A tough TT on the back of a tough day climbing Ventoux. Will we see some riders suffer in the 'race of truth' after a hard 12 stages? Check our cycling pick here.
Tour de France Stage 13
Bourg-St-Andéol - La Cav du Pont-d'Arc
Fri 15th July, 37.5kms
This is going to be a race between two different types of riders. First, you have the TT specialists who will have taken their time the day before and pottered up Mont Ventoux in order to save their legs for this TT. Secondly, you have the GC men, for which there is no such luxury as a day off pottering up climbs.
Just when you thought that this race couldn't get any crazier we were witness to some truly incredible scenes today. I've never seen anything like the leader of a race, especially the Tour de France, running up the hill like he's in a half marathon or something. The crash was horrible and Richie Porte just cannot seem to catch a break - he was flying at the time and could have made some big inroads into the GC today to put us in with a shot of a podium at the very least. Mollema too was doing our cause a world of good when suddenly BANG the race was flipped on its head again. After deliberations and discussions, Froome and Porte were awarded the same time as Bauke Mollema, and as a result, Froome retains his yellow jersey, with a lead of 47" over Yates.
On to the TT then, and we should see two races develop - the race between the TT guys like Tony Martin, Tom Dumoulin and Fabian Cancellara, and the race between the favourites who will be going flat out in order to try to post the best time possible.
We've seen the results of the various nations Time Trial Championships and some of the usual suspects of course appeared, showing that they are coming into great form at just the right time. Tony Martin made it five times in a row in Germany, Tom Dumoulin retook his Dutch champions jersey back from Kelderman, Nelson Oliveira won for Movistar in Portugal, Thibaut Pinot continues his progress on a TT bike winning in France and in Spain Movistar filled the first three with Ion Izagirre, Castroviejo and Valverde.
And it's an interesting course - a climb to start with, a climb to finish it, and about 25kms of flat or descending roads in between. The hill at the start and finish will neutralise it a little, pulling the climbers a little closer to the pure TTers, so it should be a fantastic battle.
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We're now in the eastern parts of the Massif Central, the region they had ventured into a week earlier with stages 5 and 6. They start on the banks of the Rhone in Bourg Saint Andeol, the town where the Classic Sud Ardeche starts from every year and they start on a 7km climb straight away, heading up the Cote de Bourg Saint Andeol, a 6.9km drag at 4.9%, where at the top the first time check is located.
They then run along a plateau for 10kms to Les Arredons where the 2nd intermediate time check is located, crest the official top of the col du Serre de Tourre and descend down the other side. When on the flat section that comes next they go through the final intermediate time check at Le Pont d'Arc with 9.5kms to go. Shortly after passing through Vallon Pont d'Arc they start on the final pull up to La Caverne du Pont d'Arc, 3.3kms at 4.9%.
It's a tricky and challenging course, even more so as it comes on the back of a trip up Mont Ventoux, but it could also be really hot - it can get extremely hot in this area on a July afternoon. Over 10kms of climbing at 4.9% means that this is anything but a flat time trial and the climbers will be pleased to hear that. 4.9% average isn't very hard though and I would imagine they will be mostly in the big ring on their TT bikes.
Contenders and Favourites
Tony Martin - We've not seen much of big Tony in this race, he got some breaks, strangely, the most prominent was going on the attack with Pinot and Majka on Saturday's stage 8, but he didn't last too long. But it was good training for him though for this - an intense effort on a climb followed by a charge down the descent and a chase back to them on the flat. He has been mostly on patrol duties for Kittel, but it worries me that we haven't seen him take command with authority at the front of the peloton really yet in this race.
That worries me with regards to Tony's form - we haven't seen any trademark late flyers off the front either, not that any of the stages really were suitable for that, so either Tony has been holding it all back and hiding away with this one stage in mind, or he's just not his old self. He did win back his German Nationals TT jersey though this year, but against a modest field.
Tom Dumoulin - what a ride by him to win that stage to Andorra Arcalis, he looked to be in trouble on the climb before the final pull to the line, but was more suited by the easier, steadier gradient of the final climb. He jumped, the others hesitated stupidly and watched as one of the best time triallists in the world disappeared out of sight. He was just able to put the power down in an individual TT of about 8kms, and his rhythm never really waivered, holding a solid gap all the way to the line. Up until then, he'd been very quite in this race, almost to a point that I was questioning his form a little.
Fabian Cancellara - We haven't seen much of Fabs whatsoever in this race, he's almost been totally invisible, but I guess he's just glad to be in the race a bit longer than last year. There have been occasional glimpses of him pulling at the front for Theuns and looking after Mollema, but nothing ambitious from him really. He's had a mixed year in TTs, winning short ones in the Algarve and the TDS, but the 4th in the long 40km TT in the Giro was probably the best form guide for this stage, he did well there.
Richie Porte should like this TT - 10kms of climbing at a pretty steady gradient, it's like riding up the Col d'Eze in Paris-Nice, a climb he owns. He was flying up the hill in the TT in the Dauphiné, and although that looks closer to the second TT in this race in terms of the parcours, it still shows that he is in great shape and climbing well against the clock. He has also shown so far in this race that he is one of the strongest climbers.
Chris Froome - The favourite for the stage - what to make of Froome's chances here? Is he at this Tour as the high cadence, sprinting, attacking man, or with a slightly lower, more powerful cadence which will benefit him in the TTs? He clearly has looked very strong on the flat, on the downhill, the uphills... He has taken control of this race in an impressive, almost Lance Armstrong like manner, crushing his rival's spirits wherever and whenever. Will he pay for those exertions so far, or will he just have so much power he will blast this TT and put a big distance between him and the rest of the guys in the top 10? It is possible, he is a superb time triallist and just so powerful right now that he might not only be the fastest of the GC guys but he could come close to winning the stage too. But at +275? I'm not sure I want to be on that, he has disappointed in TTs when fancied in recent years.
Vasil Kiryienka - the current World Champion won his stripes in Richmond over a course that was 53kms long and a little bit lumpy too, with that tough pull up to the finish line. He not only won, but he blew Tom Dumoulin (1'01") and Tony Martin (+1'.16") away in the process. Adriano Malori came 2nd, just 9" back with Jerome Coppel 26" back. Kiryienka is a machine and has, of course, won other time trials in recent years, most notably in the Giro last year when he won on a course over 59kms by 12" from LL Sanchez. He also won the European Games TT and the Chrono Des Nations and finished 2nd in the TT in the Tour de Pologne and 4th in the Vuelta over 38.7kms.
He hasn't had such a prolific year this year and has been under the weather a bit during the year too but he seems to be in pretty good shape in this Tour. He has repeatedly been pushing hard at the front all race and has looked super strong, tearing the race to pieces for Froome. He could go very well on this course if he is allowed. Will Sky reign him in and tell him to save it for the last week? Maybe. But also, maybe not - there are a couple of easy days coming up for them where they won't have to ride so much at the front and he might be allowed go for stage glory on a course that should suit him. He is a strong sports betting pick for this stage.
Ion Izagirre, Rohan Dennis, Wilko Kelderman - all are around 33/1 in cycling odds and all three could do a good top 10 ride here. Izagirre has been TT'ing well lately, particularly in the hilly TT in the Tour de Suisse, catching Cancellara by surprise. He also just won the Spanish TT championships before the Tour on a course over 41kms. He should like this course, but will he, like Kiryienka, be asked to soft-pedal it?
Wilko Kelderman could go well on a course like this but he has been struggling all race and I'm not sure he'll be able to land a blow here. Thibaut Pinot, Dan Martin, Adam Yates - all will be fighting their own battle but won't trouble the favourites.
Who knows what will happen after the madness of today - Froome could go out and rip the road up in anger, he might be shook up and hurt after the crash too. Porte? Who knows now. I'm going to go against Martin though and will be looking to lay him for a top 3 placing, but the two I like the look of are Ion Izagirre at 33/1 and Vasil Kiryienka at 14/1. I think both could be close to a podium and on a good day could win it.
Free Cycling Picks: 0.5pts each-way on Ion Izagirre at 33/1 or bigger and 0.75pts each-way on Vasil Kiryienka at 14/1
Best Line Offered: at PaddyPower