One of the oddest-looking profiles of the whole Tour de France makes this stage a tough one to predict. Rolling roads all day, plus two first-category climbs almost bookending the stage, mean there are a variety of possibilities. One for the puncheurs? A day for the break? A GC ambush before the rest day?
The start town of Laissac-Sévérac l’Église (two villages which merged last year) already has a link to cycling, having hosted the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships last year. A race - the Roc Laissaglais - is held there every year too, part of the UCI Marathon Series. Jean-Christophe Péraud, second in the 2014 Tour (and with worse memories of yesterday’s stage in Rodez in which he crashed badly in 2015), won that race five times in his mountain-biking days.
But a test of a different nature will await the peloton today, with a lot of climbing on the menu and a good portion of this jaunt through the Massif Central spent above 1,000 metres’ altitude. However, this isn’t, at first glance, one for the flyweight climbers.
The Col de Peyra Taillade, a Tour debutant, comes 31km from the finish and could play to the benefit of a team looking to cause some chaos. On double-digit gradients and a narrow road, it could only take a moment of inattentiveness to find riders chasing on the mostly downhill run to the finish line.
Closer to the finish, the similarly tight Côte de Saint-Vidal looks almost perfectly designed to provide a launchpad for a solo attack from a breakaway. T-Mobile’s Giuseppe Guerini will be the model on which to base a late move, as the Italian took his second Tour stage win the last time the race visited Le-Puy-en-Velay in 2005, escaping from his rivals with 1.5km to go.
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