After yesterday’s relaxed stage 14 to Villars-Les-Dombes Bird Park the peloton will have to revert back to the climbing mindset as they face a punishing day in the saddle as the final week of the Tour de France begins.
It’s been a fascinating Tour so far, we have seen some spectacular racing and then on the other hand we have seen how chaotic Le Tour can really become.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) running up Mont Ventoux was one of the most bizarre sights the Tour has seen, ever. And then Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) crashing because of the flame rouge was also a sight not often seen at the Grand Boucle – but it has happened, and whatever people say about cycling being boring you can’t level that accusation at this year’s spectacle.
At 160km, the ride into Culoz is short for a critical mountain stage; but the organiser’s want to keep this race suspenseful right up until the end, despite Froome’s current healthy advantage over the chasing pack.
Stage 14 recap – Cavendish well on the way to breaking Eddy Merckx’ record
Yesterday’s outing was one of those transitional stages, a stage that gives the riders, and the GC contenders a little time to recharge their batteries – but with the strong headwinds, and winds from the side it turned out to be a rather tricky day in the saddle.
But for Mark Cavendish it was another super day; the Manxman took another leap towards breaking Eddy Merckx’ Tour stage wins record of 34 after he blitzed Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), and an unhappy Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) to take his fourth win of this Tour and a fifth stage win for Dimension Data.
The big German was clearly not happy with Cavendish at the finish line, as he felt the Briton cut him up just metres before the line, but looking at it again it was fairly innocuous from Cavendish and in hindsight it was probably frustration from Kittel after what has been a barren Tour for him.
But for Cavendish he has rewritten a script that in truth was waning; many thought the 31-year-old was past his spectacular best, but this year’s Tour has shown how classy Cavendish really is.
Stage 15 – climbing, climbing, and yet more climbing for the rider’s today
There are six climbs crammed into today’s stage and all of them will be opportunities for the likes of Yates, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to try and claw back time on Froome, so it should be a cracker of a stage.
As well as potentially being one of the most exciting stages, it is also a pivotal one; Froome has said he is not ‘underestimating’ the importance of this stage as he looks to consolidate the Maillot Jaune further.
The Col du Berthiand (6km, 8.1%) will kick off the climbing, then the Col du Sappel (8.8km, 5.6%), Col de Pisseloup (4.9km, 5.8%), Col de la Rochette (5.1km, 5.4%), Grand Colombier (12.8km, 6.8%), and the Lacets du Grand Colombier (8.4km, 7.6%) will follow suit.
In between all that climbing there is a sprint at Hauteville-Lompnes; but that will certainly be dominated by the ferocious climbing.
It certainly looks like a day for the breakaway; but back behind in the battle for the Yellow Jersey expect fireworks, all the top contenders will be looking at gaining time in some form or other, so it certainly won’t be a quiet day for the top five in the general classification.