By Nick Bull
To go aero or not to go aero? This is the question facing the riders ahead of next Wednesday's time trial between Embrun and Chorges.
The 32-kilometre stage includes two second-category climbs and technical descents apiece and features very few flat roads.
Several teams rode the stage before the Tour began, with getting to know the course seemingly as important as obtaining feedback on equipment.
"We want to be as aero and light as possible, so while time trial skinsuits and helmets will be worn, the weight of the TT bike is something to consider," Sky mechanic Gary Blem told Cycling Weekly.
"The stage basically features one long climb with a short descent in the middle, so you're not going to gain anything there with a time trial bike. I imagine our riders will all be on road bikes with aero extensions on handlebars.
"We're also looking at whether or not a disc wheel will help or because the speeds on climbs are relatively slow and on the descent riders will need to use their brakes frequently. There does not appear to be a big performance increase."
Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Charly Wegelius echoed Blem's sentiments. "It's a much easier choice than it would have been in the past because we have aerodynamic road bikes, which are perfect for a mid-terrain time trial bike," he said.
"Because a lot of the top riders are so used to riding in the time trial position, they can ride fairly steep hills like that on their road bike without any problems."
Richie Porte won this year's Paris-Nice time trial on Col d'Eze using a modified version of his Pinarello Dogma road bike.
However, had Lotto-Belisol's Jurgen Van Den Broeck have made it to the stage instead of retiring from the race injured, his directeur sportif Herman Frison said he would have opted for all-out aero performance.
"Jurgen he saw the course, and he said he was going to go for a time trial bike. Nowadays the GC riders are so used to that bike, they can climb and descend on it without any problems,' said Frison.
When Jean-Francois Bernard won the mountain time trial in Mont Ventoux in the 1987 Tour, he started on a time trial bike and then swapped to a road bike at the bottom of the climb.
"We've looked at that as well, and we estimate you will lose 25 seconds," said Blem. "Would you really want to enter a race knowing you're going to lose that time before you have even started?
Tour de France 2013: Latest news
Froome suffers to take the win on Mont Ventoux
Ventoux promises to shake up general classification
Would Sky be better with Sean Yates as DS?
Trentin: From lead-out man to Tour stage winner
Saxo-Tinkoff spring a surprise on Chris Froome on stage 13
Omega Pharma puts Kittel on back foot
Froome: Time loss is reminder that Tour is still open
Bauke Mollema having ride of his life at Tour
Boasson Hagen out of Tour with fractured shoulder
Cavendish 'beaten by a better guy' in Tours
Argos manager praises Kittel after 'queen sprint' stage
Brian Holm defends Cavendish after urine drama
FDJ trainer: Chris Froome's performance looks legitimate
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Thibaut Pinot: Heaven and Hell at the Tour
Lessons learnt by Team Sky after visit to Pyrenees
Tour de France 2013: Teams, riders, start list
Tour de France 2013 start list
Tour de France 2013 team tracker - squad rosters as they are announced
Tour de France 2013: Stage reports
Stage 15: Froome wins on Mont Ventoux to extend lead
Stage 14: Trentin wins from break
Stage 13: Cavendish wins, Valverde loses on stage 13
Stage 12: Kittel out-sprints Cavendish
Stage 11: Martin wins time trial as Froome extends lead
Stage 10: Kittel takes second stage win
Stage nine: Martin wins stage as Froome fights to keep lead
Stage eight: Froome wins Tour mountains stage to take overall lead
Stage seven: Sagan scores first win of 2013 Tour
Stage six: Greipel wins as Impey moves into lead
Stage five: Cavendish wins; Gerrans keeps lead
Stage four: Orica win Tour's team time trial to put Gerrans in yellow
Stage three: Gerrans outpaces Sagan to take win
Stage two: Millar denied yellow as Bakelants takes spoils
Stage one: Kittel wins chaotic opening stage
Tour de France 2013: Podcasts
Podcast six (stage nine)
Tour de France 2013: Comment, analysis, blogs
Moto blog part one (July 9)
Lessons learnt by Team Sky after Tour visits Pyrenees
Was Sunday (stage nine) a missed opportunity for Froome's rivals?
Rest day review (July 8)
Tour de France: 100 Tours, 1,000 stories
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