Stage 19: Albertville - Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc
Albertville is a terminus used only twice before today. In 1998, Jan Ullrich won here after breaking away on the Madeleine with only Marco Pantani for company. In 2012 it was the start of the stage to La Toussuire, where Froome stirred and Bradley Wiggins was shaken. Meanwhile at the other end of the stage, the climb to Le Bettex has only had one previous finish in the Tour and it will be well-remembered by those of a certain age: this was where Thierry Claveyrolat took one of two stage wins and put a down payment on the polka-dot jersey in 1990. Today it will be all about the GC. At 146km, it’s short, but there are four hard climbs. First up are the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin (Category 1) and the Col de la Forclaz Queige (cat 2). But these are mere leg-looseners for the second half which starts with the debut climb of the Montée de Bisanne, a super-category 12.4km climb that averages 8.2 per cent: the final 2km touch an average of 10 per cent.
For the brave – or the renegade – these final steep ramps could be the spot for a daring attack but with around 52km to go it will be the last throw of the dice if it’s a contender. From the top of the Bisanne, it’s still 40km of descent which also retraces the previous day’s TT route to Domancy. At Venex, the peloton hits a wall. The first kilometre of the Bettex climb averages 13 per cent, and remains almost as steep for the next 2km – just the sort of terrain to shed helpers and leave the leaders to fight it out. There are two relatively flat kilometres before the road pitches up. Watch closely as the race hits Le Gollet: there’s a kilometre that averages nigh-on 10 per cent and with 3km left to ride it’s just the kind of place a contender could launch an attack and gain 30 or 40 seconds.
Stephen Roche: The Tour is not won on any single day but by being there on all them. The last week is about survival of the fittest and this year it’s especially hard. At the same time, this is a short stage, which makes it a very explosive day. Anyone with a podium chance will need to be aggressive here. The race is not over, with the Joux Plane and descent into Morzine the next day, but a summit finish here is obviously a far more straightforward proposition and chance.
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