Stage 10: Perigueux - Bergerac
After the ordeal of the Jura, the peloton will slow down into an altogether less stressful routine after the first rest day (and transfer from east to west) and a gentle, gastronomic stage through the Dordogne. As the crow flies, Périgueux and Bergerac are only 40km apart and there is a direct road between them, but ASO are taking the peloton on a 178km diversion to the east of the two towns before finding the Dordogne river and following it back to Bergerac for, most likely, a sprint.
The question at this point in the race, while the sprinters get on with regulating the lead of the break, then chasing them down before doing their thing in Bergerac, is: is the race over? We're halfway through the competitive stages in terms of GC (discounting Paris), and it's possible that somebody has already emerged as the strongest rider on the three key stages so far – Planche des Belles Filles, Station des Rousses and especially Chambéry.
However, the Tour de France will only be two mountain ranges down out of five, and the Vosges and the Jura are still small fry compared to the Pyrenees and Alps, while the Massif Central is full of opportunities for soft breaks that could quickly escalate into race-defining time gaps.
The climbs up to this point have been short and sharp – when the peloton gets its teeth into the longer, more attritional climbs of the second half of the race, the whole complexion will change. The interesting thing, however, will be watching the tension build over these two days of flat roads – the GC contenders may be invisible until their teams get in among the sprinters' teams in the finales, but they'll be thinking hard about what has gone before, and even harder about what is looming on the horizon.
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