Stage 19 of the 2014 Tour de France will be a transitional stage, as the peloton celebrates surviving three days of climbing in the Pyrenees and prepares for Saturday's vital time trial.
Compared to what the riders have faced in the past days, the stage towards Bergerac will be a picnic. The wide-open roads of Southwest France are relatively flat, and with the race for yellow all but over, the teams will likely ease off the throttle a bit.
Don't expect a straightforward mass sprint, however. The sprinters barely survived the high mountains, and their teammates eyeing the general classification will sit tight with an eye on Saturday, so more adventurous riders will have every chance of winning on Friday.
Date: Friday, 25 July
Distance: 208.5 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 ITV Player app.
|3||Jean Christophe Peraud||Ag2R||+7:23|
|6||Tejay van Garderen||BMC Racing||+11:34|
|8||Laurens ten Dam||Belkin||+14:15|
|7||Greg van Avermaet||BMC Racing||147|
|4||Alessandro De Marchi||Cannondale||78|
|6||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||57|
Friday's stage will be one of the Tour's longest, but in essence, the peloton will travel in a straight line north to Bergerac, encountering few rises along the way.
Unlike previous years the event will not travel through the coastal region of Les Landes, but bypass Bordeaux completely as the riders make their way from the Pyrenees to the Dordogne.
Aquitaine can get freakishly hot this time of the year, but via Meteofrance.com, the peloton will be spared on Friday. Stage 19 should be cloudy and rainy, and there are even chances of mild thunderstorms.
This fan shared the race profile:
Demain étape 19 de Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour à Bergerac soit 208.5 km pic.twitter.com/EUgpeQdgua— Vanessa (@Brooke68390) July 24, 2014
The fourth category climb could be decisive in case the peloton is still intact late in the race, but with 13 kilometres still to race, it will likely come too soon for a late attacker to have any chance.
The outcome of Friday's stage will likely rest on how the sprinters feel when they wake up in the morning. The likes of Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel would like nothing more than to try their hand at another stage win, but three straight days of climbing will weigh on the heavier, more muscular riders.
The latter was already exhausted before Thursday's stage:
Hard day! Happy to be in my bed soon & catch some sleep for tomorrow. Because then we have the honour to go over the "Torturmalet"... #TDF— Marcel Kittel (@marcelkittel) July 23, 2014
Geraint Thomas had his eye on Stage 19, but he too can hardly feel his legs at this point:
Recovery is key in any stage race, and this is what makes Friday's stage so special: The sprinters will likely struggle finding their legs, while none of the top contenders will wish to risk wasting energy just one day before the Tour's only time trial.
Points leader Peter Sagan would likely be the favourite should the peloton approach the Cote de Monbazillac intact, launching an attack with a small group of pacemakers and finishing in style ahead of the peloton.
Will Friday's stage end in a mass sprint?
But with just two stages left, Friday will probably present the early adventurers with their final opportunity for a break. The finish at the Champs-Elysees is iconic, and the sprint teams will do everything in their power to keep things close on Sunday.
That won't be the case on Friday—if Sagan makes it to Paris, the green jersey is his regardless of the result of Stage 19. As shared by Infostrada Sports, he would join some elite company:
Sagan becomes the second rider to win the green jersey in three successive years following Erik Zabel (if he finishes in Paris). #tdf— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaGold) July 24, 2014
None of the top sprinters have any reason to waste energy, so should an early break be able to create a large enough gap heading into the final 60 kilometres, the peloton will likely hand them the win.
Sunday's stage is the one the sprinters are eyeing, and from that perspective, taking the day off on Friday makes perfect sense. Expect the Thomas Voecklers of this world to fancy their chances when the peloton makes its way toward Bergerac.