When Saturday, July 23
Impact on GC 4/5
The first 9.5 kilometres have one small hill in them, but it’s near the start of the first mountain climb, the Col des Aravis, the favourite climb of Britain’s first King of the Mountains, Robert Millar.
It’s a lovely climb with a fast, exacting descent into La Clusaz. There the riders turn right, go through Le Grand Bornand and climb the easier side of the Col de la Colombière. This is followed by another descent that will really test the riders’ skill. Poorly-calculated risks will be punished harshly here.
The descent ends in Scionzier, and then there’s a lull. Riders will be able to take stock of the race and refuel for the final act of the 2016 Tour, which starts in Mieussy. This is it now. Cards will be on the table. Or will they? The steep ramps of the Joux-Plane mean anything can happen on it.
Lance Armstrong nearly lost the 2000 Tour de France here. Yes, we know, he’s lost them all now, but if a climb can have Armstrong at his souped-up best in trouble, it’s worth taking note of.
It could all come down to a real battle up the Joux-Plane, and it won’t be over at the top. There’s still a terrifying plunge down to the finish in Morzine to come. The Dutch rider Robert Gesink said after a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné that ended with this descent he was just happy to get down alive. The winner, who’d dropped him, was Yuri Trofimov who represented Russia in the mountain bike cross-country race in the 2008 Olympic Games. Mountain bikers make great descenders.
The Col de la Joux-Plane is trouble going up and trouble going down, and it will be a fitting end to the 2016 Tour de France. Nobody flukes a Tour victory, but the winner this year will have won an outstanding and very beautiful Tour.
After the previous day’s crash and subsequent damage limitation exercise, Chris Froome (Sky) may start the stage with sore injuries. No one can tell how that may affect his performance – but he can take some comfort in his four minute and 11-second margin over second-placed Romain Bardet (Ag2r).
Bardet may be paying for his stage-winning effort though, and that leaves a collection of other GC contenders who all look physically exhausted at this stage in the race. If the weather is bad, it could become a war of attrition with the minor podium placings still up for grabs.