Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse - Culoz
The Grand Colombier got its first Tour outing in 2012, when the HC-ranked climb was included as a meagre bone in a race aimed foursquare at rouleurs. It was on the corresponding stage in 2012 where Thomas Voeckler took the first of two Tour stage wins that year. Today, six categorised climbs – three of them 1 or HC - await the peloton on this 160km jaunt through the Jura. There are three more significant but uncategorised climbs along the way - it’s going to be action-packed.
GC contenders looking to make up ground might see if rival teams are feeling soft and green jersey contenders like Peter Sagan could see a chance to bag the points on offer at the intermediate sprint, after three summits. It’s the sort of stage where there’s lots to gain by going hunting so sorties will be flying off the front from the very start.
The penultimate climb goes to the very summit of the Grand Colombier but it’s the descent which could be even more crucial. It starts wide and fast and then coils up at the bottom. Vincenzo Nibali unsettled Bradley Wiggins with an attack here in 2012. Unusually for a Tour stage, the race hits a 24km finishing circuit when it enters Culoz, including the final climb, dubbed the Lacets du Grand Colombier. This is a separate ascent of the mountain that uses a dramatic looping road back up.
But the peloton doesn’t make a full ascent and at halfway, makes another tough and technical descent to Anglefort before the 8km flat run back to Culoz. There’s not enough here to decide the race, barring a catastrophe, but more than enough to push the riders hard. This is a stage packed with traps and opportunities and could turn out to be one of the best days of the race.
Stephen Roche: A stage like this is always going to be punchy but it’s difficult to say whether it’s a critical day for GC or not – it really depends on whether a team takes it by the scruff of the neck or not. If they can, even. One thing we’ve seen in the last couple of years is riders having a go on the descent. Froome isn’t a bad descender but he’s functional. However, he’s also the type of guy that whatever you put in front of him he’ll do it and take risks if need be.
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