The profile isn’t as dramatic but this is a hard 200km route at the best of times, today there’s a heatwave. Expect a fight to get in the breakaway and with luck suspense to the end for the stage win.
Stage 12 Review: Hennie Kuiper famously said “racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own“. Yesterday Joaquim Rodriguez polished off 21 plates before enjoying his own dessert. A breakaway of 22 riders went away after the early intermediate sprint and soon enouhg it was no procession with attacks starting on the Col de la Core to thin the group. Each time someone attacked Rodriguez sat tight and digested the efforts of others. Take the Portet d’Aspet where Kristian Đurasek sprinted over the top to take the points only to vanish soon after. Even more strange was Michał Kwiatkowski and Sep Vanmarcke crossing the penultimate climb together, a scene from a spring classic rather than a mountain stage of the Tour de France. Behind Astana and Ag2r La Mondiale led the chase, Rodriguez was cleaned more plates. He then devoured Jacob Fuglsand and Romain Bardet to take a solo stage win, his face grimacing like a Catalan Voeckler.
There was the second race from the peloton. Contador attacked, Nibali attacked, Valverde attacked, Quintana attacked, Froome attacked. Tejay van Garderen didn’t. Geraint Thomas was chasing and set sections of social media on fire. Presumably from those who’d missed his climbing in the Tour de Suisse, Paris-Nice or the Volta ao Algarve earlier this year. None of this vouches for him, it’s just a performance in the Tour de France attracts so much more attention. His only apparent difficulty was when Froome attacked. As well as Thomas a headwind on the plateau helped to shut down the moves. Pierre Rolland said he was “saved” by the headwind, a resuscitated Bauke Mollema said it “killed” him.
- Km 131.0 – Côte de Saint-Cirgue, 3.8 kilometre-long climb at 5.8% – category 3
- Km 156.5 – Côte de la Pomparie, 2.8 kilometre-long climb at 5% – category 4
- Km 167.0 – Côte de la Selve, 3.9 kilometre-long climb at 3.7% – category 4
The Route: the opening part of the stage includes a series of uncategorised climbs amid the exposed terrain of the Lauragais and makes ideal terrain for a breakaway to go.
The second half of the stage gets hillier and more awkward. After Villefranche d’Albigeois the race drops down to the Tarn valley and then climbs back up again to Saint Cirgue, 3.8km at 5.8% but on a rough road that’s as rasping as cat’s tongue. The race never cuts to the backroads but the surface is rural rough for a lot of the way.
After two more marked climbs there’s the uncategorised climb out of the Viaur gorge, much of which is a very long straight piece of road, awkward for a surprise attack. Over the top and it’s a gradual descent into Rodez.
The Finish: glance at the stage profile for the day and it looks like nothing special but this has a big uphill kick to the line, 9.6% for 560m. It’s all on a wide road and finishes outside the HQ of RAGT, the agricultural firm that sponsors the Tour’s team prize.
The Contenders: Peter Sagan is the default pick. The uphill finish is just within range for him and he can take points for his green jersey where other sprinters cannot. The last time the Tour came to this region Sagan set his Cannondale team to work and they ejected the sprinters and he won; the route was very different but you get the picture. However will Sagan deploy his team or try to in the break? Maybe both because if he goes up the road he can get the intermediate sprint too and if he misses the move he could always set some of his team to work.
Tony Gallopin is a good pick from the bunch but his new-found GC status means he’ll be heavily marked and is only the pick from a bunch sprint. Zdeněk Štybar can take the sprint too, no need to jump like he did in Le Havre. Alexis Vuillermoz won on the Mur de Bretagne and was excellent on the Mur de Huy but today’s finish might not be steep enough.
The local rider is Alexandre Geniez, the Colossus of Rodez. He should be extra motivated today but a win seems hard. He’s taken a stage of the Vuelta before and finished ninth in the last Giro and must be sapped by this. He’s a diesel type so if he gets in the day’s break he’ll have to barge away before the final climb. Finally Michael Matthews would have been the prime pick but he’s still nursing injuries and carrying that lanterne rouge.
|Zdeněk Štybar, Adam Yates, Tony Gallopin|
|Vuillermoz, Navardauskas, Huzarski, Geschke, Voeckler, Simon, Gauthier, Bakelants, Machado|
Weather: hot and sunny with a top temperature of 35˚C and a light 10km tailwind just to make things hotter. On a hot day a tailwind is a tease as it means less of breeze, especially on the climbs.