As we saw with stage ten, which followed the previous rest day, stage 16 eases the peloton back into racing with a comparatively short and straightforward stage. There are two categorised climbs, early in the stage, and then it is mostly downhill, crossing the Rhone valley to the finish beside the banks of the Isere, a tributary of the Rhone. For the riders, this one looks like a sprint… but watch out for what we used to call a Jack the Ripper* in the last kilometre, and a slight uphill. The maps won’t show you much, but the plan of the last 5km is telling. We are also expecting a windy day, so it isn’t impossible that we’ll see echelons and other associated chaos.
* That’s a nasty little left-hander. Do try to keep up.
Profil de l’étape
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – La Combe de Chaillot Cornas
From the granite hills.
John Livingstone Learmonth, who I trust on all things Rhone says:
The wines are traditional, cleanly made and good punch lies at their heart. The importer tells me that: His Cornas is as it should be and is exactly as we like it: brawny, sometimes austere, profound, sauvage. He cultivates his vineyards with an organic philosophy and his wines are made using the natural yeasts from his grapes. He produces three wines, two of which are in excruciatingly limited supply.
Did you know?
The peloton will pass through the commune of Saint-Donat-sur-l’Herbasse, which is named for the patron saint of pastry and policeman. Saint-Donat performed the miracle of turning sour milk into custard filling, and stale bread into delicious doughnuts. You didn’t know that, of course, because I made it all up.
It is actually named for Saint Donatus, a hermit from Orleans, who died in the 6th century. His relics were held in the church, and the village was renamed in his honour, having previously been known as Jovinzieu, after Jupiter, and has been around since Gallo-Roman times.
Isn’t reality boring?
On the other hand, there’s an international shoe museum in Romans-sur-Isere, where the race will finish. How many riders do we think will take a tour?
What’s at stake?
This is a typical transition stage, and most of the GC boys will be looking to keep their powder dry ahead of the Alps. Barguil shouldn’t be worried about the handful of KoM points on offer. Nope, this one is about the sprinters and the breakaway. Obviously there’s the kudos of a stage win, but more than that, Marcel Kittel will be looking to put the green jersey race well and truly to bed. The sprintermediate comes with just 40-odd kilometres to go, so it might just be that the day’s break is caught by then. Look for Sunweb to try something, anything, to pick up points here. It’ll be hard for Matthews to improve. I don’t know whether wind will play a major role, but it is a safer bet that it won’t.
Who’s going to win?
Could a breakaway make it? Sure, it’s possible, but I can’t see it happening. The sprint teams have done a good job pulling them back and the roads look fast on this route. If it does come together, there’s only one sprinter winning races this year, and that’s Marcel Kittel. However, his newfound desire to wait a little longer to start his sprint isn’t ideally suited to a course with a very late bend. The uphill finish isn’t ideal for him, and will give hope to Matthews, in particular, as well as the Eddy Boss-Hogs and GVAs of this world. Greips still hasn’t won his stage, either.
I don’t think the hill stops Kittel, and I have him winning ahead of Boasson Hagen and Greipel.