Stage 19: Roanne - Montluçon
The Tour heads back into the centre of the country almost to where it was two weeks ago as the peloton makes its weary way towards Paris. The profile is almost as rolling as yesterday's, beginning with a third and a fourth category climb inside the first 42 kilometres. The mid-section is fairly flat, but then the final 50 kilometres become much lumpier, although there are no classified climbs in this part.
Today is more suited to the sprinters than yesterday, but with a potentially decisive time trial tomorrow the overall contenders may not want a hard day and so a breakaway might succeed.
Roanne is yet another first time stage town, but Montluçon has been visited five times before. Last time was in 2001 when Belgian Serge Baguet (Lotto) beat Dane Jacob Piil (CSC) in a two-up sprint after the remains of the breakaway was swallowed by the peloton. A similar scenario may well play out this year.
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