Tour de France Stage 16 Preview

The final week of the Tour de France sees the race head into the Alps. As soon as the route was unveiled last October the talk turned to the tough stages in the Alps, almost to the exclusion of what came before. Now we’ve had two weeks of hard racing with attacks and surprises along the way that have left riders tired and many are anxious about the stages to come.

Today has breakaway branded in bold on it although Peter Sagan and his Cannondale team might have second thoughts.

  • Km 17.5 – Côte de la Montagne de Bluye 5.7km at 5.6% – category 3
  • Km 48.0 – Col de Macuègne (1 068 m) 7.6km at 5.2% – category 2
  • Km 156.5 – Col de Manse (1 268 m) 9.5km at 5.2% – category 2

The Route
Uphill from the start but on regular roads. The race heads into the Alps via main roads but often with a granular surface. The Col de Veaux (Veal Pass) is climbed but sans points, instead the Côte de la Montagne de Bluye is a regular climb, riders will do this this in the big ring. Onwards and and the Col de Macuègne marks another point for the breakaway riders to stretch the elastic.

After these climbs some wide valley roads. You can see the slope on the profile but note much of the road runs parallel to a railway line, a clue to the gradient. The race heads to Gap but doesn’t cross the finish line, it passes by the side of the town before climbing the Col de Manse above the town.

The Finish
The climb is steady and on a wide road, some six or seven metres wide and with a few bends but long straight portions. The gradient is good for an attack but it’s not the ideal terrain for a rider to ambush his rivals. If someone gets away it’s likely to be by brute force than by surprise.

Almost every col in cycling is revered for the climb up but the Col de Manse is the exception, a mountain pass whose descent is infamous as a place where riders have lost the Tour de France and even ended their careers. In fact the descent is really part of the Col de Rochette but the Manse label seems to stuck. But note the 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. Yes the descent is notorious but it’s been tackled without incident in other years. It remains technical and with narrow roads, a festival for risk takers.

Once the descent eases, the run into town is predictable, a couple of roundabouts but nothing too technical.

The Scenario
A breakaway. But that word makes it sound so easy. Instead today could be the last stage where a breakaway could survive given only a time trial, mountain stages the Champs Elysées await. This means half the bunch will want to be in the move of the day and the fight will be fierce.

The only contradictory plan could be Cannondale with Peter Sagan. The Slovakrobat will fancy his chances in the sprint and if he doesn’t make the break, expect his team to chase.

It could be a day to play the French card. Apparently four out of the five last Stage 16s in the Tour have gone to a French winner. Sylvain Chavanel is an obvious pick, he was aggressive on the road to Mont Ventoux and can descend well and as Paris-Nice showed us, he can sprint too. We’re at the point in the race where the same names start gathering in the breaks, a natural selection where the strong riders are present whilst others endure ragged recovery. So look for Pierrick Fédrigo, a past winner in Gap, and also Arthur Vichot and Jérémy Roy too. Otherwise pick your breakaway contenders, think Johnny Hoogerland or Thomas de Gendt, Simon Gerrans and so on.

Finally for all the talk of the stage winner, if a break stays away then insurgency in the bunch is possible too. The descent to Gap was one of the moments where Andy Schleck lost the 2011 Tour and some might try to sneak time on their rivals here.

Weather: hot and sunny with the temperature at 31°C (88°F) and only a 5km/h breeze from the south-west.

TV: live coverage from 2.000pm Euro time. A shame since the start first hour or two could have more violent efforts than a game of Grand Theft Auto although by the time the live coverage starts we could still see the riders attacking each other. Tune in from 4.15pm to catch the Col de Manse with the finish expected an hour later.

Pronunciation notes
A note on how to say rider names. Nairo Quintana is not “kwin-tana” but “kin-tana”. Czech rider Roman Kreuziger might have some zing in his legs but not in his name, it’s Kroy-zigger and not Kroy-zinger as many say. Poland’s Michał Kwiatkowski seems to confuse any but it’s only six syllables: Mee-how Kvee-At-Kow-ski.

48 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 16 Preview”

  1. Good calls. I nearly snagged full points with Alabasini the other day – I reckon he’ll try again, he looked so strong. Also, I think it more likely that Gilbert will try to be there too now that Evans is out of the GC running. Is Navardauskas a possible from Garmin?

  2. If a crack descender like Nibali was racing and in contention, this stage would be ideal for them take some time back from Froome, but is there anyone with those kinds of skills at the top end of this race? Doesn’t seem like it.

    And thanks for the pronounciation tips! Maybe next you can turn your attention to the current leaders in the Tour of Qinghai Lake: Pourseyedigolakhour Mirsamad and Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy! 😉

  3. My money’s on Sagan today, he only has one stage win so far so surely doesn’t lack any motivation, he can surely manage these climbs and he descends with the best of them (remember him catching Cunego in the tour de suisse a couple of years back).

    But as you say, a day like this genuinely is a lottery

  4. My money is on Degenkolb today. Argos have said that they fancy a breakaway now that Marcel Skittle (aka The Tourminator) has racked up his 3 stage wins. Degenkolb has proved this year – on an albeith flatter stage (5) profile at The Giro – that he has the legs.

    Failing a Shimano victory I’d also fancy a classics rider to fancy this stage. Maybe a 2nd stage win for Dan Martin?! And who knows, maybe Tommy Voeckler will want to finally make something of his 2013 tour as long as he isn’t suffering a Bastille Day Ventoux gueule de bois!

  5. Surely Voeckler to spring to life today as there’s only a couple of longshots left at the end of the week.
    Good to see Europcar extend, ironically when the biggest star has been uncharacteristically anonomous while the rest of the team has strived for air time.
    The final descent will suit too so a celebration of ongoing employment for me today.

    • He’s not in top shape and saying he rushed his return to racing after several crashes earlier in the year. He did well in the Dauphiné and Route du Sud but says he’s tired now. Of course he would say this but this time it seems real.

      • completely agree – I thought he might do something on Bastille day but have given up picking him for stages like this now – he seems tired and lacking power. Cue a breakaway solo to victory now… 🙂

      • Just when we all start believing him up he pops to remind the house wives of France whose the most charming gurner in the land…

  6. I agree with Albasini and Fedrigo, they are two of my picks too – Albasini almost landing me my 42/1 bet on Saturday!

    Not sure about Chavanel, think Sunday might have taken it out of him, but we’ll see, he has come in for some support in the betting. My main pick for today is Gilbert though, looked strong on Ventoux and he, and BMC, really need to do something as time is running out in this tour. Paulinho has won in to Gap before too so he is worth a shot at 250/1! Flecha another wild card for me, missed the last two breaks that went – he is mr breakaway!

  7. I suppose a mammoth breakaway will make it to Gap with a significant id.
    I don’t think Contador will try the trick of accelerating on the climb. He did drop Schleck then,although he wasn’t super, but today he might find himself with Froome, Quintana, Rodriguez, and more.

  8. I’d concur that, if he had a good rest day, Chavanel’s as good a bet as anyone if he makes it over the last climb near the front – he seems to be gapping the field for fun on descents at the moment.

  9. I’d like to see Cadel go for it tonight and try and salvage something for himself and BMC in the TdF 2013. If he has the legs, the Stage suits him and its arguably the last chance to make any impact. Cadel and Gilbert in the breakaway…now that would be worth seeing.

  10. Great little note about pronounciation. Perhaps I should forward that to the danish commentators, who even seem to pronounce Kennaugh completely wrong (=Kenniok).

  11. I’m sure this has been asked (and answered before), but why is TV coverage not from the start of a stage? With TV stations already giving up hours of coverage, what is stopping them from broadcasting the whole thing? Just not enough interest in watching a 4-5 hour stage, particularly those where it’s plain sailing for most of it?

    It’s particularly frustrating when a lot of the action happens at the start and you only then see 2 mins of it in the highlights later, much like the early attacks on stage 9, which were missed as they happened so early.

    Does the Tour officially broadcast the first couple of hours and serve this out somewhere? I’m in the UK and generally ITV4 start broadcasting from 2pm.

  12. Does anyone know if Team Sky got any penalty for cheating (giving feed bags on the last climb, inside the last 20 K of a stage) during the Ventoux stage?

  13. It’s ‘krew-zinger’ to Sean Kelly. The awful Carlton ‘Cattle on bikes’ Kirby calls ‘Mavic’ ‘mah-vich’. The dumb bic.

  14. Grimps, don’t think that you understand or speak for cyclointelligence all of the US fans. Speak for yourself and just comment on the bad commentators we have to put up with!

    Perhaps Horner will be working as a commentator next year.

    I hope to see teams out of the top 5 GC missing it up in the alps.

  15. So – all these tips and no-one picked Costa? 🙂

    Phil Liggett still hasn’t worked out that the Sky antics on Ventoux were legal, based on his commentary last night. I think he should read Inrng…

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