Stage 20: Megève - Morzine-Avoriaz, 146.5 km
We visit the Joux Plane to test the peloton one more time.
What's It About?
Attempting to have an unpredictable mountain stage. Weird things have happened on the Col de Joux Plane, haven't they Floyd, and we can hope that something strange will happen again. The stage starts in Megève, which is where stage 18 finished, and finishes in Morzine, where all the Tour stages to use the Joux Plane have ended up. The stage's use of the Aravis and Colombièere passes mirror the 2006 stage, but the Col de la Ramaz is a new (and fortunately, safe to pass) addition.
AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings
Wine: Domaine Lucas Terroir du leman vins de leman chassellass
From Selection Massale: Dominique Lucas has chosen what many would seem a Quixotic pursuit, to make Chasselas in that Savoie that stands with the best white wines of France. Despite the grapes low reputation Dominique has been planting the grape (along with a little bit of Savagnin) on serious terroirs overlooking Lake Geneva and farming them biodynamically since day one. So far the results are eye-opening and deserving of a serious look in the same way that Dominique Belluard has managed to make Gringet fought over by his buyers. He also makes a small amount of Burgundy from his family’s old estate near Pommard. We expect great things from him in the future as his vineyards come into maturity.
Food:Tomme de Savoie cheese
Tomme de Savoie is a variety of Tomme cheese from Savoie in the French Alps. It is a mild, semi-firm cow's milk cheese with a beige interior and a thick brownish-grey rind. Tomme de Savoie dates back to ancient history.
This year the Etape will replicate Stage 20, on the north edge of the French Alps. The 146 kilometre route has perhaps 3500 metres of vertical ascent, with four big climbs, each one a little harder than the previous. The route starts with the almost Dolomite-looking Col des Aravis - the bastards sell cow pelts at the summit. Next is the easier side of Tour regular Col de la Colombière followed by a quite hair-raising descent.
Colombier / Colombière - Colombe means dove. Grand Colombier is in the Jura mountains. Col de la Colombière is an Alp.
Joux: Joux means something like mountain forest or woodlands. There is also a nice climb to Col de Joux Verte above Morzine.
After the reasonably challenging Col de la Ramaz, the final climb will be the classic side of Col de Joux Plane. It last appeared in the Tour in 2006.
This is another stage where descending skills could matter. There is a 6 kilometre stretch of Ramaz that has tight hairpins and seems to go straight down. The final descent from Joux Plane can be crazy fast. Sean Kelly allegedly hit 124 km/h here once.
Stage Steepness Factor: The final two climbs of this stage are fairly tough. The steepest stretch of Ramaz is inside the modern tunnel (which bypasses the very fun and still passable old cliff stretch). And pros seem to usually judge Col de Joux Plane as more difficult than its stats might suggest. I believe this is because it's so irregular. Long stretches at 5%, some ramps well into the teens. Tough to get a rhythm.
Just look at those valleys. Seventeen kilometres between the middle two climbs, and thirteen between the final two, while there could be some early skirmishes to test Froome out, I expect the Joux Plane to be the decider. The descent is dangerous, with many different surfaces and gradients to contend with. Oh, and there's a very, very good chance of torrential rain in Morzine.
Riders to Watch
Astana chose not to seriously infiltrate the breakaway today, and consequently rode on the front for almost the entire stage for Fabio Aru. With the podium so vulnerable for Aru, you could say they have even more reason to go for the same tactic. However, if they choose to go for the stage with Vincenzo Nibali, we can expect to see the breakaway do what it has done all Tour, and get too big a gap to be brought back. Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe on the front tomorrow won't be too challenging for a big break, which is likely to go on the lower slopes of the Aravis. If the break does make it, Nibali, Zakarin, and that man Pantano again should fight for the win.
However, there will be skirmishes amongst the GC riders, there simply has to be. I expect Valverde to attack on the first or second mountain, to test Froome's legs and tee up Quintana. Martin, Aru and Meintjes know they are stronger than Yates, and may want to send him out of the top ten with an attack.
However, most of the attacks simply must take place on the Joux Plane. Quintana has good memories of the climb, taking his first big win here in the 2012 Dauphiné, Aru has been threatening all race, Bardet loves to attack, coupled with that he seems to be the strongest guy left in the race. Rodríguez will want another Tour top ten. Dan Martin is also a very aggressive rider who wants a stage win, and this is his last chance to do it. Hell, Froome could be fine and win here, just to prove he can!
Pick to Win
Dan Martin. He's climbing well, he can descend just fine, and if it comes down to a sprint...you know what, just give me this one, all right!?