It’s another short stage and one that is going to test the mettle of the GC contenders. Two HC climbs – Col de la Madeleine and Col de la Croix de Fer – are followed by a Cat 2 with the Col du Mollard and a Cat 1 summit finish – the second of this year’s three – at La Toussuire.
It is not so much the gradient of the Madeleine (6.2% average) and the Croix de Fer (6.9%) that saps the legs as the fact that they seem to go on forever. The pair account for nearly 48km of solid ascending by themselves – nearly one-third of the entire length of the stage. The intermediate sprint sits between the two climbs but, unlike yesterday, don’t expect either Matt Goss or Peter Sagan to be contesting maximum points today.
The Mollard would normally be a mere aperitif at 5.7km and 6.8%, but will feel twice as long and twice as steep after the initial climbs. As for La Toussuire (18km at 6.1%), it delivers its most severe punishment early with the steepest ramps at the start of the climb. This was where Floyd Landis famously cracked in the yellow jersey in 2006. Bradley Wiggins will be hoping to avoid the same fate.
The specialist climbers will love this stage – any of the GC contenders who have a bad day will rue it. If it starts out badly, a rider could lose a bucketload of time – and with it his Tour aspirations – if he isn’t careful. No looking around: climbers need to attack and attack and attack and attack. If they don’t, they’re tactical fools.
Cycling the Alps’ interactive videos of the route can be found here.
Link: Official website