The 2014 Tour de France's first real high-mountain stage will fall on Bastille Day, and the French crowds will have a compatriot on the yellow when the peloton makes its way toward La Planche des Belles Filles.
Tony Gallopin won't be contending for a win in the general classification in two weeks, but on one of France's most important days and in one of this year's most exciting stages, to have a Frenchman in the lead is truly something special.
The top contenders will start their 2014 Tour on Monday, with six major climbs on the schedule, including the uphill finish at La Planche. Stage 10 is the Tour de France at its finest—brutal, unforgiving and wide open.
Date: Monday, 14 July
Distance: 170 km
Profile: Mountain (High)
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 ITV Player app.
|5||Richie Porte||Team Sky||+3:32|
|8||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC||65|
|3||Alessandro De Marchi||Cannondale||17|
|8||Sylvain Chavanel||I AM Cycling||6|
Starting in Mulhouse, the peloton will travel north back toward the Vosges. After the intermediary sprint in Mulhele, the road turns west toward the very heart of the mountains, with the Petit Ballon and Col du Platzerwasel following in quick succession.
The race profile, via RadioEstadio:
🚴Tour de Francia - Etapa 9 Mulhouse---[161km]--->La Planche Así será la etapa de mañana (Foto perfil) pic.twitter.com/wu8HdT33Lt— RadioEstadio (@Radioestadio) July 13, 2014
Two relatively easy climbs will lead the pack to the two final climbs, both of which are category one. The Col des Chevreres is the longest and the steepest of the two, but the finale at La Planche des Belles Filles will undoubtedly steal the headlines, with some slopes reaching as much as 20 percent.
If this where any normal day, all eyes would turn toward the main contenders for the general classification, with a particular emphasis on the explosive Alberto Contador.
But Monday won't be a normal day—it's Bastille Day. With the beautiful mountain roads of the Vosges lined with thousands and thousands of French fans, the local riders will do everything in their power to win this stage.
For the French outsiders, there will be no tomorrow. Six climbs or no—the French will attack early, and they will attack often. New race leader Gallopin tried to put what it means to be wearing the yellow on Bastille Day in perspective, as he told Sky Sports:
It is indescribable. I thought about it for a few days, I thought I could do something, but I still didn’t think it was going to happen, so it is unbelievable. My uncle is here, my parents are here - it is amazing. I had to get into the chase group and I just managed to do so, and then it all fell into place.
I have never imagined taking the yellow jersey before in my life. When I was 13 I was dropped in every race that I used to compete in, so imagining picking up the yellow jersey then, you just can’t do it. It is going to be huge. It’s going to be a very hard stage, but it is going to be a very proud day for me. I have nothing to lose.
Romain Bardet is the first name that comes to mind when talking about potential French winners on Monday. The AG2R man is ranked inside the top 10 and will likely not get too much space to roams from Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo, but if the peloton keeps a handle on things until the final climb, he could fancy his chances.
The final climb is tailor-made for Contador, however, and the Spanish rider has some ground to cover to stay close to Vincenzo Nibali, who is the early favourite for the overall win.
La Planche des Belles Filles isn't a particularly long climb, but it has plenty of steep sections for Contador to speed up and create distance. Nibali will try to regain control of the yellow, but he's more of a steady climber who prefers the longer slopes.
The battle for the GC will likely start on the Col des Chevreres, as the riders with the best legs try to isolate their competitors ahead of the final climb. With a rest day planned on Tuesday, the pack will conserve no energy on Monday, and fans should expect a wide-open, exciting race from start to finish.