The 2014 Tour de France will likely go down in history as one of the most eventful editions of the past decade, with the peloton already in shambles going into the first rest day.
Dreadful weather conditions and a brutal Stage 5 have exhausted the riders before the really difficult stages in the Alps and Pyrenees have even started, and top favourites Alberto Contador and Chris Froome have already left the race.
Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan have a stranglehold on the yellow and green jerseys, respectively, but the peloton has lost all signs of organisation. Top teams have lost their stars and are no longer aiding Astana at the front of the peloton, making the task that much harder for Nibali.
Let's have a look at the updated standings, the remaining stage schedule and full route info for the second half of the 2014 Tour de France:
|11||16 July||Besancon/Oyonnax||187.5 km||Flat|
|12||17 July||Bourg-en-Bresse/Saint-Etienne||185.5 km||Hill|
|13||18 July||Saint-Etienne/Chamrousse||197.5 km||Mountain|
|14||19 July||Grenoble/Risoul||177 km||Mountain|
|15||20 July||Tallard/Nimes||222 km||Flat|
|/||21 July||Rest Day|
|16||22 July||Carcassonne/Bagneres-de-Luchon||237.5 km||Mountain|
|17||23 July||Saint-Gaudens/Pla d'Adet||124.5 km||Mountain|
|18||24 July||Pau/Hautacam||145.5 km||Mountain|
|19||25 July||Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour/Bergerac||208.5 km||Flat|
|20||26 July||Bergerac/Perigueux||54 km||Time Trial|
|21||27 July||Evry/Paris||137.5 km||Flat|
|2||Richie Porte||Team Sky||+2:23|
|7||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+3:56|
|7||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC||87|
|6||Alessandro De Marchi||Cannondale||17|
The peloton will leave the Vosges behind them on Wednesday, as they travel to Besancon. Two relatively flat stages will take the riders to Saint Etienne, before the peloton turns West toward the Alps.
The finish at the ski station of Chamrousse will be the first HC category climb the peloton faces, before diving deeper in the Alps on their way to Risoul. The stage to Nimes is flat and followed by another rest day, and the race will resume at Carcassonne, the base of the Pyrenees.
Bagneres-de-Luchon, Pla D'Adet, Pau and Hautacam are some of the most iconic locations in the history of the Tour de France. Three straight days of heavy climbing will likely decide the outcome of this year's event, with the time trial to Perigueux giving top contenders one final shot at climbing the leaderboard.
From Perigueux it's a quick flight to Paris for the final stage, with the finish line on the historic Champs-Elysees.
An interactive map of the 2014 Tour de France's full route can be found on the event's official website, by clicking here.
The first 10 days of the 2014 Tour de France were arguably the most exciting we've seen in years—the second part could be the exact opposite.
Gone are the favourites to make life hard on Nibali. The Italian flat-out dominated his opponents during Stage 10, making a mockery of the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Richie Porte was one of the few capable of keeping the distance between himself and Nibali respectable, but he's a career helper for Froome and Bradley Wiggins, not a leader.
The Australian told ITV4 (via Team Sky's website) he felt good on Monday, but he could already feel the peloton settling for second place:
I was the only one who responded when Nibali went, but I guess that’s racing. I felt good today but it’s not great to be towing everybody to the line. If Vincenzo goes I guess you have to respond. He’s got enough time already so I didn't really want him to get any more.
It's a very big issue for the remaining GC contenders—nobody is willing to react when Astana and Nibali make a move. The Italian's lead is seemingly safe, so the rest of the pack have turned their attention to securing a spot on the podium, not the overall win.
Without the aid of the rest of the peloton, the few riders willing to challenge Nibali will have to do it on their own. That means reacting to every attack, and finding a way to make up the large deficit they already face.
Alejandro Valverde is an adventurer who usually shines bright during the hilly Spring Classics. The Alps and Pyrenees feature slopes well outside his range, and he'll likely spend most of his time controlling the damage.
As for Rui Costa and Bauke Mollema, they were both excellent in the Tour de Suisse but already chase Nibali by roughly four minutes. The Italian has been truly great so far, but as explained by VeloNews' Neal Rogers, history might not remember it that way:
Whoever wins this #TDF will face a bit of "...but Froome, Contador crashed out." Good then that Nibali was in yellow before either abandoned— Neal Rogers (@nealrogers) July 14, 2014
It's a sad reality, but barring mechanical failure or another dramatic crash, this Tour is Nibali's to lose. For all of the excitement we experienced in the opening week, the stages in the Alps and Pyrenees could feature a lot of waiting to see whether Nibali will attack or not.
Sitting pretty in the yellow, he won't, and few contenders will dare to attack his position. We might still see real fireworks in the final few stages of the Pyrenees, but don't expect to see the yellow jersey change shoulders during the final week of racing.