To sprint or not to sprint? That’s been the question ever since the route was announced as the final has a sharp hill 7km from the finish. But the final third of the stage crosses the plains of the Lauragais where it’s frequently windy and today crosswinds are forecast.
The Route: straight out of Andorra via the Port d’Envalira. It may sound extreme but it’s the not only the main road out of the principality to France, it’s the only road out to France. There is a tunnel but they take the mountain pass and then the long descent to the plains of the Ariège to leave the Pyrenees behind.
After the long and straight intermediate sprint they reach the Lauragais area. This is where the crosswinds – see weather forecast below – could hit. The roads are straight and exposed in places and at times sheltered by woodland.
The Finish: they come into the town of Revel with 11.5km to go but don’t cross the finish line, instead passing out to take the climb to St. Ferréol, notionally 1.8km long at 6.6% in the roadbook but it climbs before the official start of the climb. It goes up in two parts, almost 8% for 500m before a flat bridge section for 150m and then 6% for 800m. It’s on a big wide and straight road and seems unlikely to eject the sprinters given the bunch will thunder up and aerodynamics counts for so much. At the summit there’s 7km to go. The descent on a smaller, more narrow road which means any sprinters who’ve lost ground will found it hard to move back into position.
In the final kilometre it’s flat and suburban. There a tight but sweeping right turn and then a left turn before the 600m finishing straight
The Scenario: a sprint finish? The mountain pass to begin with suits the formation of a breakaway. Also given the hill at the end suits the likes of Peter Sagan there’s a good chance the sprint teams let a move go and gesture to Tinkoff that if they want to win with Sagan then they’re going to have to work for it. Direct Energie might lend a hand to the chase too. Still most sprinters will fancy their chances today, the final climb is less than five minutes of effort and the likes of Lotto-Soudal need a stage win so either they’ll work to set-up André Greipel or they’ll plant Tony Gallopin in the breakaway.
The Contenders: Peter Sagan is the deductive pick, what ever the scenario the man with the second best hair on the race after the LCL podium lion is capable of winning. He can go in the breakaway if there’s a move that sticks, he can cope if the crosswinds blow and if nothing happens then he can deal with the final climb especially if his team make life hard for the sprinters. As you can see though a win needs lots of the conditional.
Bryan Coquard is a contender to get over the climb to St Ferréol unscathed and then surf his way through the field to a win. Michael Matthews has had a quiet time so far but could emerge here.
The bookmakers have the likes of Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel at 20-1 today when on a normal sprint stage you’d be lucky to get 4-1. It’s not a flat sprint finish but those odds seem high. If Sagan does go in the breakaway there’s a good chance Dimension Data and Etixx-Quickstep work to bring him back in order to deny him points at the finish first and set up their sprinters next. Edvald Boasson Hagen will be one to watch, he’s been helping Cavendish so far but will he get his chance here? Normally yes but with Cavendish in green surely he’s the perfect helper. André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff are both searching for a win and normally today’s hill would tilt the odds to them against Cavendish and Kittel but neither seem to be offering much.
Otherwise who goes in the breakaway? Simon Gerrans (Orica-BikeExchange) rode into Revel in 2005 from a breakaway and lost out, Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto-Jumbo) is in the race and could do with being noticed, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) might want to stretch his legs in the crosswinds. Now that Cannondale-Drapac’s GC ambitions have taken a hit maybe Ramūnas Navardauskas is released. Finally Greg Van Avermaet could try again in the breakaway and since he’s got nothing to lose it will be easier to win.
|Sagan, Cavendish, Kittel|
|Greipel, Matthews, Coquard, Kristoff, Navardauskas|
Weather: visit the area in and around the final 60km of the race and if you don’t spot the wind turbines dotted over the region you might notice the wind. It’s even got a local name, the Vent d’Autan. In fact it’s got two the Tramontane for when it blows in the other direction. Today it’s a Tramontane day with winds of 25km/h gusting to 40km/h forecast from the NW which means a crosswind. Enough to split the race? If the forecast proves accurate, yes. Otherwise it’ll be cool with a top temperature of 22°C and a strong chance of rain showers.
Update: 10.00am CET – the forecast for the approach to the finis says winds of 20km/h gusting to 40km/h.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. Check-in during the day to see if the weather forecast holds and then for the finish.