So we are leaving the Alps, and the most relevant consequence of them for today’s stage is that five of the top sprinters are on the plane home. Not a situation we’ve had in the Tour de France to such an extent in recent years, so it’ll be interesting to see how the peloton deals with that. We’re going to Valence for the finish. Wikipedia tells me the mayor is called Nicolas Daragon — either he’s a cycling fan, as this is the second stage the town has held a stage finish in four years, or the government seriously need to re-evaluate their local budgets.
There’s the profile, showing no real topological challenges and a flat finish. This is a fairly straightforward break from the mountains with a net altitude loss. I’m not complaining about that, I just know that there’s less for me to rant about in this preview. I could probably summon one up about the lack of crosswinds — it’ll be a light headwind tomorrow, but I can hardly get worked up about such a random event as the weather. Maybe the roundabout at four hundred metres from the finish could be an issue, but I suspect it’ll be innocuous enough.
Never innocuous is Amy’s wine of the stage — Mickaël Bourg St Peray 2014
Marsanne! Mickaël Bourg’s grandfather was a mason at Cornas, and Mickaël decided to go into wine after two years of working as a mechanic. My wineseller describes white Rhône wines this way: may they remain unfashionable because this is just so good.
So now, it’s time to get to the question mark in the headline, something which has a place there. The breakaway has a not-insubstantial chance of winning this stage. Just think of what sprint trains are left. Less TGV, more Hey Soul Sister. We have Bora, Bahrain, FDJ and UAE, with Trek, Cofidis and DiData as maybes. Now, Bora are good enough at this stuff, but today they lost Poljanski and I doubt they’ll do all the work by themselves. I actually expect Cofidis to do a lot of work if Laporte is in any state to sprint, it’s in their MO from smaller stage races, which this is beginning to resemble. UAE might throw Sutherland on the front but won’t provide much. Bahrain...don’t make me laugh. FDJ are the interesting one — Démare wouldn’t have enjoyed the mountains and wasn’t sprinting well in the first place. Their help will probably decide whether the breakaway makes it or does not.
I’ll cut to the chase here, I haven’t a huge amount more to say and I don’t want to be accused of padding this out, writing more than necessary, wittering on or engaging in waffle. I’ve got a hunch that Peter Sagan is going to get into the break and win it from there. If he doesn’t, he’ll win the sprint anyway. I could insult your intelligence with a dozen break picks, but I’ve no real way of guessing who’ll get in it. Taylor Phinney, there’s my one guy out of the break. If Bora and FDJ chase, it should be caught. Another sprint it is.