Friday, 4 July 2014

2014 Tour de France Preview Stages 17-21

Stage 17 Saint-Gaudens - Saint-Lary-Soulan 124.5km

The shortest road racing stage of this years' tour will be one of the toughest. The sprinters will be up for the intermediate sprint at kilometer 31. After that it will be about staying in the time limit as the riders will have to make it up no less than 4 categorised climbs. The first of those is the 1st Category Col du Portillon, 8.3km at 7%, here is where we will see the breakaway form. The second climb of the day is the Col du Peyrasourde where Alejandro Valverde won in  2012 and Thomas de Gendt in 2013, the first Category climb is the longest of the days'  at 13.2km with an average gradient of 7%. The 3rd and final first Category climb of the day is the Col de Val Louron-Azet, at 7.4km climb at 8.3%.  The final climb is the super catergorised Pla d'Adet, at 10.2km long and 8.3%. Here we will see attacks from the GC contenders trying to gain time on each other. My pick for the stage is Joaquim Rodriguez and for him to retake the polka-dot jersey.

Stage 18 Pau - Hautcam 145.5km

Stage 18 is the same route as L'Etape du Tour 2014, it starts off with two small 3rd Category climb; the Cote de Bénéiacq and the Cote de Loucrop, both around 2km long at a gradient of about 7%. The latter is swiftly followed by the days' intermediate sprint at 62km. Then the real climbing starts as the riders will make their way up the 17.1km climb to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet, the first rider up the climb will receive the Souvenir Jacques Goddet, the climb has an average gradient of 7.3% and is seen as one of the fiercest climbs in world cycling. The gradual descent down to the foot of the Hautacam will give a chance for riders to rejoin the peloton (or leading group). Then the riders will climb the final mountain of the Tour; the 13.6km up to Hautacam, at a gradient harder than the Tourmalet is will be a real sting in the tail. For the poorer time-trialists this will be where the Tour is won and lost. My pick for the stage is for Alejandro Valverde, but for Nibali to lose his Yellow Jersey to Porte.

Stage 19 Maubourguet Pays Val D'Adour - Bergerac 208.5km

After the riders exit the Pyrenees, they are rewarded with a long flat stage with one categorised climb. The only points of interest in the first 190km are the feed station with 106km to go and sprint point at 88km to go. The 4th category climb with fifteen kilometres to go will test the sprinters', the Cote de Montazillac is only 1300m long but it's slopes of 7.6% will test the sprinters and could be the perfect springboard to attack from the peloton. The descent into Bergerac will be fast paced and will probably decide the fate of the green jersey. My pick for the stage is John Degenkolb to have a solo win.

Stage 20 Bergerac - Périgueux 54km ITT

Stage 20 is the final general classification stage in the Tour de France. The hilly time trial has two time checks at 19km and 39km with the final sting in the tail being the climb the Cote de Coulounieix is a 1.4km climb at an average gradient of 6.4%. We could see some riders switching from the TT bike to the road bike for the final 10km. My pick for the stage is Fabian Cancellara.

Stage 21 Évry - Champs-Élysées 137.5km

Évry has the honour of being the start of the final stage this year. There is a 4th Category climb en route just to settle the KOM competition just incase there is a tie. After 80km the riders will see the Eiffel Tower and go onto the cobblestones which is where the racing starts on the final stage. The intermediate sprint is on the 2nd of 8 laps of the circuit around the Champs-Élysées which does go around the Arc de Triomphe, again. There will be no changes to the General Classification unless there is a crash, as it is seen as ungentlemanly to attack the Malliot jaune in Paris. My pick for the stage is for Marcel Kittel.

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