Monday, 15 July 2013

Tour de France 2013 : Stage 16 Preview

CHRIS Froome delivered a sensational ride on Sunday up Mont Ventoux to put some big time gaps into his rivals for yellow.

It is the third time so far in this Tour that he has done so, following his stage victory into Ax-3-Domaines and the individual time trial at Mont-Saint-Michel.

Yet on both previous occasions his rivals managed to put him under pressure and gain some time back, with his isolation in Bagneres-de-Briggore and through the crosswinds into Saint-Amand-Montrond.

Stages are running out for them to do this a third time and if they are going to make any impact at the top of the overall standings they are going to have to launch attacks at every opportunity.

Stage 16 gives them their first chance in this final week. It is 168km long and sees the riders head from Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap, and the foothills of the Alps.

Three climbs await them, the third category Cote de la Montagne de Bluye and two second category ascents, the Col de Macuegne and the Col de Manse.

The first two of these come within the opening 48km and while they will provide a chance for the breakaway to form, which might be allowed to go all the way by the peloton, they won't affect the GC riders.

The Col de Manse will however.

The climb itself is 9.5km long and has it's summit 11.5km from the finish. The average gradient is 5.2% but there are over 2km where that gradient rises to 7% and over. A tough climb and will see some attacks. But the climb is just the appetiser to the main event.

The descent off the mountain is infamous and will be crucial. It has it's place in tour history as it was on this descent that Joseba Beloki crashed in front of Lance Armstrong, effectively ending Beloki's career and forcing Armstrong over a field and ditch before rejoining the road.

It is fast, technical and will test Froome's descending skills to their limits. And I imagine there are some who will think they can gain anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute on the leader.

Alberto Contador isn't a bad descender and will hope he can use that to gain any sort of an advantage over the Brit.

Roman Kreuziger is probably the best of the bunch and could well try to link up with his team leader to force a move.

Bauke Mollema is an unknown variable to me when it comes to descending. We know he can climb and his time trialling is good but I'll admit to not knowing what he's like on the descents. I think he will have a go though, at the very least to ensure he retains his second place overall. Same goes for Nairo Quintana.

And for some that will become more and more central to their tactics as the days and kilometres roll by, defending their current position in the GC. Finishing on the podium in Paris is a massive thing and for the likes of Mollema, Contador, Kreuziger and Quintana it will eventually become more important to defend that position than attack Froome.

I do think that if the break gets caught then the winner will come from someone outside of the top 10 overall. The likes of Cadel Evans, Alejandro Valverde and Sylvain Chavanel will be favourites for the win simply due to their ability to go downhill very fast, their bike handling skills and time trialling ability.

Another man who can do that is the current green jersey holder (and most likely winner of that competition) Peter Sagan. He's already proven he can sprint, climb and pull wheelies halfway up mountains. expect his descending skills to be put on show here!
If Evans is not up to it then maybe BMC will finally let World Champion Philippe Gilbert off the leash. The Belgian had spoken to the press earlier this month about the fact he wasn't allowed to attack and had to work for his leader.

However if the breakaway does succeed, and under normal circumstances there should be no real reason for Sky to chase it, then all bets are of as to who will win. I do think Pierre Rolland will be in there as he will want the points on offer for the King of the Mountains competition. Vaconsoleil will also have a rider in there, and as both Juan-Antonio Flecha and Wout Poels have been very active so far, it wouldn't be a shock to see one of them in the break.

But whether they are at the front or following the break in, it is going to be the GC boys who will provide the entertainment.

And if you have never seen a cyclist go down a hill faster than a motorbike, then you may want to watch from behind a sofa!


  1. awesome read, thanks!

  2. Excellent - I have enjoyed reading these, going to be a great day today I think

    1. Cheers Simon. Thoroughly enjoyed writing them too. Shouldn't just be today either. This last week could see some epic racing!