Stage 7 from Epernay to Nancy is the longest the peloton have had to face so far on the 2014 Tour de France and given the carnage that took place on a supposedly easy transition in Stage 6, it should be anything but routine.
Two Category 4 climbs at the end of the 234.5-kilometre stage might prove too difficult for out and out sprinters like Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel, who have four stage wins between then so far, leaving it open for a long breakaway success, or the puncheurs in the race.
On Saturday, the Tour hits the low mountains so the General Classification riders might also use the finale of Stage 7 to test their legs and those of their rivals.
Date: Friday 11 July
Distance: 234.5 km
TV info and live stream: NBCSN (for U.S. viewers) and ITV4 (for U.K. viewers) will be broadcasting every stage of the 2014 Tour de France, with mobile coverage available via NBC Sports' Live Extra and the ITVPlayer app.
|2014 Tour de France Overall Leaderboard (Yellow Jersey)|
|1||Vincenzo Nibali||Astana||24h 38' 25''|
|2||Jakob Fuglsang||Astana||24h 38' 27''||+ 00' 02''|
|3||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||24h 39' 09''||+ 00' 44''|
|4||Michal Kwiatowski||O.Ph-Q-Step||24h 39' 15''||+ 00' 50''|
|5||Fabian Cancellara||Trek||24h 39' 42''||+ 01' 17''|
|6||Jurgen Van Den Broeck||Lotto-Belisol||24h 40' 10''||+ 01' 45''|
|7||Tony Gallopin||Lotto-Belisol||24h 40' 10''||+ 01' 45''|
|8||Richie Porte||Sky||24h 40' 19''||+ 01' 54''|
|9||Andrew Talansky||Garmin-Sharp||24h 40' 30''||+ 02' 05''|
|10||Alejandro Valverde||Movistar||24h 40' 36''||+ 02' 11''|
|2014 Tour de France Points Classification (Green Jersey)|
|1||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||217 pts|
|2||Bryan Coquard||Eruopcar||137 pts|
|3||Marcel Kittel||Giant-Shimano||135 pts|
|4||Alexander Kristoff||Katusha||117 pts|
|5||Andre Greipel||Lotto||91 pts|
|6||Mark Renshaw||O.Ph.-Q-Step||87 pts|
|7||Samuel Dumoulin||AG2R||55 pts|
|8||Vincenzo Nibali||Astana||53 pts|
|9||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC Racing||48 pts|
|10||Arnaud Demare||FDJ.fr||44 pts|
|2014 Tour de France Mountain Classification (Polka-Dot Jersey)|
|2||Blel Kadri||AG2R La Mondiale||5|
|5||Luis Angel Mate Mardones||Cofidis||3|
|10||David de la Cruz Melgarejo||NetApp-Endura||2|
The race will begin in the town of Epernay and the peloton will head mainly east before turning south through part of the Lorraine Regional Natural Park and toward the hilly finish.
There is a 363-metre uncategorised climb before an intermediate sprint after 148 kilometres in Hannonville-Sous-Lesc-Cotes.
Thoughts then turn to the finish and the two Category 4 climbs of the Cote de Maron and Cote de Boufflers before a downhill finish to Nancy.
One small climb in the final 25 kilometres might not be enough to deter the sprinters from trying to control the race and pinch another stage win, but Stage 7 has two. The first is 3.2 kilometres long and while the second is only 1.3 kilometres it has a gradient of 7.9 percent, per letour.com.
With a victory far from certain, it is probably not worth putting their teams through all the effort of controlling the peloton and that opens the stage up to everyone else.
The daily breakaway might just manage to stay away if they have a good lead going into the hilly finish, but more than likely it will be Cannondale on the front controlling the pace for their man in green Peter Sagan.
The finish is almost tailor-made for the Slovakian sprinter/puncheur and a first victory of the Tour would certainly boost his bid to claim the points jersey.
And he appears to be in fine form, judging by his comments on his performance on Stage 6:
However, Sagan might not have it all his own way. Team Sky's Geraint Thomas told the BBC: "John Degenkolb—the Giant-Shimano rider should conquer these bumps easily enough to be in the mix at the finish."
But Degenkolb was involved in a crash on Stage 5 and that could well hinder his chances.
Katusha’s sprinter Alexander Kristoff is a capable climber and should be in with chance, as well as Garmin-Sharp's Ramunas Navardauskas and that might help Cannondale share the load during the day.
Expect a breakaway to be caught before the final climb as the puncheurs' teams up the pace and then it will be Sagan's to lose.