The Tour de France enters history celebrating its 100th edition with two ascents of the Alpe d'Huez today. To do that, organiser ASO takes the race over the Col de Sarenne - which features a descent that worries some.
Rain showers moved in the Haute-Alpes this yesterday evening and made a potentially dangerous downhill worse. Rumours spread in the afternoon that the organiser would nix the Sarenne's debut from the Tour and take the peloton up the Alpe d'Huez only once.
"I think it would be sad not to do the planned parcours with two times up Alpe d'Huez, [it is] something special that goes with 100th edition of the Tour de France, but safety definitely comes first," race leader, Chris Froome (Sky) said in a press conference yesterday.
"If it is raining I would hope the race organisers take a decision to only race [Alpe d'Huez] the first time. The safety of the riders has to come first."
Froome sits first overall by 4-34 minutes over Alberto Contador and 4-51 over Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff team-mate, Roman Kreuziger.
His rivals, who showed willingness to risk their safety on the final descent in stage 16 on Tuesday, hope the organiser does not take away opportunities.
"He should use his brakes more if he's afraid on the descents," Saxo-Tinkoff manager, Bjarne Riis said of Froome.
"We are going to attack everywhere, whether it is going uphill or downhill."
ASO resurfaced part of the road and asphalted the gravel sections of the Col de Sarenne earlier this year. The road climbs five kilometres and descends for about 26 before reaching rolling sections and the valley at the foot of Alpe d'Huez. Some sections feature long drops off the road's shoulders with only rocks to act as a natural barrier.
In June, Froome, Contador and many others tested it in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Time trial world champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) criticised the road's condition at the time.
"It's a quite nasty and really dangerous descent," Martin told Cycling Weekly this week.
He added that going slow would be hard. "You'll always have some riders who don't just make a race uphill, but also make it downhill."
The decision to push the limits and race at full speed will remain in the riders' hands. As of last night, the stage would continue as planned: 172.5 kilometres with the Alpe d'Huez twice and the Sarenne between.
"There's a zero chance of us shortening the stage," the Tour's event director, Jean-François Pescheux said in the media mixed zone. "I don't know where the rumours have come from."
Tour de France 2013: Stage reports
Stage 17: Froome wins third 2013 Tour stage
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 17 by Graham Watson
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
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