IT'S a day one man has been dreading above all others.
Even Mark Cavendish looking at the double
ascent of L'Alpe d'Huez is not quaking in fear as much.
The man? Eurosport's commentator Carlton
Stage 12 travels 218km (or 135.5 miles)
from Fougeres to Tours and bar the obligatory intermediate sprint, there
is nothing on the profile. No climbs, no descents, nothing.
It means a long day behind the microphone
as a break goes up the road and the sprinters teams take their time bringing
them back. Expect as much waffle and time filling as it is possible to
muster. And expect many scenic shots as the helicopter goes looking for
Chateau's and vineyards!
Once the break has been caught the finish
at least should bring some excitement. With about 2.5km to go the road
swings through two 90 degree bends, first left and then right, as we cross
Then with 700m we turn right through
another 90 degrees and again with 400m to go.
It will mean any leadout train will
have their rhythm severely disrupted and position for the last two corners
will be paramount. Anyone with designs on the stage win will need to be
in the one of the first five positions out of that last corner.
It will really raise the likelihood
of a crash in the peloton as nerves will be high and sprint teams race
to get their man into the best position possible for those final two corners.
The nullification somewhat of the sprint
teams at the end means we could see other riders getting close to the now
established names of potential sprint winners.
Roberto Ferrari has figured in the top
20 in a few of the sprint stages so far but without the success of the
Giro d'Italia in 2011. Samuel Dumoulin is another who can't be totally
ruled out. While he could never be classed as a top sprinter, the diminutive
Frenchman has a habit of appearing through carnage and other peoples difficulties
to grab good results. Could be an outsider for a top 3 place here.
And you just can't seem to keep Orica
Green-Edge away from the spotlight. Matt Goss was 11th into Saint-Malo
the other day. He should be able to go higher than that.
The likelihood is though that the winner
will be from that elite sprint group. Kittel looks fast at the minute and
both of his wins so far in this Tour have come without the aid of a sprint
train. I have him down to pip the likes of Greipel, Cavendish, Sagan and
It will be a chaotic finish to what
will be a fairly quiet day. Quiet that is except for the Eurosport commentary
Best Young Rider Classification (White
Eddy Merckx famously won every jersey
going in the 1969 Tour de France, his first appearance at the race.
He would have won this one too had it
been in existence!
First awarded in 1975 the title has
been given to the best rider on GC under the age of 25 since 1987. The
jersey itself came fully into existence in 2000.
It has been won by some of the great
in the sport, as well as some of the now disgraced, and has seen some of
it's winners go on to swap white for yellow. The likes of Andy Schleck,
Alberto Contador and Marco Pantani all won this competition prior to the
And Schleck, Contador, Jan Ullrich and
Laurent Fignon are the only four men to have won both in the same year.
It is basically a competition within
a competition. It uses the same rules as defines the overall standings.
Tejay Van Garderen won the white jersey last year while finishing 8th overall.
This year as I've mentioned previously,
barring a crash or other such misfortune, the jersey will be a two horse
race between Nairo Quintana and Michael Kwiatkowski.
Both have been touted as future winners
of the Tour and for good reason. Both can time trial and both can climb
although the Colombian excels more in the lumpier stuff while the Pole
takes the plaudits against the clock.
With the Alps fast approaching it will
be fascinating to see how they react. Both are in their first tour and
the final week of any three week tour brings with it a whole new range
of issues, as the riders cope with fatigue and a savage profile.
They have shown enough already to cement
their reputation and potential. Don't be surprised if this jersey is just
the start of many for them both.