The peloton continues heading west and this stage should end up with another bunch sprint. Still, the 205.5 km includes four categorized climbs and if Cannondale and others set a high pace, some of pure sprinters may have troubles keeping up.
With the Pyrenees waiting in the weekend, the GC riders would welcome a quiet day in the saddle. The sprinters hope the same but a couple of hard climbs will make their day difficult. The first 50 km are flat but from here on the road starts to kick up. Col des 13 Vents is only a category 3 climb but its 6.9 km have an average gradient of 5.6 % and there is hard part of 8 % near the top.
After the descent, the peloton immediately starts on the next climb; Col de la Croix de Mounis. It’s the hardest climb of the day and the 6.7 km towards the top have an average gradient of 6.5 %. The climb is very steep the first two kilometers and after a flat part near the top, it kicks up with over 10 %.
There are still 110 km from the top of Col de la Croix de Mounis to the finishing line in Albi. Many sprinters will be chasing the peloton at this point and most of them should be able to rejoin in time for the intermediate sprint in Viane. The next climb, Côte de la Quintaine, won’t bring the sprinters any problems and the final one, Côte de Teillet, isn’t steep either. The final 55 km are downhill and sets for a face finish. However, it doesn’t favor a breakaway much with headwind the final 35 km towards Albi.
|The final 6 km of Stage 7.|
Thanks to the headwind, the peloton shouldn’t have problems bringing back a breakaway. There are three roundabouts to overcome just before entering Albi and from here on it’s pretty much straight out towards the line. Still, there is a tricky roundabout passing with 2.5 km to go and this will stretch out the peloton as the road gets smaller. That means it’s important to be well placed as the final part towards the line is very fast. You won’t win the sprint at this point but being in a poor position can very well end your chances of success.
Mark Cavendish missed out on Stage 6 after he crashed and had to waste a lot of energy getting back. Cavendish was furious after the stage and he’s usually good at using his rage to motivate him even more. On Stage 5 Cavendish showed that he has no problems coping with small hills and those in the final of Stage 6 shouldn’t trouble him. The category 2 climb is nasty but with over 100 km to go from the top, Omega Pharma Quickstep will have plenty of time to bring back Cavendish. This is not like on Corsica where the riders had to overcome tough climbs near the finishing line.
I’ve been talking about the importance of a good lead out train the last couple of days and there is no need to repeat all of it again. Lotto-Belisol showed how it’s done on Stage 6 and they will be eager to do it again on this stage. I still think Argos-Shimano have best train but I’m not sure how Marcel Kittel will get over the climbs. Instead I expect the Dutch team to change focus to John Degenkolb and that’s not improving their chances of a stage win. Peter Sagan will be there in the final, so will Edvald Boasson Hagen and if Cavendish and Greipel are there to, Degenkolb will simply be overmatched. The three top sprinters, Kittel, Cavendish and Greipel have now all won a stage and it’s only Peter Sagan of the big guns who’s still winless. Sagan won’t have problems on the climbs today and if the other sprinters don’t get back in time, he’s the man to beat.
I personally doubt a breakaway will make all the way but should it happen, look out for Juan-Antonio Flecha. The Spaniard was very active the first days on Corsica and after a few quiet days, his batteries are now re-charged. Flecha is not afraid of attacking - quite the opposite - and he’s fast on the line too. The headwind will make it difficult to keep the peloton at bay but should they miss-time it, Flecha seems like a good pick. Jens Voigt is another rider for these kind of stages. Radioshack have been unlucky the last couple of days with both Andreas Klöden and Haimar Zubeldia crashing and they could need a success story. Voigt has friends from Berlin visiting him on Stage 7 and why not show them the real Jens Voigt trademark with a strong attack?
Favorites: Mark Cavendish / Peter Sagan
Jokers: Juan-Antonio Flecha / Jens Voigt
For live race coverage go to Steephill.tv.
Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 7: