When Tuesday, July 5
Impact on GC 1/5
Start 11.30 CET
Finish 17.17 CET
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It’s classed as flat, but has slightly more challenging terrain from about halfway in. The finish is uphill, but not steeply uphill. The stage will probably fall to a sprinter, and the sprinters of the second rank could get a look-in here.
It will take precision timing to win, because uphill sprints are notoriously difficult to get right.
The long distance of this stage shouldn’t be overlooked; 237.5 kilometres is 147 miles. It’s a long way on a bike. If the weather is hot (likely) or cold and wet (unlikely but always possible), it will feel much longer, and more importantly it will have the physiological effect of being longer.
Riding long distances, even when the terrain is undemanding, exacts a toll. The repeated use of the same muscles, those that provide the power for pedalling and those that maintain posture, eventually exhausts riders. The exact process by which this happens is not fully understood yet, but it’s a fact. Add in repeated accelerations, the slog of chasing a breakaway, or the bigger slog of being in one, and the fatigue builds up.
Long stages are mentally tough too. The requirement to concentrate for a long time is draining, but the race favourites and team leaders mustn’t let this affect them. They have to get through stages like this by expending the minimum amount of energy, both physical and mental.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) goes into the stage as the man to beat, having already taken stage one and three in bunch finishes. Stage two winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) retains the yellow jersey, with a lead of eight seconds over Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep).
Is the finish too tough for Cavendish to take win number three?