When Wednesday, July 6
To Le Lioran
Category Medium mountains
Impact on GC 3/5
Start 11.35 CET
Finish 17.13 CET
The riders start in Limousin and end in the Auvergne, which millions of years ago was an area of massive volcanic activity. No danger of an eruption today, but the last activity was fairly recent, in a geological timescale. It was ‘only’ 10,000 years ago.
Not long after the start the route goes through Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat, which for a place with a population of only 5,000 has some famous sons, but none are more famous than Raymond Poulidor.
Expect plenty of Poulidor tributes today, because although he never won the Tour de France, or even wore the yellow jersey, the noble, smiling way France’s beloved ‘Pou-Pou’ kept finishing second, or third, or thereabouts, made him the most popular cyclist in France. He’s 80 now, still part of the race, a perpetual guest driven round the route in a Raymond Poulidor-mobile. And he’s just as loved as ever.
It can be hot and humid in the Auvergne, and the roads are made with granite chippings hewn from its own volcanoes. They are hard work, and this stage isn’t short. It starts at the foot of the day’s highest climb, with one tiny flat section before the final climb. Basically it’s up and down one mountain, up and down another, and up and a bit down the third.
The first big day for the real climbers of the Tour, the first for the GC favourites. It will be nervous and busy. Potential Kings of the Mountains will be tempted by the points on offer at the top of the first two climbs, but the favourites won’t want anybody gaining too big a lead. It’s a dangerous day for them so they, and their teams, must bring their best game to this one.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) goes into the stage as overall leader, with a margin of 12 seconds over Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep). Sagan is highly likely to lose the maillot jaune on such a climb-filled day, but Tour of California winner Alaphilippe could inherit it.
Of the more established climbers, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) are placed third, fourth and fifth overall and could also stake a claim on the race lead should Alaphilippe fail to stay in touch. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) may also try and use the stage to claw back time lost so far.