Stage 16: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Gap
Calm before the storm
The Alps are reached with a fairly straight forward run through the ruggedly beautiful Drôme region to Gap. The overall contenders will be happy to save themselves for three much-tougher days to come, which all but guarantees a break going early and staying clear all the way to the finish. The road rises steadily all the way until the main difficulty of the day, the 2nd-category Col de Manse. At almost 10km, this climb is long enough to split the lead group. The drop from it into the finish takes in the Rochette descent where Joseba Beloki memorably came to grief in 2003.
Distance: 162.5 km
Highest point: 1,268m
Category: Medium mountains
Sylwester Szmyd says...
"Day after the second rest day and by now you've got teams desperate to get something, so the early part will be super-aggressive. I guarantee the first two hours will be all-out war. You just know it will take ages for the break to stick."
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