A day trip to the seaside for the peloton ahead of the rest day. An extended day off? Unlikely given the intensity of riders battling to get in the breakaways but it should mean a quieter day for the overall contenders.
Stage 15 review: Ban powermeters! Ban race radios! Ban the wheel! Ban bans! Actually it turns out we can have great racing regardless. If Saturday was great then Sunday was vintage racing although it lacked the the ups and downs, the reversals of fortunes of a real classic. Once the scene was set early that was it. Where to start? At the beginning, with an attack by Gianluca Brambilla after 5km. Alberto Contador attacked after 7km. The bunch accelerated, split, crashed and and suddenly several Sky riders were out the back while Nairo Quintana latched on to the front group two team mates and they were riding away from Chris Froome. It was panic stations for 100km. Froome had two team mates left in Salvatore Puccio and David Lopez but Puccio was quickly burned up and Lopez could do nothing while ahead Movistar had numerical superiority.
Often sleepy tactically this time they caught Sky asleep and the time gap grew and there was nothing Chris Froome could do. Later Astana appeared to chase, apparently to defend Michele Scarponi’s ninth place. Either way Quintana put 2m33s into Froome and now has the kind of lead that means he could stop for an ice cream during the time trial and still relax. Brambilla, initiator of hostilities, won the stage after being the only rider able to follow Quintana in the final kilometres.
91 riders were outside the time limit but let back in. There used to be a “safety in numbers” rule which said that if over 20% of the bunch finished outside the time limit they could remain in the race if the officials wanted it to be so. The rule was abandoned a while ago but deployed yesterday. Sensible? Yes in that a peloton of 70 riders would look stupid for the final week; no because it sets a precedent now that riders can ease up and roll in without worry; or at least hope for clemency when the rules don’t provide for it.
The Route: uphill and then back down, the stage is flatter than it looks with the climb to Castillo de Morella as the main obstacle, 3.4km at 5.2%.
The Finish: pan-flat and on the sea front. They arrive into the town of Peniscola on a big boulevard and the trickiest part is between 3km and 2km to go as they circle roundabouts to go through the town before a final corner and then a finishing straight over a kilometre long.
The Contenders: Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) is fast in a flat finish, sometimes winning stages thanks to a seated sprint, a rarity but it seems to be one of his things. Jonas Van Genechten won an uphill sprint last week but is fast for a finish like this too.
Gianni Meersman has sprinted perfectly so far so should be there again while the outside pick is FDJ’s sprinter from the Indian Ocean, Lorrenzo Manzin. But how many teams will work for a sprint? Plenty of others will try their chance in a breakaway.
|Nikias Arndt, Gianni Meersman, Jonas Van Genechten
|Keukeleire, Manzin, Bennati
Weather: hot and sunny, 31°C on the coast and the wind could pick up to 20km/h, a tailwind for the final kilometre.