The 2013 Tour de France’s stage 17 time trial should be a classic test. It’s just 32km in the Alps, from Embrun to Chorges, above the Lac de Serre-Poncon, but it contains almost everything.
There is almost no flat road to be found. The two main climbs are ‘only’ second category, but in a time trial anyone who underestimates them could end up hemorrhaging time. The first climb of the Côte de Puy-Sanieres is 6.4km at an average gradient of six per cent.
The descent is around the same length and does feature some hairpins. The second climb, the Côte de Reallon is 6.9km at an average gradient of 6.3 per cent. After a false flat at the top it’s then a descent all the way down to Chorges.
It should suit Team Sky’s Chris Froome down to the ground – if he’d been asked to design his ideal stage for the middle of the Tour’s last week, he’d have come up with something just like it.
The only potential sticking point for him will be the descents, which are a little more on the technical side than he would have liked.
He’s prepared for the ride with care, having ridden the course on a couple of occasions, as well as studying a full-length video of it. He’s a very firm favourite for the stage and is expected to take more time out of others in the top ten as he did on stage 11 last week.
Froome is expected to ride a road bike with time trial bars and a pair or deep section wheels rather than a rear disk and tri spoke front. The team weren’t disclosing exactly what he would be riding when we asked them at the start of stage 16.
What happens behind him might be more interesting. It is exactly the sort of time trial Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) used to gobble up for lunch. But his more recent TT form has been rather shakier.
Bauke Mollema (Belkin) surprised everyone when he finished 10s ahead of the Spaniard in the first, flat time trial to Mont St. Michel, and he’ll be aiming to consolidate his second place overall.
The weather is set to change for the race’s final days in the Alps. Wednesday’s forecast is 26 degrees and thunderstorms in the afternoon, and a light north easterly wind of five kph.
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Stage 16 by Graham Watson
Stage 15 by Graham Watson
Stage 14 by Graham Watson
Stage 13 by Graham Watson
Stage 12 by Graham Watson
Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Andy Jones
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Andy Jones
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Andy Jones
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Andy Jones
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Andy Jones
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Andy Jones
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Graham Watson