Over 200 long, flat and probably hot kilometres away from the final mountains means that this is a transitional stage that's been nailed on for the sprinters. Or it should be. After three stages in the Pyrennees, where they'll have been battling time cuts in the autobus, it's a chance to rekindle the green jersey competition. But this late on in the race, whose powers of endurance and recovery are best? The stage is devoid of any real difficulty or traps so the GC leaders will hope an unthreatening break goes early and they can all have a breather before the sprinters' teams start winding up for the final bunch gallop into Bergerac.
The intermediate sprint on the outskirts of Tonneins, and, for the puerile-minded, a pass through the town of Condom, should be the only mid race diversions... But hang on… It's also the last chance for the breakaway to stick, so it's reasonable to expect that all of the early adventurers who shoot up the road will be a classy group of wily, efficient riders hunting a last gasp victory before tomorrow's time trial and the glorified crit in Paris.
Verdict: a tense struggle between the race craft of the world's finest opportunists and the might of the sprinters' teams looking to score.
Roy Curvers says... "With a cat 4 climb in the final, the fast sprinters won't have it easy today. But if the big three – Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel – have survived the mountains, this is going to be a battle between them and they will be looking to take every opportunity they get."
Local history Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour is hosting a Tour stage for the first time in 2014. It hasn't had much to do with any sort of top level racing apart from in 2004 when it hosted a stage of the Tour des Pyrenees won by a Dutch rider called Theo Eltink. Who's he, you ask? Well, he also won a stage of the Tour de l'Avenir that year, got a contract with Rabobank and was never heard of again.