but in fact it was more 12-14% at worst and a col. Still the riders did take it steady, we saw teams happy to let Cavendish and Eisel set the pace.

  • Simma Monday, 16 July 2012, 11:32 am

    a couple of falls and sagan could win the white jersey… interesting possible outcome.

    • The Ladder Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:58 pm

      Highly unlikely, and even if TvG and Pinot lose over 40 minutes, it’s improbable that Sagan will get through the big mountains in the Pyrenees without losing time himself.

      • Simma Monday, 16 July 2012, 3:25 pm

        of course it’s unlikely. But it would be very interesting if it happened, if only for the media machine proclaiming him the next GC god along with everything else… almost surprised there aren’t quotes of people seeing him bike over water xD

        • The Ladder Monday, 16 July 2012, 3:46 pm

          I’ve areadly heard some people mention him in the same breath as Eddy Merckx. I think some of the voices are genuine, slightly premature expectations I think, even allowing for his amazing talent.

  • Tom G Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:24 pm

    What’s up with Goss, any intel?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:29 pm

      Nothing that I know. He seems to sprint in a big gear but looking back, he’s won some big races but has never been the fastest rider in the bunch. Against Greipel or Cavendish I’d usually back them ahead of Goss. But he’s still very fast and comes with a dedicated team so there’s time to win.

  • BazilBrush Monday, 16 July 2012, 12:53 pm

    Don’t forget Europcar’s pair of stage wins

  • Vera Monday, 16 July 2012, 1:28 pm

    Expecting Cavs, Goss, and Sagan to be in the mix, but it would be nice to see a birthday win for Griepel.

  • Bundle Monday, 16 July 2012, 2:06 pm

    Funny there aren’t any serious climbs today, as if Pau wasn’t surrounded by it. Not bad to make it flat for a change, but how many GC days are we having this year? 25%, 30%, something like that. Pretty ridiculous. It should be 70, 75%.

    • Cat4Fodder Tuesday, 17 July 2012, 3:17 am

      I think the GC days are due to the combination of course selection (more stages with big climbs, but either earlier in the race or with descent and flattish finish) and one team (Sky) dominating the race.

      There are fewer spots to attack, and quite frankly, I think Evans and Nibs have ceded the race to Wiggins. They know that whatever time they are down now, add 1 – 2 minutes due to the upcoming time trial stage. At this point, I think Evans is looking to World’s and Nibs…who knows…likely looking forward to Astana.

      If Wiggo and Froome were not so much stronger than the competition, suddenly, attacks would be more frequent (less than a minute down, and it is realistic to nibble at the deficit).

      Between the Green and Yellow jerseys being decided (as all racers have given up it appears), this Tour is sadly becoming a less than memorable version.

  • the lower depths Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:30 pm

    now today was BORING … false tempo by the peloton being a huge factor … a few teams had a lot to gain by seriously chasing (LiquiGas, Lotto, etc) and no one did anything … and tomorrow’s a rest day … oh well, let’s see what happens in the Pyrenees …