Stage 11: Besançon - Oyonnax
Highest point: 998m
The peloton will see 140km roll under the wheels before three categorised climbs pass in very quick succession. Just one or two probably wouldn’t unseat the pure sprinters, but three in a row?
The Tour’s organisers hope the combination is enough to stress the green jersey contenders and see who’s got the legs to stay in contact with the peloton. A final climb, the third category Côte d’Echallon, falls 20km from the line in Oyonnax, a first time Tour host city. By the time they reach the outskirts, the peloton will be in full cry, probably after mopping a group of opportunists who had been in pursuit of a few KOM points and perhaps a tenure-ship of the polka dot jersey before the real climbs begin.
It’s a similar stage to last year’s stage 7 from Montpellier to Albi where Cannondale rode up hill and down dale to shed Sagan of his pure sprint rivals and deliver him to his one and only stage victory of the race. Can they repeat formula? It’s difficult to see past the Slovak if his team is as strong as 2013, but almost two weeks into the race it’s also a far taller order this time around.
Roy Curvers says... "With four hills in the last 50km, this is going to be a difficult final. It is going to be either a stage for the puncheurs, like Chavanel or Gilbert, or I think that it could be more of a stage suited to those sprinters with a big engine - Sagan, Degenkolb or Kristoff."
Jean de Gribaldy, a rider turned DS-cum-talent scout was born in Besançon. Reputed to have ‘found’ Sean Kelly, Steven Rooks, a Dutch climber of the 1980s and 1990s and Eric Caritoux, a French Vuelta a España winner. He was also known a DS who was ahead of his time, tuning riders’ diets and training regimes. He was also credited with building short winter breaks in riders’ schedules. "I am not a sports director but a counsellor,” he once quipped.
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