The Tour de France returns after a rest day with a challenging stage that starts with a climb that takes them to the highest point in the whole race, but should end in a sprint of some sort in Revel.
Tour de France Stage 10- Escaldes-Engordany to Revel
The day after the rest day is always an interesting one, and this is an interesting profile, to say the least. They leave Andorra where they spent the rest day, and in order to get out of Andorra they have to climb up and over a Cat 1 climb straight away, the Port d'Envalira, the highest point of this year's race. It's the Souvenir Henri Desgrange of this year's race, rising to 2,408m, and once over the top, they enter back into France after 30kms. It could be that we see some very strong climbers and rouleurs get away on the very first climb and build up a big lead and then it's just going to be a day-long chase on a route that's mostly downhill.
There is a surprise in store though with 9kms to go with the short and sharp ascent of the Cote de Saint Ferreol, which averages 6.6% for nearly 2kms, and with just 7kms to go from the top, four of which are descending, it will be a perfect launching pad for a late attack from the punches. Some of the stronger sprinters will be looking to hang on, though as if they do there's a flat run into the finish and another sprint opportunity.
They head north out of Andorra, and from the start, they are climbing - they start the stage already at 1,200m and over the next 24kms climb to twice that height. The categorised part of the climb of the Port d'Envalira, a Cat 1 climb, is 22.6kms long at an average of 5.5%, and it's a pretty steady climb all the way to the top. Once over the top, they descend for the best part of 60kms, crossing back into France after 30kms.
The pace will be furious as they charge towards Revel, and just as they are entering the town they turn right and head away from the finish, out on a loop towards Saint Ferreol. There, they start on the Cote de Saint Ferreol with 9kms left, a Cat 3 climb of 1.8kms at an average of 6.6%, but the last 500m average a steeper 10%. It winds its way up the hill on a well surfaced, smooth road, so it should be extremely fast.
There's a flat kilometre at the top before they start to descend for 3kms on good roads, as far as Pont Crouzet, they turn left and then start the straight run back towards the finish in Revel.
Contenders and Favourites
This should be an interesting stage - it starts with a monster climb that takes them to the highest point in the race at 2,408m after just 24kms, then it's more or less downhill or flat for the next 160kms. Is the question will the sprinters teams have reeled in the break of the day in time for a sprint?
The break has a big chance again, the day after a rest day, a lot of guys will have been taking it easy on the last few mountain stages too, cruising in with the Grupetto, so you will have some fresh guys ready to go here. And the start will help the marauders get a nice lead early on - they have to climb for nearly 23kms right from the start, and the first 12kms only average 3.7%, which means good, powerful riders will be able to power up the climb and build a healthy lead, but it's likely the catch will be made in the last 20kms or so.
Looking at the break, it will be some of the usual suspects who are starting to show they are stronger than others. Guys like Adam Hansen, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Jurgen Roelandts, Cyril Gautier, Jeremy Roy and Thomas Voeckler could be on the attack, as could Steve Cummings and Jan Barta, big diesel engines. They could get a big lead and if so, watch for Cummings with a late attack to steal the stage. The weather looks like it will be against them though with a cross/headwind for the whole day as they head north, the wind of up to 25kmph will be coming from the north-west. This will make it a very hard day in the break and might put some off attacking.
Now the question is, who is going to pull them back? Tinkoff will be expected to do all the chasing, as Peter Sagan is the favourite betting pick for the stage, and with Contador now out of the race, the sole team focus will be on stage wins and the green jersey. They will look to control it, but will need help. But I think there might be a problem there - I don't think Kittel or Cavendish will make it over the final hill with the leaders, and their teams probably know that, so they may not work and save themselves for Wednesday instead.
André Greipel will be on the limit too I think, Lotto may actually have better chances of someone like Van Avermaet or Roelandts over that finishing course, so they may pull a little too. Michael Matthews has been really poor so far in this race as far as I'm concerned, as has Simon Gerrans,
I think it might be down to Direct Energie to help out, as I actually think Bryan Coquard has a big chance to finally take his stage win here. He is light enough and strong enough to get over the hill with the leaders, and in a head-to-head sprint with Sagan I think he could take him. They may get help from Katusha though, Alexander Kristoff seems to be coming into form, his 4th place in the last sprint in stage 6 was his best result of the race and showed that he is getting closer. At +1800 for betting odds, he's worth an each-way bet I think.
Edvald Boassen Hagen might be the man for Dimension Data today, he would like this punchy finish, but I don't think he would beat Sagan or Coquard in a sprint. We could also see the likes of Arthur Vichot, Edward Theuns, Samuel Dumoulin, Tony Gallopin or Fabian Cancellara involved in the finish.
I think Sagan, Coquard and Kristoff will be there as they jink through the last bends inside the last kilometre and Sagan is the obvious favourite, but I fancy Coquard to beat him, and the +1300 with Bet365 is worth backing. Kristoff could make podium too.
1pt each-way on Peter Sagan at +500 at Bet365
1pt each-way on Bryan Coquard at +1300 at Bet365
0.5pts each-way on Alexander Kristoff at +1800 at Bet365
Kristoff to beat Greipel - 2pts at -120 at Bet365
Sam Dumoulin to beat Degenkolb - 2pts at -120 at Bet365