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Tour Stage 14: Anything could happen

Blagnac – Rodez, 182km

Beautiful Gaillac, 70km into stage 14’s route
Spani Arnaud/Getty Images

The peloton leave the mountains behind them and head through rolling countryside north-east from Toulouse’s suburbs to the ancient city of Rodez. The route is up and down, though hilly rather than mountainous, and finishes with a short, sharp ascent (570m at 9.6%). With two tough stages in the legs, this will be an intriguing battle and plenty of riders will have marked this as a potential stage for glory.


Profil de l’étape

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – Vignoble Garbier Camargue Gris

From Indiewineries: Jean Georges Barbier’s parents started producing the famous rice from Camargue in 1942. His father was somewhat dissatisfied though. He grew up in a winemaking family, and always dreamed of returning to the old family passion.

In 1975 he bought the current domaine, but realized that the previous owners hadn’t kept up the vineyards. The old vines of Carignan, Grenache and Aramon couldn’t be saved, and so Mr. Barbier had to rip out all the old roots.

Foiled again, the family decided to plant asparagus, and devoted the estate to that crop for almost two decades, but in the 90s they replanted, and refocused on vineyards. Today 28 of the estates 39 hectares are under vine.

I say: Gulpable. A perfect wine to sip from your backyard hammock. Lots of strawberry on this one.

Did you know?

I said Rodez was ancient, and I wasn’t kidding about. I studied the region before I went over to the dark side and became an accountant – it was pretty old when the Romans got there in the 1st century BC (Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars). The steeply walled city centre (hence the uphill finish) was a stronghold of the Ruteni for some time before the Romans arrived – probably around 500 years, but don’t believe anyone who claims accuracy on that. There’s plenty of evidence of Roman settlement in the town and it has been a centre for trading ever since, with all the consequent legal and military wranglings over ownership that implies.

What’s at stake?

It is hard to see significant change in the GC, as we’re in the short gap between mountain ranges, but all riders will have to work to avoid losing time on the steep finishing climb (though we’re realistically talking about small margins). Very few KoM points are on offer. Matthews will be hopeful of regaining some of the ground in the fight for green (if that fight can still be said to be ongoing) but the sprintermediate comes early and Kittel will expect to feature there.

No, the intrigue here is in the stage win, and it is genuinely intriguing. You’d assume that for the bulk of sprinters the final climb will be too tough but there are a few in there who could make their presence felt. This also has the feel of a stage where the breakaway will be a force to be reckoned with, and it isn’t totally clear who’ll chase it down, if anyone.

Who’s going to win?

There are really two scenarios here. The first, and less likely, is that Sunweb decide Bling really can win green, but he needs to win this stage. If that’s the plan, they’ll spend plenty of time on the front. If things do come together Matthews will relish this finish, but so too will Boss-Hog and GVA.

I think it is likelier that a biggish break stays clear and fights for the win after today’s tough stage. Once we know who is in the break, it’ll be easier to find a winner, but for now I’ll stick with Greg van Avermaet, who will be motivated to pick up a win and could do it from any size of break. Looking for a real outsider? How about Jay McCarthy of Bora? He’s quietly putting together another impressive season and this is the sort of day that could easily suit him.