Stage 16: Nîmes-Nîmes
Date: July 23, 2019
Distance: 177 km
Stage type: Flat
The last time the Tour raced into the Roman city of Nîmes, Alexander Kristoff burst through to claim victory after long-time breakaway Jack Bauer had been overhauled an agonising 25 metres short of a solo victory. That scenario is likely to repeated to an extent with a stage that, unusually, starts and finishes in the same location and is set up to give the sprinters their last chance to dominate proceedings before the race finishes in Paris, unless a breakaway can thwart them.
Early on, the Tour will achieve a first when the peloton cross the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct. Once over it, the riders will continue northwards for the first third of the stage. The weather should be hot though benign. But if the Mistral is blowing from that northerly direction, the peloton will become nervy as the riders become increasingly aware of the complications that this often violent wind will present as the stage circles back to Nîmes. When the route turns westwards and, particularly, when it switches eastwards late on, some will scent an opportunity to apply pressure.
The squads that thrive in the Northern Classics have a well-deserved reputation for using the wind to their advantage, while Ineos have stood out in recent Tours for their ability to use a cross-wind to unsettle their rivals. When both the 2016 and 2017 Tours were in this region, what was then Team Sky pulled off ambushes in the wind to gain useful time on their rivals.
The run-in to the finish is dead straight for the final three kilometres, the road curving slightly with about 400 metres to the line, the point where lead-out riders will be setting up their sprinter for the 250-metre surge that for some may be the last hope of success in this race, bearing in mind the terrain that has to be negotiated between here and Paris.
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