The riders are back from the mountains and onto the flats for a couple of days. The first of these flatter bridging stages is a 216km route through the Haute-Marne and Aube Departments from Vesoul to Troyes, which will bring a bit of relief to the sprinters.
After heading due South since the Grand Depart, the riders now head West from Vesoul to Troyes. The 216km stage is the longest of this Tour, but certainly not the most technical or most difficult. There are a few undulations on the way to Troyes, with 2 categorised climbs as well. The first of those climbs is the Côte de Langres at kilometer 69. It’s one of the shortest KoMs of this year’s race at only 1300m, but averages 6.3%. The start of the climb is the steepest, with sections of 12%. At the top it shallows out, but there is a tricky 180 degree turn at the top of the climb with a roundabout following short after. Between the next KoM though, there is the uphill sprint point at Colombey-Les-Deux-Ėglises, before the downhill entrance into the longer Côte de la colline Sainte-Germaine.
The Côte de la colline Sainte-Germaine (which takes the title for the longest KoM name of this year’s Tour) has a very constant 4.4% gradient for the 3.1km climb, with a little 7% pinch before the hairpin 600m from the summit. Two not-so-difficult climbs compared to what’s to come in the coming days. The roads into Troyes are flat, even tending toward downhill. The final few kilometers are pancake flat, but a technical final kilometre could make for some chaotic sprinting. There is a roundabout with 1km to go, as well as one with 150m to go – which will basically mean the leadouts will race to the roundabout to launch their sprinters, and the sprinter with prime position through the roundabout will win. Quite a dangerous finish if you ask me, but hopefully nothing catastrophic happens.
The temperature is certainly picking up as summer starts to bloom in France. Tomorrow’s stage will be a warm 33C, with a slight crosswind of 10kmh coming from the South. This crosswind will tend into a headwind as the riders enter the final 1km finishing straight sThe sunshine might be short-lived however, with showers predicted on Friday and expected to last until the first rest day. Nevertheless, should be a stunning day for the sprinters.
The GC Situation
Oh boy oh boy! La Planche des Belles Filles brought our first major GC shakeup. Contador and Quintana both lost crucial seconds on Froome, Bardet and Porte, while Aru went solo to gain time on everyone else in his stage victory. Esteban Chaves and Andrew Talansky completely exploded, and even further down Thibaut Pinot absolutely crashed and burned. However, if one thing the Tour has taught us over the last 5 years, it is the fact that Team Sky will ultimately be in Yellow. And with Geraint Thomas being dropped, there is one man who stood up. Funnily enough, he has a bit of experience recently in wearing Yellow.
Top 10 GC Contenders
- Christopher Froome (Team Sky) – 18:38:59
- Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) – 12″
- Fabio Aru (Astana) – 14″
- Dan Martin (Quickstep) – 25″
- Richie Porte (BMC) – 39″
- Simon Yates (Orica) – 43″
- Romain Bardet (AG2R) – 47″
- Alberto Contador (Trek) – 52″
- Nairo Quintana (Movistar) – 54″
- Rafal Majka (Bora) – 1’01”
Italics indicate eligible for White Jersey.
With Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish both out of the race, it leaves Marcel Kittel with less competition. Although Arnaud Demare took a stage win on Stage 4, and Andre Greipel has been close in all the sprints, Kittel looks to be on the best form. Michael Matthews will also find some new motivation for the Green Jersey after Sagan’s abandonment, and will contest all these sprints from now on. Nacer Bouhanni hasn’t really shown up all week except on the chaos of Stage 4, and John Degenkolb and Ben Swift could still be shook up after their crash. Alexander Kristoff has started to find something in his sprints, but I don’t think anyone has the special flair to get over Kittel in Troyes.
~ The Cycling Raven
P.S.: Thanks to Tim for a copy of the handbook. ❤