The roller coaster profile looks like something out of Eurodisney but as rides go this is gentle. Yes it climbs but this is the last opportunity for the sprinters before Paris so they and their teams have to make it count.
Stage 14 Review: a fierce start and it took hours for the breakaway to settle. It included several big name riders like Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran, all reduced to raids since their overall plans went up in smoke. As predicted the stage was all about the final climb and Romain Bardet attacked first which was the last thing to do. He’s got a mean sprint and could have sniped the win but his early move saw others reeling him in, notably Thibaut Pinot. Then Steven Cummings caught both, went to the front, and despite only taking a lead of two to three metres, out rode them to take a fine win. Important for him and monumental for his team. Peter Sagan was fifth and for all his second places this was surely his best result. Bardet said he didn’t recon the stage finish so he didn’t know what to expect, it always surprises that teams don’t pay more attention to such critical finishes.
Behind Nairo Quintana attacked and Tejay van Garderen cracked. Chris Froome followed the Colombian and outsprinted him like the stage win was at stake, a strong ride but his team mates had gone; Richie Porte’s been on antibiotics of late. Quintana is now up to second overall.
- Km 9.5 – Côte de Badaroux, 4.6 kilometre-long climb at 5.1% – category 3
- Km 69.5 – Col du Bez, 2.6 kilometre-long climb at 4.4% – category 4
- Km 73.5 – Col de la Croix de Bauzon, 1.3 kilometre-long climb at 6.2% – category 4
- Km 126.5 – Col de l’Escrinet (787 m), 7.9 kilometre-long climb at 5.8% – category 2
The Route: Mende will be humming to the sound of riders warming up on the rollers as it’s uphill from the start. This stage is going to be a wrestling match between the sprint teams and breakaways. The start suits the attackers but the rest of the route is a draw. The Col de l’Escrinet is the big test but as bad as 7.9km at 5.8% can sound for the sprinters it’s the most regular of climbs and engineered to allow traffic to speed up, a truck can climb this fast so expect the in-form sprinters to be sat tight on the right wheels. A reciprocal descent awaits before a ride up the Rhone valley.
The Finish: a regular run into town. The races crosses the mighty Rhone river and then climbs up into town, an extra effort but nothing much and then it’s an urban run through town before the finish.
The Contenders: Mark Cavendish is the prime pick. He got the better of the others in the last field sprint. Today the race goes through Aubenas where he took one of his finest sprint wins, making the cut over a large climb and then sprinting to the win.
André Greipel has been suffering in the heat. Once you start to suffer like this recovery is hard but the weather is set to cool so he should be there. Alexander Kristoff has almost vanished from the race. So strong last July, imperious this spring he’s now under the radar. In truth he’s been close and his win in St Etienne last year came after a hilly stage that some didn’t expect a sprint. Arnaud Démare‘s surge on the finish to Rodez showed he’s got good legs right now but has he got the cool head to time his sprint right? John Degenkolb is out for revenge, Giant-Alpecin set to work on the road to Rodez as if they hadn’t seen the finish which never suited the sprinters and the result was blank except Ramon Sinkeldam got heat exhaustion and went home. Finally there’s Peter Sagan who has had all those second places so far and if we say he’s not going to win… he’ll finally do triumph. But against the others it’s hard to see him win in a flat out sprint.
Altogether that’s a lot of teams with an interest in the sprint.
|Alexander Kristoff, André Greipel,
|Démare, Degenkolb, Sagan
Weather: warm and sunny. The first half of the stage at altitude sees cooler temperatures before dropping down to the Rhone valley and 30˚C.
TV: the finish is for 5.20pm Euro time. The Col de l’Escrinet starts around 3.40pm so tune in to watch if any sprinters get ditched and to guage the fate of the breakaway.