Tour de France 2013: Stage 19 preview

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Tour de France 2013 stage 19
Friday, July 19
From Bourg-d’Oisans
Le Grand-Bornand
Distance 204.5km
Stage type High mountains

Yellow jersey 4/5
Green jersey 1/5
Polka-dot jersey 5/5

It’s day two in the High Alps. The stage begins at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez, in Bourg d’Oisans, and ends on the other side of some extremely difficult climbs, in Le Grand Bornand. Le Grand Bornand is a winter sports resort to the east of Annecy, and south of Geneva.

The summit finish days tend to attract all the attention as the decisive and glamorous stages of the race. The finishes at Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez are reckoned to be the most important days. But this is possibly the hardest stage of the entire Tour – it just doesn’t finish uphill.

It crosses five major climbs, two of which are giants of the race, with many of the climbs separated by exposed and tricky valley roads.

After a short drag down from Bourg d’Oisans, the race tackles the Col du Glandon, a very hard climb in three distinct sections. There’s a steep early section, then a kilometre-long descent, then a steep middle section to the valley leading up to the Col de la Croix de Fer. The final section, off another short descent, is a grippy drag to the top, which is off a side road a few kilometres before the Croix de Fer summit.

Next comes the Col de la Madeleine, a relentlessly steep climb that takes the 2013 Tour above 2,000 metres for the second and final time. The Madeleine is a wonder of engineering – the hairpins loop back and forth with the gradient remaining a constant challenge to the riders. There are 26 hairpins to negotiate on the descent alone. By the summit, at 83 kilometres, the riders will have spent almost 40 climbing, and there are still 120 kilometres to go, making it the toughest stage start of the Tour.

There’s a respite after the Madeleine, and then in the second half, the riders will cross the three increasingly tricky Tamié, Epine and Croix-Fry climbs. None are giants, but with the amount of race in the contenders’ legs, they’ll still blow the peloton to pieces.

A stage as hard as this coming this late in the Tour means more decisive action today. As with all mountain stages that don’t have the natural sorting process of a summit finish, there are more tactical variables than usual. The structure of this particular stage could inspire some interesting activity.

The hardest climbs come first, although the riders will be relatively fresh. This means that a possibility would be for ambitious favourites to ride hard and isolate rivals from team-mates, leaving them alone on the slopes.

Col du Glandon
Category: HC
Start: Barrage du Verney
Length: 21.6km
Height: 1,924m
Altitude gain: 1,152m
Average gradient: 5.1%

Col de la Madeleine
Category: HC
Start: La Chambre
Length: 19.2km
Height: 2,000m
Altitude gain: 1,516m
Average gradient: 7.9%

Col de Tamié
Category: 2
Start: Albertville
Length: 8.6km
Height: 907m
Altitude 533m
Average gradient: 6.2%

Col de l’Epine
Category: 1
Start: Marlens
Length: 6.1km
Height: 947m
Altitude gain: 463m
Average gradient: 7.6%

Col de la Croix-Fry
Category: 1
Start: Les Clefs
Length: 11.3km
Height: 1,477m
Altitude gain: 791m
Average gradient: 7%


Related links

Tour de France 2013: Coverage index