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A hilly stage with four low category climbs evenly spread through the day will set up the tension between the sprinters and the breakaway artists. It’s the last opportunity for the sprinters to make a showing until Nîmes on stage 15, and, with the intermediate sprint just 40km into the stage, the green jersey contenders will likely want to keep it all together to fight for the bonus point on offer.
At the end of the day, the category 4 Côte de Grammond, 21km from the line, will barely be noticed as the peloton wind up the pace for the sprint into Saint Étienne. They’ll keep an eagle eye on the break to make sure there isn’t a repeat of the 2008 finish in the city when Marcus Burghardt outfoxed Carlos Barredo for the stage win. It’s difficult to see past pure sprinters on a stage such as this, - especially if the race got away from them yesterday with the tough and technical finish into Oyonnax. Cavendish, Greipel and Kittel will sit patiently at the back of their trains all day and get ready to pounce. With some luck, though, maybe and outsider - Matt Goss perhaps – could upset the triumvirate of the world’s best drag racers and turn his string of Tour podiums into a first stage victory. It’ll be a fast and furious day no matter what.
Haimar Zubeldia says... "Today could be anyone's, and depends as much on the terrain and conditions as which teams have already won stages. As a climber on a day like this, I'll try and do as little as humanly possible to save energy, though I'll help the team if it is necessary."
In the 1977 Tour, the stage into Saint Étienne was originally won by the Portuguese rider Joaquim Agostinho who rode solo into the city. His result was annulled when he failed a dope test. The stage was then awarded to Antonio Menendez who finished three minutes back. When he also failed the test embarrassed organisers gave up because third placed rider Eddy Merckx hadn’t been tested. Nobody won.