If Stage 13 shook up the overall standings in the 2014 Tour de France, then Stage 14 from Grenoble to Risoul should rip them apart.
On Friday, yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali used the final Hors Categorie climb of Chamrousse to drop his rivals, but standing at 1,730 metres high, it's a mere bump compared to Stage 14's Col d'Izoard, which towers at 2,360 metres, per Letour.com.
The riders are well and truly in the Alps now; the col is sandwiched between Category 1 climbs. Here's a breakdown of the main details of the route:
|Grenoble to Risoul||177 km||High Mountains||2,360 m|
|ITV4 / NBCSN||2 p.m. BST / 9 a.m. ET||ITV Player / NBC Sports' Live Extra|
ITV.com and NBC.com
Coming after the Col du Lautaret, the Izoard should provide the platform for the best climbers in the bunch to mount an assault for the stage victory, or for Nibali's rivals to claim back some time.
But it is not just the 20-kilometre ascent that is tricky; going down the other side will take no small amount of courage, as the Cycling News profile suggests:
The peloton tackles the Col d’Izoard from the Briancon side, but the steep and technical descent alongside the Torrent d’Izoard could provide the impetus for the brave to set off and pressurise the race leader on the Risoul which starts after a period of flat on the valley floor.
This is mountain goat country; all others need not apply. The route goes over 2,000 metres on two occasions means those riders who adapt well at altitude have an advantage.
Any riders who manage to escape over the first two mountains have the final ascent into the ski resort of Risoul to conquer before crossing the line after 177 kilometres of hard riding.
However, the final is also where the general classification (GC) riders will look to push home any advantage they have, and in doing so, catch any remaining leaders on the road.
Second only to the "Queen Stage" of Pla d'Adet, per Cycling News, this is one for the GC contenders to battle out.
Pre-race, this stage was marked out as a victory for Nibali by Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, who described the Italian as "an expert climber who can descend like a madman" to the BBC.
Given the Astana rider has excelled on every terrain that has been thrown at him during the Tour, that prediction is looking particularly wise. Few would bet against the Giro d'Italia winner finishing first in Risoul.
|5||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||56:49:22|
However, with a three-minute, 37-second advantage over his nearest contender Alejandro Valverde, the Italian only has to keep his rivals in sight, rather than attack them.
The usual suspects will be closely marked, but a rider like Joaquim Rodriguez, who is looking to win the King of the Mountains classification and is one hour, 34 minutes behind Nibali, might be allowed to go.
|4||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte||Movistar||40|
Also, with Team Sky leader Richie Porte cracking on the Chamrousse on Stage 13, his hopes of getting on the podium in Paris are virtually over.
If that is the case, Spanish teammate Mikel Nieve might be allowed to attack, rather than nurse the Australian through the stage, as he did on Friday.
Richie Porte crosses the line 8'48" back and drops to 16th place overall. Great work by Mikel Nieve and Geraint Thomas to pace him home #TDF— Team Sky (@TeamSky) July 18, 2014
Whoever wins, it's sure to be another exciting day on the Tour.
- Stage 14 route map available at Letour.com.