This may be a sprinters’ stage or it may be a splitters’ stage – the last 16km run into Cap d’Agde looks straightforward if you just look at the profile but the Tour’s organisers are not making anything completely straightforward this year. After yesterday’s stage – the longest of the 2012 Tour – today’s is the third-longest, just 9km shorter. Before the riders get to the finish, they need to get over a Cat 3 climb and ride along the Mediterranean coast for approximately 40km. As this is the part of the coast that attracts wind-surfers, you can guess the danger here – wind splitting the peloton so that a breakaway could stay away, sprinters could easily lose their place at the front of the peloton and all the GC contenders could get twitchy trying to stay out of trouble.
Sprinters should get two bites at the cherry today as Matt Goss and company seek to eat into Peter Sagan‘s hefty advantage in the points competition. The intermediate sprint just after halfway is slightly uphill on a gently curving road, but looks fairly straightforward. The finish, however, is far from routine. There is a tricky ramp at around 1.5km which could stall the sprint trains, then in the final half-kilometre the road bends left and then twice right, with the line only coming into view with 200 metres to go. Any aspiring stage winner will need to ensure he is in prime position in the front half-dozen or so before that series of bends, or it will be too late.
Add to all that the fact that this stage is being held on Bastille Day, which means that French riders will be doubly keen to shake the peloton so they can unfurl the tricolore.
Cycling the Alps’ interactive videos of the route can be found here.
Link: Official website