Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Tour de France 2013 : Stage 17 Preview

CHRIS Froome gained huge amounts of time in the first of this year's Individual Time Trials. The second one however may not be as profitable for him.

At first glance they appear to be fairly similar. The stage into Mont-Saint-Michel was 33km long. Stage 17 takes the riders from Embrun to Chorges, which is a total of 32km. However that is where the similarity ends.

While the route to the Mont was flat this route includes not one but two Category 2 climbs.

Straight from the start hut the road goes up, climbing 6.4km up the Cote de Puy-Sanieres with an average gradient of 6%.

That is followed by a fairly technical descent before the road kicks up again over the Cote de Reallon. This is slightly longer at 6.9km and slightly steeper, with an average gradient of 6.3%.

It is then 12km downhill to the finish on a descent that is not as twisting as the first.

It is a route that will test the riders and tactics will have to be spot on. Do you go fast up the first climb? The second one? Do you climb steadily and then descend like a bat out of hell? What bike will you use? A time trial one or a standard road machine?

A lot of questions then to be asked and though it will alter the overall standings, it is unlikely to be the stage that finally answers the questions about the destination of the yellow jersey and podium spots.

Climbers who would usually lose time on a ITT stage will actually find themselves at the top of the standings here. Men like Nairo Quintana, Dan Martin would have normally lost 3 minutes to the likes of Froome and Tony Martin but not here.

Tony Martin himself may not be the favourite here. A great time trialler, these climbs may be too much for him. He still should produce a decent time though but I don't see him on the top step of the podium for the stage.

Having said all that Froome should still be the man to beat. He is excellent against the clock and is proving to be the strongest in the mountains. If he descends sensibly he will probably be the favourite.

But it is a really fascinating stage as there are a lot of men who could potentially win, or at least make the top 10.

Alberto Contador, Bauke Mollema, Roman Kreuziger, Rui Costa and Micheal Kwiatkowski should all go well and consolidate their top 10 position overall.

Further down Joaquin Rodriguez, Quintana and Dan Martin shouldn't win the day but could put in very decent rides.

Outside of the big favourites look to Cadel Evans, Andrew Talansky and possibly Tejay Van Garderen.

For outsiders I like the look of Andrey Amador of Movistar. The Costa Rican can both climb and time trial. He has his focus on the Vuelta d'Espana but today could be a chance for him to see just how good his form is right now. Can definitely see him making the top 10 here.

Another outsider for the win would have been Thomas De Gendt of Vaconsoleil. He is currently 95th on GC, over one hour and 45 minutes behind Froome, but finished 3rd on the stage to Mont-Saint-Michel and finished on the podium in last year's Giro d'Italia after a fantastic ride on the Stelvio. He was in the break today but I would still not count him out.

It really is that difficult to call though. It should see Froome hold the majority of his advantage over the rest but the places below are definitely up for grabs.

But as we've seen so often during this 100th edition of Le Tour, expect anything!

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