Stage 8: Mâcon – Saint-Étienne
Date: July 13, 2019
Distance: 200 km
Stage type: Hilly
Unsurprisingly, given this Tour's extremely mountainous aspect, Christian Prudhomme and Thierry Gouvenou have opted to reach Saint-Étienne via a succession of second- and third-categeory passes rather than follow a far easier route that the sprinters would certainly have preferred. After an uncomplicated start, the first climb comes at the 51-kilometre mark, with six more following at regular intervals, the last topping out just a dozen kilometres from the line. The result is a medium-mountain stage with 3,700 metres of vertical gain.
The climbs are a mix of 5-8km hills with gradients that aren't especially frightening and much shorter ascents that include some imposing ramps on what are tight and twisting roads. It is ideal terrain for breakaway specialists, and there should be plenty of them looking to infiltrate the early attacks, further buoyed by the knowledge that the sprinters' teams might not be too committed in chasing them down in such undulating countryside.
The key to the stage victory is the final climb of Côte de la Jaillière, 2km at 7.6% but far steeper in places. Located just 10km from the finish, it has also been designated as one of the eight point-bonus, which are intended to spice up the battle for the yellow jersey. A rider close to the lead who can take the eight seconds at the summit and then hold on to claim the 10-second bonus awarded for winning the stage could end up scooping quite a jackpot.
Although none of the big favourites are likely to expend valuable resources in this manner, riders with the opportunity of a short lease on the maillot jaune are sure to be tempted, particularly those from the home nation. After all, the next day is France's national day. Allons enfants de la patrie!