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Tour Stage 11: I hate to get your hopes up, but...

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There's a chance of echelons here.

Le Tour de France 2013 - Stage Seven Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Stage 10: Carcassonne - Montpellier, 162.5km

I'll just say it: We're in echelon country.

What's It About?

Giving a win to a sprinter, that's for sure. How easy it'll be for this sprinter to take it remains to be seen. We go from Carcassonne to Montpellier, the biggest city the Tour will visit before we get to Paris. According to letour.fr, Fausto Coppi himself faltered on a similar stage, and lost thiry-three minutes in the heat and wind.

AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings

Each stage we bring you suggestions regarding the local fare from AmyBC. Check out her blog Winebookgirl for more.

Wine: Antony Tortul La Sorga Ah! Ramon:

Another from Selection Massale. This one made of Aramon 70% / 20% Cinsault / Carignan, there Terret Muscat 10%

Food: The food of the day really should be Cassoulet. But poor planning on my part meant that did not happen. Next year! So instead, a cornmeal cake based upon Millas, which Google tells me is common in the Southwest. I did find a few recipes online, but instead decided to have some fun and top this Nigella recipe (minus the lemon), with a marzipan crumble. Because, really, I still dream of recreating the much missed Della Fattoria polenta cake.

Course Features

The most important one is going to be the map. The race heads east-north-east...

Which is important, because here's our old friend the Mistral wind!

There'll be thirty kph north-westerlies, with gusts at sixty kph, and that will certainly be enough to make the peloton nervous. They're not quite a full crosswind for most of the stage, more of a cross-tail, but that won’t stop a determined team from having a go.

Here's the profile:

Only two categorised climbs, neither of which are going to entice Pinot or Majka. The second half of the stage is flat enough not to make any difference to the stage. There's a little 2% kick in the last kilometre, but it also isn't going to change much. Nor will the last couple of kilometres — they look pretty safe.

Riders to Watch

Well, first we'll look at teams to watch. Etixx-Quickstep are going to be the first of those. There's no team more famous than them for getting to the front and forcing echelons, and their reasons for doing so on this stage will be two-fold. They want to get another stage win for Marcel Kittel, and what better way to do that than finishing a couple of minutes ahead of the only guy who can beat him? Also, Dan Martin is looking good for GC, and any advantage counts, right? There's a caveat to this, however — Mont Ventoux is due to be climbed the day after this stage, and any GC riders thinking of going for it in the echelons will need to consider the impact of fatigue from going all out on the flat.

Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana have both missed out in crosswinds, and neither will have any intention of doing so tomorrow. I don't really expect Movistar to try and force a move, but Sky are more likely to — there's a chance that Froome is scared Quintana is too close to him, and will want to take time.

But echelons or no echelons, I think it's between Cavendish and Kittel. Neither are likely to lose out in splits, and they're clearly the strongest sprinters in the race, with Kristoff nowhere and Greipel struggling. Kittel hasn't been positioned well, but if this is a tough race, it could be easier to get to the front, and Cavendish has lost Mark Renshaw, little use as he was to Cavndish, who wheelsurfed his way to all his wins.

Pick to Win

Cavendish. What the hell, I've kept underestimating him before. He'll win, echelons or no echelons.