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.
Full Tour de France 2013 stage 17 preview >>
Tour de France 2013: Stage reports
Stage 16: Costa takes solo win as Froome put under pressure
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 two (July 15)
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
Tour de France 2013: Photo galleries
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
Tour de France 2013: Coverage index
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Michael Hutchinson is a writer, journalist and former professional cyclist. As a rider he won multiple national titles in both Britain and Ireland and competed at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. He was a three-time Brompton folding-bike World Champion, and once hit 73 mph riding down a hill in Wales.
As a writer, he wrote the award winning The Hour about his attempt on the sport’s most famous and sought-after record. He followed that up with Faster, about the training, the science the genetics and the luck behind the world’s fastest riders, and Re:Cyclists, a history of cyclists from 1816 to the present day.
He’s written for outlets ranging from Cycling Weekly to the New York Times, and has presented and and commentated for the BBC, Eurosport, Channel 4, and Sky Sports.
Before he did any of that he was a legal academic at Cambridge and Sussex universities. He now lives with far too many bicycles in London and Cambridgeshire.
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