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Tour Stage 13 Preview: Vittel - Colmar

Stage 13 :: Friday July 17, 2009
200km :: Vittel - Colmar

This will be a stage for the sprinters, long, flat with almost no roll to it at all.  Finally it's time to change the script!  Just when you thought the Tour de France had devolved into a two horse race between Cavendish and Hushovd, we start to see something that reminds us that the Maillot Jaune is far from settled.  This stage will have no bearing on the GC standings in Paris, but you can tell that we are finally leaving the flatlands (how many sunflowers can you really look at) and heading in towards some interesting terrain. 

The gradual increase over this week, in terms of topography undulation in the course, is interesting.  It's almost like a series of warm up races each day leading up to the big blowout that's to come.  Flat, then false flat, then an honest climb today and tomorrow's leg stretcher.  We're not talking Col du Galibiere on stage 13, just like that last hill today wasn't the Muur, but I think we've definately left the "we have to find some place to put a KOM point" part of this week behind.  I, for one, am grateful.

We now turn to the sports desk and our own Passo di Gavia for the course report. Gavia?

The Tour begins where it left off with a start in Vittel. The stage travels east into the Vosges mountains and nearly to the border with Germany. There are five categorized climbs and very little flat riding on the menu. The final 20 kilometers descend to a flat finish in Colmar. The stage should favor a breakaway winner, but the general classification riders could choose to race for this one.

Located in Alsace, Colmar is considered the capital of Alsace’s rich wine-making industry and is the third largest city in Alsace. The creator of the Statue of Liberty in New York, Frédéric Auguste Bartoldi, was born in Colmar. The city sits in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, and is one of the driest in France. It also recorded the highest ever temperature in Europe during August 2003: 40.9° C, or approximately 105° F.

Colmar served as both a start and finish city in 2001. Laurent Jalabert won stage 7 between Strasbourg and Colmar that year, while Jens Voigt wore the Yellow Jersey. The following day, Erik Dekker celebrated victory after racing from Colmar to Pontarlier. Stuart O’Grady took over from Jens Voigt as race leader. This year marks the sixth edition of the Tour de France since 1947 to visit Colmar.

Courtesy of Gavia's Stage 13 Preview at

Alsace... mmm... Flammkuchen!  And forget what Will said about seeing my picture on the walls of clubs in Alsace; it's not true.  You don't need to see my identification... I am not the droid you're looking for... move along.  And Alsace is a decidedly "Allemagnic" region of France, I think we all need to warm our throats up for this stage:  all together, let's say "Gundlach Bundschau Gewurtztraminer isn't as good as the Riesling made in Schmelzrunz past the Col du Platzerwasel".  Good, I knew you could do it!

(PS: extra points for anyone that figures out where my brain mashes this up from: "One One Eight Seven at Platzerwasel.")

Head East, young riders, there's Yellow in them thar hills (just not on this stage)!  We're going to start out pretty flat, the only rated hill at the beginning being just past the first traguardo volante: the Cat.3 Côte de Xertigny , which, at 5.3% is only 2km long.  Not even worth getting out the red crayon for.  But this will change shortly as everything gets tilted up a bit and the false flat of the route on the way to the second sprint and the musette-a-thon in Gérardmer, really starts to bite, turning into the Cat.2 9km long Col de la Schlucht at 4.2%.  As with many of the more signficant Côte and Cols, ASO lists a somewhat short length for it, even though the terrain suggests a much longer plane of inclination.

Here we begin the climb up to the Col de la Schlucht.

The descent doesn't seem to be too steep, although there are several hairpins on the way. Not the sort of thing you can just drop down without a thought, especially if your last name is "Dit iss en drraama".

Just off the descent, there is a hard right turn through the town of Munster (make your own joke), and heads to the third and final intermediate sprint of the day at Lautenbach, and then plows right on up the slopes of the Cat.1 Col du Platzerwasel, of 8.7km in length, while averaging a respectable 7.6%. My maps show Lautenbach as sitting at 408m (1340') and the Col du Plazterwasel at 1190m (3904') which gives us a vertical gain of 782m (2565') over that 8km (5 miles).

The route noodles around the ridges for a few kilometers, before finally deciding on a descent route to Schweighouse, where we climb up out of the valley onto a plateau over the Cat.3 Col du Bannstein, head to Osenbach and then pop across the valley wall through the Cat.2 Col du Firstplan.

The stage ends in Colmar (northbound Richmond train arriving in 2 minutes), but considering the nature of Stage 13, I didn't get too critical with the mapping of the finish. I think it's pretty straight on in anyway.