Friday, 12 July 2013

Tour de France 2013 : Stage 14 Preview

WITH a huge stage coming on Sunday, the organisers could have given the peloton an easy run in to Lyon. But where's the fun in that!

Stage 14 sees the riders reach the foothills of the Alps as they travel 191km from Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule to Lyon.

The route takes in seven categorised climbs, two Cat 3's and five Cat 4's.

On their own they may not have caused the sprinters too much trouble. However put them all together and it is a safe bet you won't see the likes of Mark Cavendish or Marcel Kittel at the finish.

It is the two Category ascents in the middle of the stage which will cause the most damage. The Cote de Thizy-les-Bourgs is only 1.7km long but has an average gradient of 8.2%. This is followed less than 10km later by the Col du Pilon which has a far lower average gradient of just 4.4% but it goes on for 6.3km.

As these come straight after the day's intermediate sprint I can't imagine the sprinters busting a gut to stay with the peloton.

That is with one definite exception.

As with recent 'medium mountain' stages we could see a reduced peloton contest the sprint. And the current leader in the points classification is more than capable of getting over these lumps. Peter Sagan will be licking his lips at the thought of this stage as it could well see him extend his lead in the competition, to the point of his lead becoming almost unassailable.

He may have competition however. John Degenkolb of Argos Shimano can also get over the lumpy stuff as can the likes of Tony Gallopin of Radioshack and Francesco Gavazzi of Astana. Despite this the Slovakian should have more than enough in the tank to beat anyone today.

However there is the potential fly in his ointment and one which might deprive him of the win.

Chris Froome heads into this stage leading second placed Bauke Mollema by 2 minutes 28 seconds with third placed Alberto Contador 17 seconds behind that.

As Saxo Tinkoff proved today opportunities to reduce those gaps can come without warning. But to have any chance of winning the tour you have to take them and make Froome suffe

Movistar also proved that it is possible to weaken the Brit and his all conquering Sky train last Sunday. And Sky are reeling at the minute. Having already seen climbing super domestique Vassili Kiryenka head home, they lost Edvald Boasson Hagen to injury on Thursday. With Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh not at 100% either Froome is fast running out of support riders.

Stages are also getting less and less so the GC contenders will be well aware of that.

The final two climbs come within the last 15km and while not particularly taxing they could well prove to be a launching pad for someone to attack the Malliot Jaune. The likes of Joaquin Rodriguez, Dan Martin and Alejandro Valverde could all fancy spreading their wings and going for it.

Valverde went into today's stage in second placed but he had an awful day as first a puncture and then crosswinds saw him lose contact with his main rivals, eventually finishing almost 10 minutes behind.

Movistar will also be angry at what they will perceive as poor sportsmanship by Belkin. (Belkin put more men at the front after Valverde punctured in order to aid their man Mollema's GC position)

I think Froome will be able to cope with one or two but where Movistar let themselves down into Bagneres-de-Biggore was that they didn't keep hitting him with constant attacks. If they or someone else can do that here they may weaken the Sky leader enough to claw back a handful of seconds.

Don't be surprised if the attacks come early as well. The earlier into the stage the more chance they have of hurting Sky, if not for today but certainly for tomorrow.

Movistar will probably be looking for a reaction after today and could be the main instigators of any attacking.

It will be an intriguing day of racing and is just part one of what could be a powder keg weekend!

No comments:

Post a Comment