The second day in the Alps is a rival for the queen stage epithet, but probably comes off second best to the Pla d’Adet stage three days later. The first two climbs – the Col du Lautaret and Col d’Izoard – are old Tour haunts. At 2,361m, the Izoard is also the roof of the race, with the route planners hoping it will be a springboard for a desperate chase up to Risoul, which is debuting in the Tour this year. The peloton tackles the Col d’Izoard from the Briançon side, but the steep and technical descent alongside the Torrent d’Izoard could provide the impetus for the brave to set off and pressurise the race leader on the Risoul which starts after a period of flat on the valley floor.
Risoul has featured in ASO races in the recent past – twice in the Tour de l’Avenir and twice in the Critérium du Dauphiné. It’s only 6.1km in length and has an extremely constant gradient around seven per cent, so anticipate the speed up the climb to be punishingly high.
Chris Froome finished second up the climb in the Dauphiné last year, so it’s a mountain that will hold no worry for him. Indeed, with his climbing abilities, this provides the perfect opportunity for him to draw the blood of some potential rivals and see how they bleed.
Alex Sans Vega says... "The Izoards is 20 kilometres of constant climbing. If it's a warm day, the riders will suffer a lot in the heat. Today's outcome depends on the gaps in the GC. Strong riders can make a real difference, but their teams need to make the race hard before the last climb."
Until 1971, Grenoble had always featured as a finish town – 32 times in fact – and the quality of the riders who have won here is blue ribbon: Gino Bartali, Charly Gaul, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Thévenet among them. Stuart O’Grady won the first of his two Tour stages here in 1998 after a six-man group broke clear. Last year the Australian admitted he doped before the race though.