Stage 13 of the 2014 Tour de France marks the riders' first foray into the majestic and unforgiving Alps. That should make for a gruelling struggle following the thrilling and fast-paced finish to Stage 12.
Team Katusha rider Alexander Kristoff used a late sprint to secure victory in Saint-Etienne. But no such sprint will be afforded by the conditions on the path between Etienne and Chamrousse.
The latter is located in an enclave amid the surrounding mountainous terrain. Here's a breakdown of the main details of the route:
|Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse||197.5 km||High Mountains||1,730 m|
LeTour.com and CyclingNews.com
The Cycling News profile of this route portrays terrain that is sure to upset some of the tour's fancied contenders. In particular, some of the more obscure recesses of the Alps will prove tricky for those who like to set a strong early pace:
The first of two stages through the Alps has an awkward, rearing profile with three categorised climbs. An early climb up the cat 3 Col de la Croix de Montvieux at 24km could be the springboard for a day-long break, but it’s when the race hits the little known Col de Palaquit where the GC and KOM jersey contenders’ teams will be paying the closest attention.
The 14km Palaquit has a kinky profile with plenty of opportunity for guerrilla contenders to launch an attack as it will be difficult for the big GC teams to dictate the pace up the climb.
Such an unpredictable terrain could be spell bad news for the current leading contenders, such as yellow jersey front-runner Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian Astana Pro Team rider has already received well wishes:
The arduous terrain could also be bad news for Peter Sagan. The talented Cannondale rider hasn't enjoyed the best luck so far during this year's Tour.
Sagan has been a narrow runner-up in both the seventh and 12th stages. The near-misses are destiny according to Sagan, per Sky Sports: “Another second place - it was fate, but all is well. I am OK with my results. Maybe they can be better, but also it is destiny. Second place is still good.”
Of course, Sagan can afford to be philosophical with a commanding lead in the overall points standings. Before a closer look at the leaderboards, here's the TV and stream information so you can watch and track Sagan's attempts to outride destiny:
|ITV4 / NBCSN||2 p.m. BST / 9 a.m. ET||ITV Player / NBC Sports' Live Extra|
ITV.com and NBC.com
Here is a prediction ahead of this critical stage:
On a day unlikely to feature a late sprint reminiscent of Stage 12, Sagan has to be favoured. He has struggled mustering sufficient late speed in the last two stages.
But the savvy rider will enjoy biding his time in the packed lines at the Alps. If Sagan times his breaks well, he could command an unassailable lead coming out of the route's most treacherous, mountainous paths.
Sagan will need to ride a sly race. That means choosing his moment to bolt better than he did in Etienne. Resilience is a key attribute to his style. It's one that will serve him well on a gruelling route that will separate the frivolous sprinters from those who know how to conserve energy and choose their moment.
Here's what the green and yellow jersey leaderboards look like ahead of Stage 13. All classification information available at LeTour.com:
|2||Bryan Coquard||Team Europcar||189|
|3||Alexander Kristoff||Team Katusha||172|
|4||Marcel Kittel||Team Giant-Shimano||167|
|5||Mark Renshaw||Omega Pharma-Quick Step||118|
Sagan's lead shouldn't be touched, even if he comes up short again at Chamrousse. It's not quite a similar story in the overall time classification:
|1||Vincenzo Nibali||Astana Pro Team||51:31:34|
|2||Richie Porte||Team Sky||51:33:57||+ 2:23|
|3||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte||Movistar Team||51:34:21||+ 2:47|
|4||Romain Bardet||AG2R LA Mondiale||51:34:35||+ 3:01|
|5||Thibaut Pinot||FDJ.FR||51:35:21||+ 3:47|
Nibali holds a healthy lead here. But the Italian will know that one bad stage could yet prove to be his ultimate undoing. As his closest competition, Team Sky leader Richie Porte is relishing his chance to attack the Alps, per Sky Sports.
Capitalising on any mistakes Nibali make make in the high terrain is a good opportunity for Porte to claw back some of the gap he faces. However, he shouldn't count on the Italian making too many errors.