Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Tour de France 2013 : Stage 12 Preview

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 Kirby!

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 the river.

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 Kristoff.

It will be a chaotic finish to what will be a fairly quiet day. Quiet that is except for the Eurosport commentary box!


Best Young Rider Classification (White Jersey)

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 big one.

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.

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