Tour de France Stage 20 Preview

The final mountain stage of the Tour de France, this is shortest road stage of the race.

If Chris Froome’s lead looks safe, the others in the top-5 are all within a minute on the overall classification and the mountains jersey is still up for grabs too. The suspense could last all the way to the finish line.

Stage 19 Review

No early attacks from the big names, instead a large move went away with the likes of Ryder Hesjedal, Christophe Riblon, Pierre Rolland and Rui Costa. Rui Costa was a worthy winner after going in the early break and turning on the power with perfect timing on the final climb to descent to the finish, a damp déjà vu copy of his win in Gap.

A long day, too long? Was the clue in the name when the stage went from Le Bored d’Oisans to Le Grand Boring? It wasn’t the best viewing but as predicted yesterday, if there were no early hostilities then it was a day for the breakaway.

Mystery of the day is Pierre Rolland. He’s changed plans several times in the race, from GC goals to the mountains jersey to stage wins and his missed them all. He’s got the ability to shine in this race but seems to have been distracted by his acquisition of mountains jersey in Corsica. He tried yesterday but his point-hunting still sees him out of the jersey and it’s hard to imagine him taking more points today. What if he’d played it steady and waited for the final climb to take the stage win? He’s got the legs but has he got the racing brain?

Don’t underestimate the team prize: if you think it’s just yellow helmets and a footnote in the results then you’re not a team manager. The prize is cherished by teams and this probably explains why Saxo-Tinkoff spent so much of the time working on the front of the bunch. Judging by Twitter this left many people perplexed and even frustrated when Alberto Contador didn’t attack. Instead it was only to reel in Radioshack-Leopard and Ag2r La Mondiale which both had three riders up the road at one point.

The Route

  • Km 12.5 – Côte du Puget 5.4km at 5.9% – category 2
  • Km 17.5 – Col de Leschaux 3.6km 6.1% – category 3
  • Km 43.0 – Côte d’Aillon-le-Vieux 6km at 4% – category 3
  • Km 51.0 – Col des Prés (1 142 m) 3.4km at 6.9% – category 3
  • Km 78.5 – Mont Revard 15.9km at 5.6% – category 1
  • Km 125.0 – Annecy-Semnoz 10.7km at 8.5% – category H

It’s only a 125km loop around the Massif des Bauges but fatigue after several days in the mountains every kilometre counts. A flat start to roll out of Annecy but only enough to get the legs turning. The road climbs with Côte du Puget in no time and, via a short descent, rides up the Col de Leschaux. There’s nothing hard here but the roads twist their way through woodland, ideal terrain for a move to ride away. If Peter Sagan can get away then he can secure enough points to win the points jersey, at least arithmetically before arriving in Paris.

The road climbs up to the Col des Prés, a steady road and then a fast and technical descent takes the race to the Mont Revard. This has long been an important venue for the Tour de France and Dauphiné, in 1972 the Tour had a 28km stage, surely one of the shortest road stages ever. It’s a steady climb that evens out, one that suits a team setting a tempo with ride roads all the way to the top.

A flowing descent awaits. Crucially it’s followed by a relatively flat section for 20km. This allows the race to regroup, any lone moves on the Revard can be reeled in by team work or co-operation. If ASO could landscape the Alps they’d surely reshape this portion but since it’s here it risks calming things before the final showdown of the 2013 Tour de France.

The Finish

The Semnoz is known as the lung of Annecy, as if the scenic Alpine town needs any more fresh air. Instead it could well asphyxiate the riders. The road starts rising before the climb officially starts, nothing much but deceptive enough to steal energy from weakening riders.

At 10km this is a short effort, 25 minutes. The climb proper begins with some steep ramps, the profile above lists the percentages per kilometre but hidden inside these are steeper sections to get the riders reaching for their lowest gears. There are some bends but the road drags up most of the way, a rider can see ahead but there are few landmarks on the way up. It’s uphill all the way to the line.

The Scenario
An early break can go but behind several teams have an interest in setting a fast pace. The stage is short and any move that goes away early might struggle to get a lead before the pace accelerates for the final climb.

Chris Froome might be able to enjoy the day, perhaps he’ll even ride away for a stage win because the 25 minute climb is perfect for him. But if he’s with others I think he might let them win and besides, his sprint is not famous. The others in the top-15 have a chance to climb up the overall rankings. Nairo Quintana can win the stage and take second place overall if he distances Alberto Contador. Meanwhile Joaquim Rodriguez is climbing well and also hopes for the stage win and the podium. It means cagey riding, because these riders will only attack of they spot weakness in their rivals because if they waste energy and fail then they too could be overtake by others. In other words, if the suspense comes down to the final kilometre, the action might not happen much earlier. Look at how Michał Kwiatkowski leads Laurens Ten Dam by one second, all takes is a late move. In the future you might not remember who finished tenth but the riders will, it’s valuable.

Given all this I see Movistar setting the pace for as long as possible and then a late attack from Quintana. There’s no point in going too early, especially if Froome chases. Instead a move in the last 3km could let the Colombian win the stage, put 30 seconds in to Contador and collect the 50 points for the mountains competition. If not watch Rodriguez who can finish fast from a group.

Weather: sunny and warm with a few clouds, warm at 28°C but cooler at altitude and the chance of a heavy shower if the clouds swell.

TV: live from start to finish, from 1.30pm with an earlier than normal finish planned for 4.50-5.10pm.

Paris: as the cliché goes the riders will be able to see Paris from the Semnoz today. However, they all stay overnight in Annecy after this stage and it’s only tomorrow morning that they’re get bussed to Lyon airport for a flight to Paris.

History: the Semnoz is also known as the Crêt de Châtillon. It was on the route of the 1998 Tour de France but the stage was neutralised after a protest by riders. With the Festina team ejected, the French police investigated others and several TVM team riders and staff were involved. The peloton was shocked and refused to race. Viewed from today’s perspective it’s bizarre, as if riders thought themselves above the law. But it’s not all in the past. The TVM team doctor went to prison and was convicted. But it’s not all in the past as this convicted criminal is none other than Andrei Mikhailov, a doctor with the Katusha team.

22 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 20 Preview”

    • The last time this happened was in 2008: none of Alejandro Valverde, Romain Feillu, Stefan Schumacher, Kim Kirchen, Cadel Evans, Fränk Schleck, and Carlos Sastre had led the race in previous years.

      Prior to that was 1999 (Lance Armstrong and Jaan Kirsipuu).

  1. No mention of Daniel Navarro? He vaulted up the standings to a very comfortable 8th. I think it was a big mistake by the other top 10 contenders to let him get a way like that. In fact, if Saxo hadn’t pushed it later on, he could have challenged Fuglsang and Mollema.

  2. I think breakaways will have to struggle against Movistrar. The triple whammy of a stage win, the overall win in the best climber classification because of the double Hors Category mountain points and 2nd place in the general classification is just to good a prize for Quintana to just give away.

  3. Just a big thanks I’m loving the blog. Always been a TDF fan and got your blog site from a cycling colleague at work. Given me a different insight into the whole Tour, very informative and a great addition to my usual July overdose of ITV4.

  4. I expected it, but Movistar’ and Saxo’s lack of ambition or even playfulness got me really down. So much that today I’m not watching Purito’s victory. The Glandon and Madeleine were shamefully ignored. Their distance to the finish should have been not a deterrent, but an incentive given those teams superiority in numbers. Porte should have been alone with Froome atop the Madeleine, and instead we saw Greipel and Cavendish still around. Portal and Arrieta being mates, and having a beer together on the Alpe d’Huez… yuck!

    • Now that’s what I call a clean sweep – Quintana stage win, KOM, 2nd, Contador out of Top 3, Rodriguez top 3 on stage and lands my Top 3 overall bet too. What a great last two days to the Tour for me, gives me a big bank to have a real crack at tomorrow’s finale – Cav or Kittel – who will it be?!?

  5. Froome’s sprint is not that bad, I would say. Specially when the last k is still 8.5% moyenne. Best example to give : last year’s climb of la Planche des belles Filles

  6. “as if riders thought themselves above the law”

    They *did* think they were!

    “this convicted criminal is none other than Andrei Mikhailov, a doctor with the Katusha team”

    And now we have an organisation called the ‘Movement for Credible Cycling” that champions this team as one of them. Riiiiiiiiight. Tres crédible.

  7. For me Saxo riding at the front meant that finally a team had decided to give Sky a taste of their own medicine, riding tempo and shedding riders from other teams.

    As I watched the race, I thought that was the strategy because indeed Sky riders were slowly disappearing as the race went on. I thought it was a tactic to isolate Froome.

    But I was wrong, they were riding for team GC. I don’t think it paid off at the end because when the speed increased, the Saxo boys too exploded, maybe loosing more time collectively than if they had been safely tucked in the bunch instead of riding at the front (I say maybe because I haven’t checked the full results of yesterday). And they didn’t evene managed to bring back the escape. Strange tactic by Saxo.

  8. I know this is super tech dork of me but I can’t help it. Has anyone else noticed that Froome and Porte are running DA 7900 brakes on their road bikes? I didn’t think I was right at first until I saw a picture of him riding side by side with Rodriguez who has the 9000 brakes on his bike. Sky has access to whatever they want and I understand riding lighter wheels but did they test the brakes for effectiveness or something and find the older ones better? Just a curious thing since they were one of the first teams this year to be on all 9000 groups when other teams seemed to be gradually switching over after the classics and Giro. Cheers!

    • They pick their own equipment. I gather Froome has been using 10 speed gears and of course oval chainrings. No idea if the calipers are better, but they seem happy to use a mix of old and new.

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