Tour de France Stage 12 Preview

The Tour goes to Tours, better know in cycling as the finish of Paris-Tours, the so-called “sprinters classic” held every autumn. No sprinter is towering over their rivals and the various sprint trains seem evenly matched too which promises another close finish, especially because today’s stage ends with two bends in the final kilometre.

Stage 11 Review

Another win for Tony Martin, seemingly unbeatable in the time trials. But it was close with Chris Froome just 12 seconds off the German. Martin is recovering from his crash on Stage 1 but there was blood seeping out through his white skinsuit, proof that well over a week later the wounds are still open. You wonder how he’s sleeping at night.

Froome’s rivals are now left thinking what they can do. I think he’s so far ahead that others will look to defend their positions, Alejandro Valverde and Bauke Mollema might be worrying more about Alberto Contador trying to poach their position.

Michał Kwiatkowski’s success continues. He took the white jersey back from Nairo Quintana. I think the Colombian will take it back but Kwiatkowski is surely the revelation of the year, a force in the classics and now flourishing in his first Tour.

In a similar theme, the OPQS team doctor says if Martin could lose four kilos he’d become a GC contender. But would he want to become a contender rather than the certain winner of every time trial he rides? It’s also telling of the sport, consistent victory is quickly taken for granted, just ask Peter Sagan who gets asked if he too could lose weight and win stage races. Why?

On a scenic day there was an ugly moment when Mark Cavendish reportedly got doused in urine. It’s not the first time it’s happened, in the 2008 Tour Nicolas Jalabert found someone shaking a bottle in his direction and it wasn’t water that he swallowed. He was soon ill and left the race.

Riders have had pepper thrown in their face, Eddy Merckx got punched and in 2009 an idiot used an air gun to take shots at Oscar Freire and Julian Dean. It does not excuse it but with an estimated 200,000 by the road yesterday, one lunatic seems probable.

The Route
The Tour de France has now passed the halfway point in terms of distance and today’s 218km is an easy way to rack up some distance as the race heads towards Mont Ventoux and the Alps.

But for now the race takes some unremarkable roads. I’d like to offer some insight into the route but can’t think of anything worth mentioning. The route is flat and exposed, passing the wheat fields that provide the flour for the 10 billion baguettes consumed every year in France. Whilst the end of season Paris-Tours classic has some hills thrown in to spice up the finish today’s stage remains flat.

The Finish
Another lament that the Tour won’t visit the heart of Tours, especially since the town is famous for the Avenue de Grammont, the finish line of Paris-Tours. The introduction of a new tramway means the full length of the Avenue de Grammont can no longer be used but Paris-Tours continues to use a section for the finish. But instead of a long straight road, we get some sharp corners.

Note the U-turn in the final kilometre. The first corner is with 600m to go and it’s vital, it’s a clear turn to the right on a roundabout where the wide lane funnels into a smaller side road. The second corner is more a sweeping bend but still hard for one sprint train to overtake another here and then there’s just 400m to the finish.

The Scenario
Another sprint finish? Again with several hungry sprinters and powerful teams it’s hard to see a breakaway sticking over such a flat course.

Who is the fastest sprinter? I don’t think we can tell yet, perhaps Mark Cavendish is just that bit faster thanks to his aero position but each time a sprinter has won it’s been because they’ve been placed into the perfect position by their team. Not that they’re passengers on a sprint train express, it’s more that the level seems equal. If Cavendish might have that higher speed, his lead out is more variable. André Greipel was caught out in St Malo but has a better train. Argos-Shimano have the best record with Marcel Kittel. Meanwhile Peter Sagan is in green but I think he’s got less speed than the others.

Weather: if the route is boring it’s because it’s flat and exposed but as the race heads south-east the wind will blow from the north-east meaning a crosswind until the final 25km. The breeze will blow at 25km/h but could gust to 45km/h. Otherwise it will be warm and sunny.

TV: live from 2.20pm Euro time as usual with the finish expected three hours later. With the high probability of a sprint finish tune in for the final half hour to watch the sprint trains clash.

Le Regional de l’Etape
There’s been a custom in the Tour de France for a local rider to be granted permission to ride ahead of the bunch and stop to meet and greet their family, friends and fanclub and then rejoin the race. It’s not been seen for a while, after all these days riders can phone home and family visits rather than needing to ride up the road to greet their family. Instead a local might try to go in the day’s breakaway, see Sojasun’s Julien Simon on the road to St Malo. Today watch for local riders Cyrile Lemoine (Sojasun) and Jérémy Roy ( although the latter might have tired legs after his impressive eighth place in the time trial.

34 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 12 Preview”

  1. The Pole is an amazing rider.. contesting sprints, being there in the mountains and also one of the best in TTs…

    Has Cavendish lost his groove? He does not seems as a certain winner as he used to.

    • I think it’s the positioning that’s the problem. There’s no chemistry with Steegmans. The team thinks so to, because it was just announced they rehired Renshaw.

  2. For me, Cav hasn’t lost his speed but without a safe lead out train the other teams are getting much better positions. In a straight 180m dash he still wins but get too easily bullied out of it by Lotto or Argos.

    A U turn in the last 600? I think we’ll be going to Crashville later.

  3. Wow – that u-turn has got ‘pile up’ written all over it.

    I think Cav’s been struggling on two fronts really – one, his lead-out train are still relatively new to this sort of thing, and two, the lack of space on the road thanks to 4 or 5 teams leading out their sprinters (Lotto, OGE, Argos, OPQS and Cannondale) means that there’s lead-out riders all over the place, limiting space for sprinters to make hay. Cav was blocked by Greg Henderson in a previous sprint, and OK, the Veelers incident is a contentious one but would it have been the case had there been so many sprint teams fighting for space?

    Cav will do everything he can to win today. He’s running out of opportunities and he’ll want to be in good form ready for Paris, where the wide boulevard of the Champs Elysees has always suited him.

  4. Seems odd they don’t follow the Paris-Tours finish. The hilliness would have reduce some of the peloton and the straight finish would have made for a saner sprint.

    Is ASO taking the NASCAR theory of attracting viewers ? Those that only want to see the crashes ?

    • The hills are very small roads and the Tour would be too squeezed on these roads as sprinters and GC riders fight to the space. Today’s sprint finish has two corners but only the first is sharp.

      • Since Duncan mentioned Martin, I thought I’d add that looking at his pictures, I don’t think he’d have an easy time losing four kilos. He’s pretty darned lean, way skinnier than Cancellara, say, looks like, no?

  5. The custom of a local rider riding ahead of the bunch seems to be on the verge of being lost. The last instance I can recall was during the Giro in 2009 when stage 13 went through Montelupo Fiorentini, the adopted hometown of Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) and Dario Cioni (ISD), who were met with a wall-high banner celebrating “I nostri campioni”.

    It could of course be that I’ve missed a few since then – and that some have taken place before the TV coverage began. Anyway, I’m such an old world sentimental fool that I cherish such moments.

    PS I also enjoy Cavendish’s victory gestures more than his sprint wins…

  6. “but there was blood seeping out through his white skinsuit, proof that well over a week later the wounds are still open”

    last night Sporza reported that Martin had sandpaper on his saddle to keep himself from shifting too much – that was the source of the blood stain on the inside of his shorts.

  7. Cav usually seems to have to get p*ssed off about something (no pun intended) to build up a head of steam – with 4 sprint stages left he could still take 2-3 of those including the Champs and look back on this as another succesful Tour. Experience says you write him off at your peril.
    It does almost feel as though he is better off free-loading with no train, rather than having to rely on a disfunctional one, and then make it all up inside the last km. It’s a far cry from watching a 6 strong Highroad team, lead the peleton in from 10k out unchallenged for sure.

  8. I didn’t quite understand the point about Martin and Sagan. Why should Martin limit himself to winning flat TTs, when he could probably do better in the mountains (presumably without losing power) by losing some weight, and thus contest overall victories in more stage races? (although looking at his face I don’t think he can lose much more weight). Why shouldn’t Sagan think of winning every single race in the calendar, something he’s potentially able to do in a few years? How could a sportsman not be ambitious and not TRY to achieve his possible maximum?

    • Even compared to Wiggo last year, the current Martin’s got plenty of meat to lose. Though he seemed as skinny at the Olympic time-trial last year.

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