BICYCLING magazine Stage to Watch Analysis
Since taking over as race director in 2005, Christian Prudhomme has continually looked for ways to add suspense to the Tour, especially during what is sometimes a lackluster first week. In its return to cycling-crazed Brittany, in northwestern France, the Tour will finish this day on the mythic Mur de Bretagne, or Brittany Wall. More than 2 kilometers long with an average grade of nearly 7 percent (spiking to 10 in places), this feature virtually eliminates any chance of a mass sprint for the finish. Instead, look for punchy riders like Omega Pharma Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert—this spring’s Ardennes dynamo—to attack. Overall contenders must be watchful here; any split in the bunch or crash could cost them time.
“This stage provides some innovation with a finish on the summit of the Mûr-de-Bretagne, which comes at the end of a beautiful but very tough two-kilometre climb. The road rises in such a straight line that even from the bottom the finish is almost visible. It’s going to be impressive, with steep ramps right from the bottom. But even before getting to that point, there is a series of hills in central Brittany where the twisting roads can be a real slog. The riders will have to be on their guard because these could lead to splits in the peloton and, consequently, a surprise or two. What is for sure is that there won’t be any sprinters in contention. Look instead for riders in the mould of Philippe Gilbert or Thomas Voeckler.”
Note: Stage route, exact start/finish, and sprints/climbs have been approximated from information provided by LeTour.com. Actual stage may vary slightly.
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