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Tour Stage 16 Preview: Roman Around

Nimes - Nimes (177km)

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Tiny things can make a difference in this life. For instance, you’re getting a very brief preamble to stage sixteen, an out and back loop from Nimes. Had I kept my undergraduate essays, you’d be getting so much more. Screeds of stuff about Nemausus, the development of city infrastructure as propaganda, and the expansionist tendencies of Augustus. Talk about your lucky escapes. Instead, as the riders enjoy a rest day and prepare to spend three consecutive nights in the same hotel, let’s have an early drink.

The amphitheatre was constructed in... zzzz
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Amy’s wine of the day

(with my apologies – this is the stage 15 wine. The stage 16 wine featured during stage 15’s preview. Amy got everything right, but I’ve never been able to handle my drink)

Reveille White Spirit 2015

This can be a hard region for me. But trying something new this year. From Sud-de-France: France Crispeels is a wine grower in Roussillon. She cultivates very old carignan, Grenache, macabeu and a young syrah The estate, 8,6 ha, is located on 3 spots between 350 and 500 m elevation. Warm temperatures, lack of water, Tramontane wind bring extreme conditions. That induces adapted style of work with a lot of care and low yields. Reds and white of REVEILLE are made with ripe grapes that are handpicked. Vinifications are gentle with natural yeast, soft extraction. The purpose is to produce living wines that are the real expression of those specific Mediterranean terroirs.

What to expect

This is a fairly gentle reintroduction to racing after the rest day, and on paper is the least consequential day until Sunday’s closing procession. However, I said something similar about stage ten being an easy way into a rest day. If I’d been right, there’d be a different Frenchmen wearing yellow pyjamas tonight.

Looking at the profile, it is hard to see too many dragons lurking.

Even the finish isn’t too technical by the standards of the Grand Tours, with a few roundabouts (of course) but a basically straight finish on a downhill run. With winds from the north, it is likely to be a headwind for most of the race and I can’t see any evidence that it’ll be strong enough or head/cross enough to cause splits. However, this is the south of France and you should take that prediction with a pinch of salt.

Of greater concern is the heat, which will be considerable (mid to high 30s, or approaching 100F in old money) and could prove exhausting. My expectation is that the peloton will go pretty slowly through the day. Any decent break has a better than usual chance of holding off a chasing pack that might be sluggish, particularly as the two main sprint teams are also now GC teams.

Who wins?

Let’s assume for a moment that the break is caught. The Deceuninck train has looked good but was doing yeoman’s work for Alaphilippe for much of stage 15. In a game of tiny percentages, Viviani’s time (and Morkov’s, and Lampaert’s) towing climbers up mountains will surely drop them in the pecking order. I should probably start taking Caleb Ewan more seriously but he doesn’t win as many races as he ought to and this finish won’t particularly suit him. I’ll go with Dylan Groenewegen once again. If you believe in history, Alexander Kristoff won the last time we finished in Nimes. This has no meaningful relevance, but I won’t do this research unless I can crowbar it into a preview.

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If the break does stay clear, your guess is as good as mine. Expect the usual array of pro-conti teams and squads who’ve underwhelmed to be up there. I’ll just leave Benoit Cosnefroy’s name here and see if that makes me look smart.

Jersey watch

I don’t think we’ll see a jersey change hands after this stage. So long as Wellens and Sagan finish, they’ll keep their jerseys, and we’d have to see utter chaos for Alaphilippe or (especially) Bernal to lose their jerseys, assuming they make it to the end of the day.

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