Tour de France 2013: Stage 20 preview

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Tour de France 2013 stage 20
Saturday, July 20
From Annecy
Distance 125km
Stage type High mountains

Yellow jersey 5/5
Green jersey 1/5
Polka-dot jersey 3/5

We’ll be honest, four of the worst hours of our Tour-covering career were spent in a motionless, boiling hot traffic jam in Annecy last time the Tour came here, in 2009. It’s a shame our memories are so blighted by the experience, because this has to be one of the most beautiful places in France.

The town nestles at one end of a placid lake, with steep sided mountains rising up on either side. Its natural beauty means that the traffic jams are a fixture more or less through the summer, and not just when the Tour visits – it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in France.

We’re a big fan of short, sharp stages in the mountains. When mountain stages go on for 200 kilometres or more, fatigue can dull the tactical intrigue.

The Tour organisers have obviously learned from the experience of the very short Alpe d’Huez stage in 2011, which was a firecracker, with attacks coming from the GC favourites right from the opening half hour.

This stage is a mere 125 kilometres in length, with the difficulties piled into the second half of the route. The opening 60 kilometres are lumpy, with two sizeable climbs, but the action will kick off with the climb of Mont Revard – a long ascent which will put all but the strongest climbing domestiques out of commission for the day.

But it’s the summit finish that dominates the day. The new climb to Semnoz is 10 kilometres long, shorter than Alpe d’Huez and the Ventoux, but steeper than both, with an average gradient of 8.5 per cent.

The riders always say that it’s possible to get through one or two consecutive days in the high mountains and not be found out. But the third day is what really makes the difference. Every previous effort will catch up with the riders today, whether they are GC contenders or not.

Being the penultimate day of the Tour means that everybody is going to be very fatigued, but balanced against that is the knowledge that today is the last big effort of the race.

However, it’s still likely that things will be left until the climb to Semnoz; the Revard is a tough climb, but there’s a long descent and flat road afterwards. The lead group will be down to around 50 riders now, but the major hostilities will not happen until Semnoz, and the last stretch will be a hard-fought battle.

Mont Revard
Category: 1
Start: Plainpalais
Length: 15.9km
Height: 1,463m
Altitude gain: 890m
Average gradient: 5.6km

Category: HC
Start: Quintal
Length: 10.7km
Height: 1,655m
Altitude gain: 909m
Average gradient: 8.5%

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Tour de France 2013: Coverage index

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