The Tour de France is nearly halfway through its loop around France. Don't be sad! There's still plenty of bike racing left. On Friday, David Millar won the stage with a crafty bit of bike play in the final kilometers. It was his first Tour de France stage victory since he returned from a doping suspension in 2006.
Tomorrow, the Tour's stage 13 runs from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Cap d'Agde. The race is deep in the south of France now. The stage skirts Montpelier, and runs straight to the Mediterranean coast. It should be eye candy.
On the racing front, this stage looks set for the sprinters. It is 217 kilometers, which could encourage the teams to let a break stay away. But there are not too many more opportunities for the sprinters left in this Tour, so Lotto might decide to take this one in hand.
There is one serious obstacle for the sprinters to consider. There is only one categorized climb on the menu, Mont Saint-Clare, and it comes inside the final 25 kilometers. It's a category 3 and lasts just 1.5 kilometers. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there's a bit of a problemw with this Mont Saint-Clare. It's 1.5 kilometers at an average of 10%. That's just cruelty right there. The Tour organizers design a flat stage, then they stick a stupid steep climb right at the end.
The sprinters have around 25 kilometers to regroup and sort themselves out before the finish. So, the race could come back together. But that climb makes it possible for a rider to go out on the attack and just keep on going. Philippe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel, we haven't seen those dudes in a week or so.
It's Bastille Day, the French national holiday that commemorate the storming of the (mostly empty) Bastille prison in 1789. A rather bloody revolution followed. Expect to see a lot of French names in the early breakaway tomorrow. And when the race hits the steep Mont Saint-Clare near the finish, a French rider or two will no doubt go bounding up the road. Panache demands it.