When Sunday July 19
Category Medium mountains
Impact on overall: 2/5
Where are we?
We’re leaving Mende and the Massif Central behind us and heading east towards the Alps — but falling short for a finish in Valence. This puts us on the Valence Plain, or the Valentinois — the huge gap between the mountains of the Massif Central and those of the Alps, through which flows the River Rhône.
It will feel like a respite — albeit a temporary one — from the now near-constant climbing that characterises the second and third weeks of the Tour.
What’s on the route?
After a tough start to the day, the riders veritably drop off the ‘table’ that is the Massif Central halfway into this 183km stage and enjoy a long descent. But there’s another obstacle before the otherwise relatively flat run home to Valence in the shape of the Col de l’Escrinet — a 14km climb that is only moderately steep, with an average gradient of four per cent, but which could nevertheless serve to splinter the ‘feeling just about OKs’ from the ‘when will this be overs’.
We’d almost bet our bike on a breakaway animating the stage. This is perfect breakaway territory for a five to 10-man group to skip off early, and for the rest of the bunch to take things relatively easy.
It may still come down to a sprint from a large group if some of the fastmen are able to drag themselves over the Col de l’Escrinet mid-way through the stage. But it’s going to be dawning on some frisky non-sprinters’ teams that there are only six more days of racing after today’s stage — make or break time.