Tour de France preview: Stage 18

Stage 18: Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, 222.5km, rolling

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, keep them doggies rollin’ … this stage will let the GC men rest their raw hides [ho ho – Ed] and get their breath back before tomorrow’s time trial. This rolling stage is designed for a bunch sprint after an early Cat 3 climb and three Cat 4s – the last just 10km from the finish – into a fast descent into Brive.

However, after two punishing days in the high mountains of the Pyrenees and with the green jersey competition all but settled, this year’s second-longest stage could easily see a large break stay away while the peloton rolls along. It’s the last chance for riders from winless teams to grab one final shot at glory, so watch for the colours of Vacansoleil, Saur-Sojasun and others in the inevitable escape.

Should the race come back together for a final sprint, the riders face a difficult run-in. There are three roundabouts in quick succession to negotiate at around 6km, and just after 2km there are tight left and right bends under a railway bridge which come at the end of a long downhill which will see the riders arriving at high speed and being forced to hit the brakes hard. Don’t be surprised if there’s a big crash here. Teams who have checked the race book closely will know this, so expect the sprint teams and Sky in particular to be prominent at the front of the peloton with the dual aim of protecting Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and setting up Mark Cavendish.

Cycling the Alps’ interactive videos of the route can be found here.

Link: Official website

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