Tour de France 2016 Stage 14 preview: Montélimar - Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux, 208 km

Time for everyone to calm down. By now the GC will have assumed a rough shape and no doubt some kind of media-fuelled controversy will be filling the airwaves and pages of L’Équipe. Time for some rarely visited and new ground. Montélimar hosts the Tour for only the third time, and the bird park at Villars-de-Dombes for the first time, though it did host a Dauphiné TT in 2013. The fourth-longest stage of the race heads due north up the Rhône valley, through the Drôme and Isère départements and finishes in Ain.

The cat 4 Côte de Puy-St-Martin after 20km is likely to provide impetus to the day’s break, which, if it has the right composition, may have enough on its side to last the distance. There are another two categorised climbs halfway through, the Côte du Four-à-Chaux and the Côte de Hauterives at 93km and 101km respectively. But the non-categorised climbs could be deceptive and may play into the hands of determined baroudeurs. Another piece of history which may give further encouragement to today’s break: such direct stages up the Rhône Valley are a rarity. The last that was close in complexion was in 2006, to Montélimar, won by Procycling columnist Jens Voigt from a small break. They had a tailwind and were away for more than 200km, with a final winning margin of half an hour over the peloton, which was hors delai.

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