The race heads towards the Alps via likely sprint finish but beware the crosswinds on the plains for the last 50km.
The Route: 165km east. It’s uphill from the start but gentle with 3,4,5% slopes on the way to the first climb, listed as 4.5km at 6.3% and then across the Ardèche plateau borrowing some of the roads used in the Dauphiné last June. The roads rise and fall but the climbing and descending isn’t as pronounced as the profile can suggest, the long descent after Rouvey is often no more than 5-6% and with a quick rise to Saint-Félicien the road drops to the Rhone valley via roads again used in the Dauphiné this year and last and then it’s flat roads to Châteauneuf-sur-Isère with 18.5km where there’s a small climb but it’s a quick burst in the big ring and done before a fast approach to Romans.
The Finish: they ride through town – Pierre Latour’s home – and across the Isère river and then it’s uphill to the line on a curving road. It’s not steep, 3-4% at most for 350 metres but enough to change the tactics and gearing for riders.
The Contenders: a sprint? In times past there’s a good chance a stage like this would go to the breakaway riders but the sprinters teams seem to have the race locked down and perhaps the hillier nature of the course, whether the Ardèche plateau or the uphill run to the line will only tempt some teams to back their sprinters again in the hope that Marcel Kittel is huffing and puffing too much all day to win. Still the maillot vert seems to be in rude health and so he’s an obvious pick. André Greipel can win from an uphill sprint, see his win earlier this year in Paris-Nice for example (pictured) but his form is still not convincing and perhaps Lotto-Soudal will send the likes of Tony Gallopin in the for cover? Other names to think of are Edvald Boasson Hagen who is suited to the uphill finish while Nacer Bouhanni‘s form is improving too after being on antibiotics and he won a stage of Paris-Nice here too, albeit with a different, flatter finish. Michael Matthews should find the finish isn’t steep enough but he’ll be sprinting anyway for points while Trek-Segafredo will back John Degenolb.
|Nacer Bouhanni, EBH, Matthews, Degenkolb
Weather: a hot 35°C in the Rhone valley and a breeze too with 30km/h forecast from the SW, gusting to double that which means crosswinds during the final parts of the stage.
TV: live from the start at 1.00pm CET with the finish forecast for 5.20pm CET.